Friday, April 20, 2012

Answers

Thank you for playing along with my lame Q post!


Here are the answers to your questions in no particular order:


Debbie asked  "How did you come to own and operate a restaurant?"
Simple answer- a lapse in sanity
Long answer- We were regular customers to the restaurant and my father-in-law was a friend of the owner. My FIL was in the bar business for many years and was the director of beverage at a resort for over 20 years. My husband was a bartender when I met him. When we lived in Tulsa, I got a job working as a hostess at the hotel where my husband bartended. When the big one was 8 months old (1991), we moved out of state to the town where we now live (where my husband grew up) and Mr. Funny spent many years working in the restaurant business as a server, a bartender and a manager. I started working as a server at the resort (in 1996) where my FIL worked and Mr. Funny worked in accounting and helped us out in the restaurant on the busy holiday weekends. My husband and his father both knew the business. My husband had always wanted to own his own business but his dream was to have a nightclub/bar. One day when we were eating at the restaurant (that we now own) the owner was out at our table talking to us and my FIL asked him if he would ever consider selling the restaurant. He said when he was ready to retire, he would sell it to my FIL. My husband thought it would be fun (!) to go into business with his family. For many years we talked about it off and on. My FIL retired and was somewhat bored so he continued to bring up the restaurant purchase to my husband. One day while we were eating, the owner came over and said he was ready to sell. Maybe. Then it was a few more years before he got really serious about it and we began looking at out options. My in-laws had money and my FIL had intended on using some of his stocks and retirement to help us buy it and run it as a family business. My FIL got sick and died of lung cancer while we were planning the purchase. When we finally went to the banks to try to get a loan, we were rejected twice (2 different banks). It was a huge loan and although we had an outstanding credit rating (after years of much debt and terrible credit) it was still too much of a gamble. My husband was friends with the president of another bank and casually approached him about a loan. He was very interested. It was very hard work and the paperwork involved was daunting but in May 2007, we signed our lives away the papers. My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in March 2007 and died in December so the first few months of owning the restaurant are a blur. I was consumed with my mother and spent little time worrying about the business. I continued to work my job at the resort until business slowed down but when my husband wanted to get rid of one of the managers, I had to learn how to be a manager. Having no managerial experience and a fear of a leadership position, I was a mess. I had trouble getting respect from our employees and telling people what to do.  The economy took a dive at the end of 2007 beginning of 2008 so all of the plans to revamp and remodel were put on hold. The restaurant was a franchise and we were expected to do things the way the company wanted them done. The previous owner had never followed the rules very well and was always in trouble with the district manager for using different products, changing recipes and insisting that most of the food was from scratch instead of frozen. When we bought the business, we continued on with the way things had bee done. We sat down with the previous owner and went through list after list of how he felt things could be and what we should and shouldn't change. At the time of the purchase, there was one general manager, 2 supervisors and my husband. The previous owner had allowed the general manager to make all of the decisions but he was very tight with money. He preferred to spend his time in the kitchen as a cook instead of making the day to day decisions. My husband insisted on being a working manager/owner and wanted to know everything about everything. This caused a clash between he and the general manager and she didn't like being told what to do as she never had been before. The employees took the side of the manager they knew and trusted and it was difficult for awhile to gain their trust. When the other 2 managers left (one was moved to a cook position that he preferred and the other went on maternity leave and then decided to be a stay at home mom) and I came in, I looked to the general manager and my husband for help. I slowly began learning and now feel much more comfortable in my position. I had a really hard time being called a boss by my peers (being a server for 11 years, I could see the servers point of view better than a boss's) but I had to become a little tougher and stand up to both the hourly employees and the manager. The general manager is a negative person by nature. She has a worthless, jobless husband and she feels as if she is owed something. We have spent so much time convincing her that it will be our way or the highway and she fights us every step. My husband has wanted to get rid of her for years but since it is only the 2 of us left (my MIL worked as a manager for us for a few years but she passed away in October) and we would be working 7 days a week and never see each other so for now, we are keeping our eyes open for a good candidate (we have a couple servers who fill in as manager when needed) The manager does follow our rules, she just has a bad attitude and a terrible outlook on life because she has to work and she gambles away any spare penny.
I have somehow gotten off track but you get the idea.
In April of 2011, we had an opportunity to buy out the franchise and become our own entity, so to speak. My sister thought of a new name, we changed the menu, got a new sign and realized that people didn't care what we called, they liked the people, the place the food.
In March, we started remodeling. We had new carpet installed, had wainscotting added to the walls, had the window sills replaced, replaced the walk-in floor, and had some really awful decor removed. My husband loves his job. I tolerate it.
I will say that we have met some really great people. The downside is that everybody knows us so going anywhere involves stopping and talking to people all the time. I rarely have a quick trip to the grocery store. I have even resorted to putting my phone to my ear so it looks like I am busy and doing the quick wave.

Fun fact: my husband worked at the restaurant as a server years ago and was fired for not showing up to work on his birthday (he asked off but didn't get it) so he was fired by the woman who now works for us.
Fun fact #2: the previous owner now works for us as a cook, retirement wasn't what he expected and he does us a huge favor as well



ChiTown Girl asked What is the most popular dish at your restaurant?
You can get breakfast, lunch or dinner all day every day but my husband said breakfast is the best seller. We have a breakfast plate (I won't put the name of it) with 2 eggs, either bacon, ham, or sausage, hash browns and choice of bread side (toast, french toast, pancakes, english muffin, bagel) Last year we sold around 10,000 of those. We sell a ton of pancakes (59,000 in 2010) and I am a huge fan of our biscuits and gravy.
We also sell a lot of country fried steak. Our menu is huge and we have many choices but I usually get a club sandwich, a spicy chicken sandwich (breaded chicken breast with Frank's Redhot sauce) or a large dinner salad. I do love pancakes and crisp bacon sometimes. Our burgers are good sellers as well. They are huge! 



That Corgi asked If you guys weren't running the restaurant, would do you envision that you guys would be doing for a career? Would it be something working together like the restaurant?
 I was a server and I always thought I would finish college (I have 26 hours toward a business degree) but nothing ever appealed to me. He worked in sales selling frozen beverages. He made a decent salary but his commissions were where most of his money was made. He got to go on out of town meetings which usually involved a golf resort. He got to go to Florida and Chicago, Boston and Puerto Rico. When we bought the restaurant, he quit but his boss asked him to come back part time so he did. Last summer, the company started firing people and his boss called him to say he was quitting because he didn't like the way they had restructured the company because of the economy. Last month, his job dissolved and so did the extra cash we had for trips and extras. sigh
If he would have stayed, he would be unemployed but when things started getting bad, he would have left anyway. I think he would have started his own business no matter what.




LuLu Kellogg asked  When are we going to have a shopping marathon together? You know we would be DEADLY.
Oh LuLu, not sure where you live but we can plan a trip anytime you would like. The shopping here is lame and I cannot afford Rodeo Dr. but I do like NYC! I will need a year or so to save for this trip as I imagine it would be insane! And you have more energy than I do so I will need to rest up for it. Bring it on!!

5 comments:

  1. It's pretty interesting to hear how you guys fell into the restaurant business. I think my ex loves doing it in some ways still since he's passionate about cooking and making up menus, but the work and hours is just grueling. You know that, I'm sure!

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  2. Thanks for answering my question :) Interesting how you guys came to own what you own; I would imagine the previous owner would enjoy coming in and cooking; gets himself out of the house, a little extra money for retirement and doesn't have the stress of running a business. I know you guys work hard though!!!!!

    betty

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  3. Ah, the restaurant biz. I was a waitress at a truck stop for a few years and married the owner's son who ran the place--LOL! Got to know the small restaurant business pretty well. We ended up divorced and I never worked restaurant again, but I remember it well. I did payroll and oversaw the waitresses, worked the floor, bussed tables, ran the dishwasher, scrubbed floors, cleaned bathrooms, you name it. I think my favorite jobs were as a small pet shop assistant manager, though. Fun getting to know more about you. :)

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing this. It's really fascinating how it all came together. I know first-hand how grueling it is to run a bar, especially in the first few years, but I can't imagine adding a restaurant on top of that!! You guys must be constantly exhausted.

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  5. I'm SO glad my post on restaurants got deleted by my ghosts today - after reading your post I would have been so embarrassed by my silly words !

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