I’m curious to know how it’s affecting everyone. It’s no secret to me how it’s affected us (adversely. It’s affected us adversely,) but I do, when I’m not neck-deep in the things I deal with each day, wonder what’s going on in other industries. The news stories help, but I find myself with less and less time to read the news. I did have time to read this morning, however, that 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August alone, and I’m growing weary of one business hazard after another for these past twenty months. Every day, I get a step closer to making that number 4.300001 million, assuming I got the right number of zeroes between that decimal and the 1.
I can barely keep up as it is- if you read whatever email I sent last week that mentioned not even a third of the crew here and what they do, you’ll know that there are a lot of moving parts here, so it was news to me when, barely able to keep on top of what we’re doing, I asked Mike to order the short ribs I’d forgotten to order for the new menu. While we usually buy them from Merit, a local distributor, but they don’t deliver on Saturdays and the butchers there knock off by about 2:00 on a Friday, so I couldn’t even go pick them up. I suggested we get them from Sysco.
“Sysco?” Mike said, “didn’t I tell you? They’re not delivering to restaurants right now.”
“They don’t have enough staff to handle it, so they’re only going to their bigger accounts.” I assume that means hospitals, maybe hotels, school districts and the like. We who order small potatoes are, in fact, small potatoes.
And that’s a two-pronged issue: Sysco is in many respects a behemoth, and in another, they’re one drop in a 4.3 million-drop bucket. In August, that is. I don’t know how many more drops were added in September and October.
At our Lilliputian level, we’re short a server or two and a busser or three, a line cook and a pair of prep cooks, and I’ll tell you this: it’s making our quotidian life difficult. As catering business creeps up, so, too, do the stressors: we have a hard time keeping up with production and still having enough of everything for the restaurant, and not only is the staff beginning to show signs of the stress (a dropped pie crust the other day turned into an outburst far more dramatic than the last hot-oil burn that sent someone to urgent care,) but as people tiptoe into overtime, the financial side of things keeps getting worse as it gets better. The irony is that we’re starting to see enough business to sustain us, but now we can’t always handle it.
So if another person comes in on a Saturday night on the last day of my six-and-a-half-day week and innocently offers a supportive comment about how lucky we are that we’ve made it through the pandemic and aren’t we lucky to be so busy, I may need to bite my lip so hard that there’s another trip to urgent care.
And as I mentioned, we’re among the smaller of small businesses- I’ve talked to people with a scaffolding business who have managers loading trucks because there’s no one else to do it, and one of the party rental companies we use only picked up half the stuff they brought to the wedding we catered because they’re stretched so thin. The head teller at my bank told me they’re losing customers left and right because a changeover that went badly is compounded by being woefully understaffed.
I’m not sure where all these people have gone, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not wildly more appealing than picking up the pieces left by the workforce evacuees.
We’re getting applications again, but it’s line cooks who’ve never set foot in the dining room wanting to be waiters, and people with three months of Burger King cashier experience who fancy they’d like to be a saute cook who needs to be able to monitor eight or ten saute pans at a go. It’s simply not viable, and the cherry on top is the part where you go to a table to take the drubbing you’ve earned by letting them down in spite of your best efforts.
So I’ll begin November with a congratulatory email to my coworkers: you’ve all endured the taxing new demands on your work day, your coworkers short fuses, guests who can’t begin to understand what you’re dealing with and purveyors who’ve got their own miserable reasons for showing up without six or eight of the nineteen things you ordered. You’ve put up with me obligating us to more than we can handle, and the subsequent dark clouds over the heads of me and the other managers who are mired in emergencies, shortfalls and panicky phone calls. You’ve covered shifts for one another at the eleventh hour, and stopped at one store or another on you way into work when we’ve been shorted ingredients for days in a row. And you’ve done it, for the most part, with tremendous grace and patience. And for that I thank you.
November, Thanksgiving’s habitation, is a celebration of gratitude, and you’ve got mine in spades. You guests have it as well- even the one who means well when he says Lucky You when despite having no idea how fraught that proclamation is still does indeed mean well, and is still here spending his hard-earned cash keeping us afloat on our rattletrap dinghy. So thank you every bit as much. Thanks, too to you purveyors, whom I realize are dealing with as much panic and frustration and disintegrating logistical coordination as we are, and to everyone else on the periphery of our little world, even though that world feels like a mason jar with holes punched in the lid and a leaf and some gravel thrown in by a cosmic seven-year-old who’s hoping to approximate a real-life habitat for us.
The culmination of all that gratitude, yours and ours, will happen on November 25th, and, as promised, I’ve got the Thanksgiving menu posted on the website and started the countdown clock on ordering. Like everything else, it’s uncertain even with our preparations, so while you’ve theoretically got until the 17th to place your orders, I’ve been doing this for enough years to know that there will be stragglers, and I don’t recommend being one of them. Will we get all the turkeys we’ve ordered? Maybe. Will the distributor we’re buying them from have drivers to bring them out? Maybe. So know this, and I’ll mention it again on the page I’m about to link to: the early bird gets the proverbial worm. We’ll do our best to accommodate all orders, but I know last year we simply sold all the food we could get our hands on. Don’t be that poor soul who waited until we’ve run out of everything to order. And with that, here’s the menu, available for your perusal- you can order by calling us at 326-9363.
We’ve also managed to overcome the aforementioned adversities to set in place the November menu, which is rife with autumnal flavors,
and once we get our obligations for this week behind us, we’ll start in on loads of new things: our first hybrid wine tasting, for example, on Saturday,
or next week’s wine dinner with the esteemed Kent Callaghan,
or our next donation run to Youth on Their Own.
Time now to assemble what staff we have, run through the preparation of all these new dishes, taste them, talk about them, and see if we can get frisee from somebody, since we were shorted again. Sigh.