It’s me. I’m back, working the floor at FireWorks.
After my 14 month absence, call it extended vacation, retreat, hiatus, or exile, necessity has called me home.
Despite the positive spin I had told everyone who asked, the restaurant had not fared well while I was away. Expenses grew steadily, mostly in the area which I should have managed – payroll. Staffing in a restaurant must not exceed 30% of sales. This is an industry wide figure, whether small mom & pop or large franchise. During my recent tour, our payroll topped 40%.
I returned knowing I would need to make difficult cuts, but not intending to return to work the floor. However, it became clear I needed again to manage my little restaurant from within, closely able to monitor sales and staff appropriately.
Last week was brutal. I had to cut 4 part time staff members, people who had worked hard to serve customers and their employer. People with rent to pay, families to support, car insurance and student loans and basic needs. I tried to let go of people who had other part time work. Unemployment compensation exists to soften the blow.
But the hardest part of owning a business is telling someone, “You are fired.”
Add it to my grief work. Tears are still being shed late nights, after my mind quiets and anxiety eases. A deep sadness, a responsibility I alone must bear. For I am aware that I created the staffing problem, by not managing my business well, by getting so burnt out that I frankly didn’t care whether it made it or not. I left on the tour, not knowing if I would face bankruptcy upon returning.
Then a voice arose within, “No, I am not going to let this go!” Nine years of my life spent creating a restaurant, a community resource, a center of music and art.
Moreover, it is Intaba’s time to take a retreat, to heal from the chaos and stress of keeping the kitchen going despite my abrogation of managing “the front end”. She is planning to WOOF in Bali, Japan, Thailand, as well as attending meditation retreats.
This may seem crazy, but I decided my penance for my absence: to work every shift, open to close, until the end of the month. I understand now what my fellow restaurateur friend Kimber has been expressing when she blithely states, “I work every day”.
Granted, much of the work during this slow season is basically babysitting the restaurant, waiting for the customers to show up. But I will also work the busy nights, feel the heat of the rushes, clean up the messes, greet and serve customers, with a new perspective.
Cycling? None recently. Yet, I have every morning and afternoon free. I will pick it up, starting Monday. Get through this busy weekend, settle into a new routine. The picture above is actually from last November, after my first tour. I’m looking pretty good now, and I don’t intend to let that go either. I will ride again.