Thursday, November 22, 2007


I am thankful for the new additions to our extended family (Mathis and Zara), for the support of my family and friends and most especially that 2007 is almost over. Cheers to 2008!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sympathy for the Devil

As I journal my final days in this ridiculous business I find more and more reasons why I cannot be here doing this. It is about 6 am right now. I went to the shop at 6 am yesterday and worked 14 hours. I am exhausted and need sleep. I will be there today - Saturday, and tomorrow - Sunday. I will be there very many hours until Wednesday night then I can breathe. I will be making dips and breads and pies for people's Thanksgiving. But that is not why I cannot sleep. I actually do not have to be in today until 10 so I SHOULD be sleeping. I want to sleep, I have time to sleep but I can't sleep. A problem at a catering last night is keeping me from my bed.

"You CARE too much for this business Meg. You have to be able to put some things aside. You have to take a lesson from the Devil," my husband tells me.
The Devil, you see, is a very famous chef in town. He makes lots of money and has a great reputation. But his employees call him the Devil. I can't live like that.
The hubby is right - I take it ALL to heart.

We were designing platters for a catering that Regina was leaving for at 6pm. Everything was almost done. We were laughing and talking and loading her car. Phew we made it. Then the phone rings from the client at 5:40. Maybe she wanted to add something. Maybe she has a question. Maybe her party starts at 6 NOT 7 which I had noted. When exactly is Regina coming? Oh shit! Regina leaves with what she has in the car, trying to avoid the police out front because there was a wreck literally in the 2 spaces in front of the shop. I follow 2 minutes later bc everything was ready in plenty of time. I am horrifed. I made it this last 1 1/2 years without this ever happening. Another client had just told me a bad story of a caterer coming 1 hour late when guests were already there. Luckily we did beat all the guests and managed to get everything on the table before anyone arrived. BUT that is not a pleasant, calm way to start a party. That is not the time frame I like to have for Regina (who handled it exceptionally by the way - that's why you hire Regina.)

I keep reviewing the planning session in my head. We talked about 6-8 or 7-9. I said I thought 6-8 people came straight from work, had a drink and went home or to dinner. On the other hand, 7-9 people would go home, get changed and then stay later. I was sure she wanted people to come later and stay later. I had discussed this with Regina. I wrote it on BEO's (banquet event orders.) The invitation actually said 6-9 - a twist I really don't remember. (Now I am really panicking - was there enough food for 3 hours vs 2 hours - you can see what I do to myself) The client said she can see why this happened, she did remember discussing those other times with me.

Doesn't change anything. I am sick about it. And awake. Awoken by a dream that Regina came in to tell me that they hated everything. A sick dream that I hope goes away when I lock the door the final time.

I would love to sleep thus I am writing it down. Venting and clearing my head are my only solutions. BUT this is why people in my business turn to drugs and alcohol. Because every week (or day) there is someone that is NOT happy. You cannot please everyone all day everyday. It is physically impossible. Plus there are so many people out there that just love to complain. (At this point I am just talking about the whole scope of things, not my client.) It is an odd way to work.

There is an entire kitchen culture that you have to be a part of if you really want to be IN the restaurant world. I know what goes on in kitchens. I have worked 60 plus hour weeks (before kids). I have seen the diehards, the ones that have their entire lives revolve around the place they are working. They come in on their days off because they can't help it. The kitchen is their family, friends, social network. It is actually how owners keep these people so long and are able to abuse them with long hours, low paychecks, no overtime. They can't leave. They don't know where else to go. There is a social hierarchy there that they understand. Maybe in the rest of society they are not sure where they fall but in the kitchen they know exactly who they are. Maybe there is something they are avoiding in their real life and the restaurant becomes the excuse. Maybe they really honestly love the business and are learning all they can (a reason I only buy for the younger chefs). But I do admire their dedication. They will stay until the last dish is plated. They will be there early to make stock. They will be a great employee for someone to exploit until one day they get pissed enough to leave. And go off to find a new place to spend all their time.

Truly I have never given in enough to the restaurant world. Thus far I have spent time on the edges, looking in. I could never make the leap into the whole world, everything that it encompasses. And that would have to happen for me to succeed in the coming year. I would have to be satisfied giving up everything to make the business a success. Vacations, swim meets, homework and dinner with the kids, family gatherings, lazy days at the beach. The cost is too high for me.

I guess to be in this business, you have to take a little lesson from the Devil. And that is something I just can't do.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More rantings

I never did finish the last post. I was actually beginning to feel pretty good about my decision. I can go back to the business if I ever so desire (although it looks pretty bleak). I cannot go back to my kids being 5 and 8 years old. So many people were sypathizing or even praising me for putting my family first. Everything is moving in the right direction. And it still is but I have a new thorn in my side that is bugging me during a 3 day weekend. ( I might as well close for Veterans Day - it's not like it will be the day that saves the bank account.) Mostly I am hoping if I write this out, I will feel some relief and will go to enjoy the Jag game with my friends at the club.

I got a voicemail (that I can check at home bc it is Vonage) that I should have left until Tuesday but I listened anyway over the internet. My client that picked up crab cakes on Friday was not happy and needs to talk to me. I know the problem. They were smaller than she expected and cost too much. I sypathize with her really. I have been to Costco, Walmart even Fresh Market. They have good prices that I cannot compete with. They buy for so much cheaper than I can. I might as well be buying from another retail store and trying to compete with the same place with my final product. It is the Walmartization of the country and there is nothing anyone can do to save the small independents. All you can hope is that they see the writing on the wall and get out. Like me. I had no choice.

Another problem is I use good crabmeat and little filler. They are small but they are tasty. But people don't want quality they want quantity - supersized product. My husband says to tell her that next time I will use fake crabmeat and they will be bigger. I won't do that. I will explain in the nicest way possible. And maybe even tell her this is why I am leaving the business. Not enough people who want quality. I also oversympathize because I don't want to think that the silly crabcakes ruined the evening but chances are that's all they talked about. Goodness people need to get off the "complaining is fun" bus. But then I think about my regulars - they deserve someone to take care of them.

I am far too sensitive. I need to be a hardass. It isn't working for me. I guess that's the reason why I am getting out. Actually ANOTHER reason I am getting out. Good thing I have someplace to keep track of it all.

Monday, November 5, 2007

This is the End, the only end my friend

I am worried and anxious and wondering what the day will hold. Last night I put out the email about closing the shop - Family Meal. It has taken over my life for the past 1 1/2 years. Something I thought I could manage. Something I thought I could do AND raise my kids. I did not realize what energy and committment a small business takes. I know now and wish anyone that wants to do this could talk to me first. I wish I could tell them what I have learned....
That you have to give up your life for 2-3 years - no vacations, no scheduled days off only as they come, no sense of "oh good we made it", constant worry, getting up in the night and not being able to sleep, trying to figure out where more money will come from, trying to price low enough to get the job but high enough to actually make a small amount of money.
And that you will have to fight for everything -

Produce companies send small places the end of the line stuff - after the grocery stores and big mega stores. Be prepared to get a reputation as being a bitch and send it back. You have to be the squeeky wheel - something I don't like to do (a problem that manifests itself often.)

Credit card companies are in fact the devil. In exchange for processing the credit card payments they take an unseemly amount of money. Usually it is a percentage of the charge so if you have a large catering pay by credit card, you could possibly pay over $100 for them to put that money in the back. Get checks for parties if possible! Not to mention all the different sneaky fees for having to punch in the numbers if the swipe doesn't work. Plastic bags have saved me quite a bit of money - that actually works a lot! (Place plastic bag over magnetic strip and swipe again) The fees only lead to higher prices in general! I am going to be a cash only girl as much as I can from now on.

Large distributors have minimums. I guess that does make sense - they can't send a truck with 1 box to your place - but sometimes they are outrageous. Find a good rep - your only saving grace is to have someone that goes above and beyond for you. The rep makes or breaks you!

I have to get back to this later. Must continue through the day!