From the time my baby brother Matt, aka Slimey, was old enough to talk all the way through high school, he complained about growing pains in his legs. True to accepted fact among siblings, as the first-born, I got the brains, charm and good looks, and Slimey got the height. He’s 6’3″, and I’m 5’6″(ish).
I bartend 5 nights a week, using the days 7 days a week to do the business side of the business. On my “nights off” I either work on business stuff, rest or visit with friends, usually in that order. Bartending keeps me plugged in with the pulse and rhythm of the business, plus I keep my staff costs in check and I live off my tips. I’m ITK (in the know) on what my patrons experience at my place, and I ask for feedback frequently. I get a 50 foot perspective by checking the reviews on Yelp and Google. 99% of the time, the reviews rock! Once in a blue moon, there are Haters who write mean-spirited reviews. My fave nearby bar Daddy O’s has a sign up that says “Mean People Suck” — brilliant! Occasionally I get reviews with insightful criticism. I take these seriously, and I use them to effect positive change.
Generally I bartend solo if it’s a Sunday through Wednesday night because I can handle the volume of patrons on my own and I can’t financially justify incurring extra staff costs – the sales just aren’t there to do so. I bus and serve every table, wash all the dishes, and haul the garbage out of the basement before I lock up at night. Thursday through Saturday nights are my busiest evenings so I have a second shift pastry cook, and Luis works with us to handle cleaning, bussing and some bar back duties. Not being buried alive in dishes allows me to focus on sales and patron service. Dividing and conquering are essential when it’s busy.
For the last month, I’ve noticed that Luis and I are bumping up against a level of business that is almost too much to handle for peak moments. These times only last an hour or so across a 7 or 8 hour shift but I’m very aware when they occur because I know I’m not able to get to patrons as fast as I’d like or I lose customers who walk in and walk out because they think they won’t get a table. It’s highly likely I could have seated them if I could have greeted them and explained I was in the process of dropping a check. I’ve been very carefully gauging the balance between sales/lost sales/investing in staff costs, and I’ve been waiting for the tipping point.
The weekend before Easter, I was in the weeds and couldn’t keep up with the pace of business for a couple of hours both nights. It was hard work and stressful but I was happy as a clam because being too busy is a great problem to have.
Given the noticeable uptick in business and having tracked online comments about patron wait times, I re-worked the staff schedule for the holiday weekend, putting two bartenders on during the expected busiest times.
I am psyched about reaching this milestone. It’s very rewarding knowing the momentum is picking up.
P.S. Hey Slimey — I don’t know what you were complaining about all those years — my growing pains feel Tony the Tiger GREEAAAT!
Teaser Taste of Sweet Revenge®: Bonding with fellow entrepreneurs over cupcakes and booze
We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are. (Tobias Wolff)