Employees - where are the good ones?

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blizzardstormus
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2005/05/28 23:45:44 (permalink)

Employees - where are the good ones?

I have been in the food & beverage industry for 25 years. Through bitter experience, I know that one of the hardest parts in this business is retaining good employees.
I just celebrated my third year owning my first restaurant THE FARMER'S KITCHEN (shameless plug) in Atlantic, Iowa, specializing in homemade cooking.
My problem:
We are located an hour or more away from any large urban area.
We employ only 7 people.
Most of the major prep work is done by my mother (bless her soul) & myself.
The very few job applicants I receive are from
a) teens: no work experience or work ethic
b) single mothers: the kids, understandably are first priority which means lots of missed shifts
c) retreads from other restaurants: most left their previous employment because of "problems with management."

When I have a problem with an employee, it is very difficult to resolve the problem to my satisfaction. If the employee walks, then, I can't keep the doors open because of lack of help. Case in point: I serve Liver & Onions, highly popular & VERY profitable. My head cook, who normally is a great line cook, makes the kitchen a living hell whenever she gets an order for Liver & Onions. She's demanded that I take it off the menu. If she leaves (this is her 3rd time with me), I am the only who can replace her.
Any suggestions on how small out-in-the-boondocks operations like mine can survive potential employee blackmail? And find & retain good staff?
#1

14 Replies Related Threads

    nvb
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/29 07:03:11 (permalink)
    I was told that instead of only having the minimum numbers you need to keep the place running, you should employ more and cut their hours. This is in case one walks you have more resourses to cover those hours. I've yet to take that advice, so I don't know how it really works. Sounds good, though.

    Cooks are another story, to which I'm still trying to gain some insight.
    #2
    wallhd
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/29 07:19:02 (permalink)
    I'm a small businessman in another field. I can identify perfectly with all of the trials of trying to find and retain good (i.e. honest, loyal, hard, working, self motivated--amongst other traits) employees.

    Wally
    #3
    Scallion1
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/29 09:09:23 (permalink)
    First thing, what's the big problem with liver and onions? The onions should be ready to go, the liver should be sliced (I used to work in a place where the liver was kept in a milk bath and sliced to order, but those were different days and a different market) and your seasoned flour at hand. Where's the problem, once you're learned how to flip it without it splashing hot oil on the back of your hand?

    If you're looking for prep help, consider contacting an agency that helps the minimally developmentally challenged, people, for example, with mild Down's syndrome. I used to think that this was exploitive, but a friend who worked in the field said that this was not the case, that this was, in general, the highest level of work available to these men and women. That the shame was that people who could learn and advance themselves didn't, and stayed as prep people and dishwashers. She said that the challenged people had exemplary attendance records, and, once you taught them properly, remarkable dedication and consistent work habits.

    Just a thought. If your line cook is a pain in the butt, my attitude is start looking now, quietly, and find someone else, and then beat her to the punch.
    #4
    Adjudicator
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/29 09:25:12 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by blizzardstormus

    I have been in the food & beverage industry for 25 years. Through bitter experience, I know that one of the hardest parts in this business is retaining good employees.
    I just celebrated my third year owning my first restaurant THE FARMER'S KITCHEN (shameless plug) in Atlantic, Iowa, specializing in homemade cooking.
    My problem:
    We are located an hour or more away from any large urban area.
    We employ only 7 people.
    Most of the major prep work is done by my mother (bless her soul) & myself.
    The very few job applicants I receive are from
    a) teens: no work experience or work ethic
    b) single mothers: the kids, understandably are first priority which means lots of missed shifts
    c) retreads from other restaurants: most left their previous employment because of "problems with management."

    When I have a problem with an employee, it is very difficult to resolve the problem to my satisfaction. If the employee walks, then, I can't keep the doors open because of lack of help. Case in point: I serve Liver & Onions, highly popular & VERY profitable. My head cook, who normally is a great line cook, makes the kitchen a living hell whenever she gets an order for Liver & Onions. She's demanded that I take it off the menu. If she leaves (this is her 3rd time with me), I am the only who can replace her.
    Any suggestions on how small out-in-the-boondocks operations like mine can survive potential employee blackmail? And find & retain good staff?



    Just remember:

    Trash IN = Trash OUT.
    #5
    UncleVic
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/29 09:46:27 (permalink)
    And for her parting (severance) gift, offer her a year of Liver & Onions on the house!
    #6
    blizzardstormus
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/29 09:51:51 (permalink)
    Scallion1, you're absolutely correct about the ease of preparation of liver & onions. My cook detests the thought of liver & onions. I do work with our local community agency & have employed & currently do employ challenged employees. My retention rate is about the same.
    Adjudicator, you're right, Garbage in=Garbage out. That's why I work 16-hour days doing the vast majority of prep needed for my type of menu & run the kitchen during the evening shift. But, I still need a viable employee pool to draw from out here in the sticks. That's my dilemma.
    #7
    jeepguy
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/29 11:44:41 (permalink)
    When you pay an employee peanuts you get poor results...
    #8
    Scallion1
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/29 12:44:43 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by blizzardstormus

    Scallion1, you're absolutely correct about the ease of preparation of liver & onions. My cook detests the thought of liver & onions. I do work with our local community agency & have employed & currently do employ challenged employees. My retention rate is about the same.
    Adjudicator, you're right, Garbage in=Garbage out. That's why I work 16-hour days doing the vast majority of prep needed for my type of menu & run the kitchen during the evening shift. But, I still need a viable employee pool to draw from out here in the sticks. That's my dilemma.


    Yeah, my mom wanted me to go to into the insurance business. Wish I'd listened.
    Sorry you're not doing better with the challenged folks. But in my book you deserve a huge pat on the back for making the effort.

    Bill
    #9
    lleechef
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/30 07:26:51 (permalink)
    Ah, the age-old dilemma of how to get good employees to which we all wish there was an easy answer or some secret formula but there isn't. Just because you're out in the sticks doesn't necessarily mean you have it any worse than the rest of us......you just have less riff-raff to sort through! My last restaurant on the East Coast was 25 miles north of Boston in a very posh, white collar bedroom community.....great for bringing in swanky clientele, bad for hiring employees. When the pimply-faced 17-year old shows up for a dishwasher job driving Daddy's Lexus, you know you're in trouble and that this just ain't gonna work.
    As for the prima donna Anti-Liver and Onions cook, I say give her the boot. I know that this will make more work for you, but in the long run, less aggrivation until you can find someone to replace her. I understand that in Atlantic, Iowa there are no culinary schools in the viscinity but do you have a Vo-Tech school in the county that you could possibly draw from? They allow you to post job notices for free.
    One last thought (again which could not possibly apply in Atlantic, Iowa) is this: for the "mundane" jobs, i.e. dishwashers, prep people, bussers, cleaners, etc. hire foreigners. In Boston I finally wised up and realized that the Lexus clan wouldn't cut the mustard so I started hiring Brazilians and Vietnamese. At Yankee Lobster I had Hondurans and Vietnamese who picked crabmeat and lobstermeat 8 hours a day. Here I use Mexicans and Asians. I currently have an elderly couple from Argentina, she is the Queen of Clean and he is the King of Prep. All of the above will NEVER call in sick, NEVER show up late and NEVER give you a headache. They have left their countries where there are no jobs for ONE reason: To work and earn money.
    #10
    jellybear
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/30 08:50:07 (permalink)
    My friggen breakfast cook quit Friday the day before the big Holiday,Oh the joys of having your own restaurant.But they had a mutiny at another restaurant Saturday night so a couple of them are crossing over.Thats the way it is.
    #11
    bassrocker4u2
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/30 10:21:48 (permalink)
    man oh man! i sure dont miss all them employee problems. that why i do everything at my place. no more strokes for me(i had 2 as an owner of a busy place, 5 as the manager of a busier place). thats why my place is set up for 2 persons to run. me and the wife. good luck in you search for good help. you probably have already listed the job on various internet sites, right? one real desperate act that comes to mind is to check out other restaurants. sometimes your next employee can be found there......you just got to make the right offer to entice them to make the drive to the stix. also, some managers may even have a ton of applicants that are qualified, but they are fully staffed. i remember we used to trade all the time with a chicken house down the road. i had to keep 120 people on my staff to cover all shifts and positions and they needed about half that. if they needed someone, they would call for a name. if i needed someone, i would call them. great relationship.
    hope this helps some..
    #12
    6star
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/30 11:39:39 (permalink)
    I see on the map you are about 50 to 60 miles from Omaha, Nebraska. Does Atlantic have some available housing (houses, apartments or rooms for rent), so you could start searching (or advertising) for help currently living in the Omaha area that might be interested in moving to Atlantic? After all, many people consider living in a small town a big advantage.
    #13
    hefried
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/05/30 12:46:06 (permalink)
    WHY on earth does she hate cooking liver and onions THAT MUCH? that's rediculous. you might want to remind her that it's YOUR restaurant and that it's HER job to work there...
    Some people...



    line cook is a hard job
    restaurant owner is a hard job
    #14
    sho4go
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    RE: Employees - where are the good ones? 2005/06/04 15:08:04 (permalink)
    We are located in a small town as well. Though this is not the Lexus crowd, for some reason, local parents seem to think that it is beneath their station for their children to work in a local restaurant. The mall in the nearby larger city is soooo much better. As to small town labor pools vs. large town labor pools, my son manages a large restaurant in North Dallas and he will be the first to say that he would rather have his situation over mine any day. On ideas for finding new hires, be aware of good people in any work environment. A convenience store clerk that is friendly and courteous, a bag boy or girl who is personable and helpful, keep an eye out for anyone who seems to be neat, clean, personable and conscientious They may be your candidate. Ultimately, after 17 yrs of fighting this battle, my wife and I have just geared ourselves mentally for those times when we are forced to take up the slack for ungrateful and irrational employees who by their decision or ours have got to go.
    #15
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