Any business, especially one with the pace and hours of a restaurant and bar, demands that the owner’s routine throughout the week is efficient and addresses his well-being. Routine is a word that normally doesn’t go with a restaurant as there’s nothing routine about being a restaurateur.
To be a jack-of-all-trades in the restaurant business, and be good at it, requires staying directly involved in all aspects. I can’t emphasize this enough. However, balancing the work and family life is a constant.
Making this work
Once my restaurant’s weekly operation had settled down after a year or so, I fell into a routine that worked for the business, me, and my family. Both my older brothers worked the kitchen (one as kitchen manager, the other as the executive chef) and since we were closed on Sundays, I added Monday to their off-day schedule to give them two days in a row. The kitchen night crew was reliable.
Fortunately, I had a strong & experienced night manager, and I was comfortable and confident that the restaurant front-end was in good hands when I wasn’t there. Good staff, especially management, is so important for a business that is open extended hours with a volatile product and service. I did miss out on some of the schmoozing that is a key component in the food & beverage industry though.
I worked the kitchen during the day on Mondays and assumed the management of the many related tasks. It kept me in the loop on accepting deliveries, doing prep, and the stress/pressure/buzz of running the kitchen line at lunch. It was fun to be on the line again.
My bookkeeper would cover my usual weekday tasks and assist at the door seating customers during lunch which she appreciated as it was a change of pace. After the lunch-time kitchen clean-up, I’d do some office work before changing from my whites to hosting attire to run the door at night. Mondays were generally slow, and we closed relatively early (10:00pm in the dining room and 11:00 in the bar).
On Tuesday I reverted back to office work in the morning and working the door at lunch. I’d leave after the first lunch rush and grab lunch somewhere else to check out other restaurants and sometimes meet up with old staff as they worked.
If there were no other obligations, I was able to get home by mid-afternoon while everyone else was working. This brief respite from the pressure of a restaurant was not lost on me. Tuesday afternoons were special as it was my only me time. There were no business or family commitments. And remember, there were no cell phones yet. I accepted that this could be an issue if something arose.
Wednesday & Thursday
Wednesday and Thursday were daytimes consistent with office work and only interrupted with hosting at lunch. I would leave soon after we opened for dinner at 5:00 after the night manager and I discussed new issues or anything pertinent with the previous night. These two days mirrored a 9-5 workday more than any other day.
I preferred to work a full day on Friday from 8:00 AM to 1:00 AM. I worked in the office during the day and managed the dining room and lounge at lunch and dinner. I would then run food to the bar once the dining room slowed down (the bar sold a lot of food late at night on the weekends). It was a long day but busy, exciting, and the energy level required kept me engaged.
We were closed for lunch on Saturday, so I did office work during the day, discussed the past week with my brothers in the kitchen, and met with the night manager. I was able to leave just as the restaurant opened and enjoy dinner at home. With a family, it was important for me to be at home whenever possible to appreciate my young son as he got older and help my wife with the child-rearing.
We were closed on Sundays, except for a brief attempt to correct the struggling business in the later years.
Sunday was a family day. My wife and young son would meet me at the restaurant in the morning and I’d cook breakfast. Steak and eggs with bubbly & orange juice was a standard. We finished the meal in the lounge with a Caffè Latte, which was a treat as there were no Starbucks yet.
While enjoying our coffee, my son would play Ms. Pacman or Galaga on the game box in the lounge. Remember, this was the early 80s.
After my wife did some grocery shopping in the kitchen cooler, she would head home with my son, and I would finish up with the week’s tasks and get ready for the upcoming week.
It’s not surprising how family life can conflict with running a business serving food and liquor and is open 6 days a week from 8:00 AM – 11:00 PM or later. I received a telephone call from my night manager late one night and he told me that there was a fire nearby that could affect our operation. He wanted to ensure that our safe was also a fire box. I knew from experience of the potential damage (I Was the Target of An Arsonist). Relaxing at home was always fleeting.
Maintaining a routine that balances the rigours of running a restaurant and bar with a young family needs structure that is good for the business as well as the personal life. The wellness factor cannot be exaggerated. Therefore, enjoying being an entrepreneur requires a solid routine.