I’m sure you’ve probably read Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. While I agree that there are some great lessons to be learned from this, I don’t quite agree that it’s all you need to know. Anyone who can say that has obviously never worked in a restaurant because that’s really where you learn everything. From how to tip to how not to treat people in the service industry, and from how to clean up after yourself to how to effectively run a business. You’d think some things would be common sense, but apparently not. Tipping and cleaning up after yourself aside (we’ll save those for another day), we’re going to focus on the most important thing: how to effectively run a business.
I was going to let this post slide under the radar, but after learning recently that I’m apparently banned from one of the restaurants I worked at over the summer for “blasting” them on social media after I left, I felt it was an appropriate time to look at my time there in a positive light and share with you what I was able to learn from the experience.
Having bartended and served for several years – both full- and part-time – I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the service industry. Don’t get me wrong, there’s great money to be made in the industry and it can be a lot of fun, but when your restaurant is run by people who don’t have a clue what they’re doing it quickly takes the fun out of it.
It’s kind of like the episode of Kourtney and Khloé Take the Hamptons where Kourtney thinks she’s qualified to be a boat captain because she took a sailing class years ago at a summer camp. Needless to say, when Scott calls her out and rents a small sailboat (because these are the things you can do when you have tons of money) she crashes the boat into the dock because, clearly, she has no idea what she’s doing.
Simply put: if senior leadership and/or ownership (who in some cases turn out to be the same people) don’t know what they’re doing – or how to do it correctly, your ship of a company is destined to crash into a dock – or the ground.
So with that being said, I’ve put together a list of things that I’ve learned from working in the service industry – taken, in particular, from the place I’m apparently banned from. They’re not exclusively applicable to the service industry and can really be taken into any (un)professional setting as you see fit.
MANAGEMENT 101: How to Effectively Run a Business in Five Steps
Taught by yours truly, Professor Often Annoyed Designer
STEP ONE: Employees Are Your Most Valuable Asset
Employees should be paid. End of story. If you’re going to give them a paycheck, it should never bounce. If an employee’s paycheck bounces and you have to write a paper check from your sister location, you might have a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.
If you’re running a restaurant, do not cheat your employees out of their tip money. Do not tell them that they need to claim ALL of their tips that they made that shift when the computer system asks them to enter their “Direct Tip” amount. Direct tips are cash tips given directly to the employee. By telling them to enter ALL of their tips (including their credit card tips that automatically get claimed on their checks) they’re essentially claiming double tips and being taxed on that amount – which in turn comes out of their paychecks and takes the amount of their check down to $0.00 or close to it because they’re being taxed on a higher amount that they’re actually not making. For instance: if you make $200 in credit card tips and $50 in cash tips then claim $450 like your employer tells you to do, you’re really only making $250 but being taxed on $450 – which in turn means they pay you less because you’re getting more taken out of your already-low hourly rate for taxes.
STEP TWO: Facelifts Don’t Fix An Ugly Soul
While in The Devil Wears Prada, Nigel may have said “Yes, because that’s really what this whole multibillion-dollar industry is all about, isn’t it? Inner beauty,” that really only holds true in the fashion industry. Try as you might, as much plastic surgery as you want to invest in is not going to fix an ugly soul – especially when it comes to a restaurant/bar. While a renovation might help you as a temporary fix to “refresh” your company’s image to the general public, it’s not going to work miracles and magically make everything better – especially behind the scenes.
Also, riddle me this: how are you going to finance a remodel when employees’ checks are bouncing two weeks prior? If your answer is “Cut corners wherever possible and mask any problems with reclaimed barnwood” then your answer is valid, but not the right answer. If you’re going to do an interior renovation, make sure you do it right – and be open to criticism on the design choices you choose to make, especially when that criticism is coming from an interior designer.
STEP THREE: How NOT To Use Social Media
Carrying over from STEP TWO, if someone (be it an ex-employee or someone off the street who’s chosen to come into your establishment) tweets your company after you’ve renovated that they aren’t impressed with how cheaply-done it looks, the appropriate response is never “Hows it compare to the nail salon you work in now?” A response of this caliber is totally inappropriate.
Then to insinuate that person is dishonest in a pathetic attempt to cover your own money mismanagement issues is, again, totally inappropriate. A public setting is never the appropriate channel to settle a private dispute. Especially when it’s common knowledge to the point that most people are warned via word-of-mouth from other employees past and present (providing they hadn’t already known from having heard around Boystown) before accepting employment offers that you’re “not really an employee until one of your checks bounces.”
Social media should never (I repeat, never) be used by a company as a means of trash-talking someone – be it a person or a competitor. This reflects negatively on the business and isn’t just seen by one person but rather by everyone who follows (or at least everyone who is actively engaged with) your company. If you want to do this, do it from your own account on your own time – and make sure there’s a disclaimer that your tweets reflect your own opinion and not those of your employer. Way too many people have seen the consequences of this recently. It’s like the quote in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” If someone mentions your company on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc. make sure that whoever you’ve put in charge of managing your social media platforms is a mature, responsible adult. If you’re going to invest the time and resources into responding to customers, make sure you’re doing it appropriately.
Also, screenshots never go away. There will always be evidence of your immaturity and lack of professionalism – even if you delete the tweets.
STEP FOUR: Spell Check Won’t Always Help You
Knowing the difference between things like “your” and “you’re” and the infamous “there” “their” and “they’re” is of paramount importance if you want to be taken seriously. If you’re running a restaurant, you should probably make sure you know the difference between “Carmel” and “caramel” before you use the wrong one on a dessert menu. There’s a big difference between the two. See below.
On the same note, make sure you know what your establishment’s address is (as one would assume to be common sense). If you list the street wrong – particularly as “N” instead of “W” (here’s a hint: the “N” version of the street doesn’t even exist) – and wonder why you don’t end up with qualified people showing up at your open interview session to apply for a position, this might be the reason. Or because it’s common knowledge that paychecks bounce at your establishment. Refer to LESSON ONE if you’ve already forgotten.
STEP FIVE: Word Of Mouth Travels Quickly So Ban Your “Haters” Carefully
If you have an issue with a customer, just ban them from your establishment. As mentioned in STEP THREE, if you’re the owner of a company and happen to manage your social media channels as well, if a customer should happen to mention your establishment on Twitter and you don’t like what they have to say, simply ban them. Their money and opinions don’t matter.
Better yet – rather than growing a pair and asking the person yourself – have one of your managers do it for you. Let them preface the conversation with “You know we all love you here, but (insert owner’s name here) doesn’t want you coming here anymore because you blasted us on social after you left.” Last I checked, mentioning that you’re unimpressed with the finesse of a renovation and how it looks from a design standpoint is not “blasting” a company. But don’t worry…you’ve probably sufficiently turned that customer off at this point that they wouldn’t willingly come back anyway or recommend it to anyone they know. Word of mouth travels quickly and can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
All I have to say is, keep your Trixie Mattel Hateblockers on. I’ve taken what you’ve taught me in stride and won’t be back to your establishment – or your sister bar location for that matter. Working for this company was a great opportunity to meet new people and a résumé-builder for sure, but most importantly it was a valuable lesson in what to watch for in working for a company. Ignore the warning signs and don’t be surprised when you get burned – or banned for that matter.