A Tale Of Two Owners - "It's Only Food" Blog at Allrecipes.com - 176850

"It's Only Food"

A Tale of Two Owners 
May 25, 2010 11:19 am 
Updated: May 29, 2010 10:16 am
I wrote in the beginning of a sequence of essays on foodservice employees that I would communicate the world of our profession to the general public.  Since then I have written about chefs, dishwashers, chain restaurants, and corporate interference in the workplace.  I still want to cover the hardest job-the server-but that will be another time.
Here I am going to share two stories about two owners that I had the pleasure and pain of working for in the early 90’s.
Owner #1 
Ken was a hard, no nonsense, do-it-my way owner.  He expected the best and did not suffer fools lightly.  There wasn’t a thing he didn’t know about running a restaurant.  If you did as he said, you had no problems, but if you talked back or argued with him, you were shown the door.  No counseling, no write ups, no second chances or a thick file of paperwork on your performance.   I was one of the few that kept my mouth shut and did my job, and we had a mutual respect for each other.  I know there were a few others that were on his good side, and we were the core of the staff-his “dependables”- and we were paid accordingly.  His place was always packed, and we were always busy, not only in the restaurant, but doing private parties and banquets. Even though Ken was strict with the way he wanted things done, he was successful, saw the big picture, and to this day I remember him as one of the few people who “get” it.
Owner #2
Dale purchased a successful little Italian place and took over after learning the operating techniques from the seller who stayed around to show him the ropes.  No sooner had the seller left before he tried to re-invent the wheel.  With no experience, no ideas, and certainly no business acumen, he proceeded to give away food, feed his friends for free, raise the prices and basically treat the staff like chattel.  Checks bounced, equipment wasn’t fixed, purveyors refused to sell us food, and the bank tellers essentially laughed when we came in to cash our paychecks. Worst of all he would not accept help or any advice from those with any skill in the business.  He did not listen. Being the clairvoyant that I am, I finally left after an incident that sealed the fact that he was going to fail.  I heard afterward he blamed the staff for his failure and let them go without pay. He lost the restaurant months later. To this day I am sure it was his arrogance, stubbornness and incompetence that cost him his business.  I sued him for back pay, and eventually won, but I did gain some knowledge from the experience.
I guess the moral of the story is there is no moral, just a contrast and comparison about two situations. 
Did I fail to mention that these two places were in the same town and I worked for one right after the other?  I’ll let you guess which one.
May 25, 2010 2:44 pm
I love your blogs, except for one thing. You don't write them often enough. Thanks for the great read. Mag
May 25, 2010 3:31 pm
Thanks Mags, I appreciate your readership. Have a good one!
May 25, 2010 3:45 pm
I feel your pain. The Dales of this world don't confine their mayhem to restaurants. Unfortunately they seem to be in every industry. Great blog.
May 25, 2010 9:59 pm
The thing I hate most about my job? Being The Boss...
May 26, 2010 1:52 am
Just goes to show that it doesn't pay to be "good" to only your friends. What goes around comes around!
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John Politte

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About Me
I have been a professional restaurant person for 30+ years. I started out as a dishwasher and worked my way up the ladder. No schooling except for hands on experience in locations around the USA. I am now starting my own business as a consultant and food writer.
My favorite things to cook
Everything-except baking and desserts
My favorite family cooking traditions
Gravy, my side of the family is mostly French , so we love the sauces and gravies.
My cooking triumphs
Starting my own public access cooking show-"It's Only Food". Did 33 shows in 3 years as the chef and producer. It certainly opened up a lot of doors and paved the way for changing the way I look at food.
My cooking tragedies
Missing my family growing up and working 80 hour weeks, but I can say that it paid off. No regrets.
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