Service with a smile – the ups and downs of running a pub/restaurant – Part 1.

Part 1

There are so many memories, both good and sometimes not so good, which I hope will make interesting reading for anyone who frequents pubs and restaurants.  Knowing what goes on behind the scenes whilst you are tucking into that succulent steak and taking a sip from a glass of really good wine could surprise you if you ever found out! However, some secrets are best kept secret to protect innocent people involved!

After having tired of the many years of being witness to the constant presence of in-house politics in the corporate world, my other half decided that it was time for us to have our own business and to take control over our lives. Little did we realise that having control, when dealing with the public at large, is more a dream than a reality. However, we were excited to try something quite new and, after a great deal of research, decided that to go the franchise route would offer us a much better chance of succeeding in our venture than trying to go it alone.

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,
by which 
so much happiness is produced as by
a good tavern.
” – Samuel Johnson

Due to many stumbling blocks along the way to our getting our business up and running, we finally opened our doors (under the watchful eye of several members of the franchise head office staff) a few weeks before Christmas. What an opening it proved to be. From the moment the locals knew we were in operation, it was absolute pandemonium. Despite all of us, owners and managers, front of house staff, as well as the entire kitchen complement, having received fairly in-depth training from the franchisor, the reality of providing quick, efficient service to the masses was daunting to say the least! None of us had time to eat anything at all whilst on duty during the first few weeks. Our uniforms started hanging off us due to weight loss but we were too busy rushing around to even notice!

The pub we bought had an Irish theme and catered for 75 people in the restaurant area. There were also tables in the bar area where one could eat as well. Therefore, it stands to reason that for brand new owners and staff it was no mean feat to keep demanding patrons happy all the time. Despite having had a trial evening where friends and family had been invited to test our capabilities in preparing meals and giving the appropriate service, the first few days of business were totally crazy. The most relaxed members of our entire staff were the barmen as they had taken to their job like ducks to water, or drunks to drink! They were young, enthusiastic and great with the public.

Pub 2 350x262

We had really hit the jackpot by finding ourselves a true Irishman several weeks before we opened and we employed him as our head barman due to his previous experience and outgoing personality. He was confident in handling a busy bar and he proved to be an absolute bonus for the few months in which he worked for us. He left in a bit of a hurry under some sort of a cloud, by all account but it was probably due to domestic problems. He was in his early twenties and had a great affinity for a certain four letter word whilst telling you where to go! This came out of Gordon’s mouth regularly in a broad Belfast accent. He was working in a pub and not a church or a school so there was no need to censor the barman.  The piece de resistance was the fact that he taught one of our young Black kitchen staff to parrot his expression. Every evening as Jonathan left to catch the staff transport, Gordon would ask him to repeat his favourite saying.  The reaction of the patrons when they heard a Black guy swearing in an Irish accent had to be seen to be believed.

The kitchen staff were under great pressure in those early days but all things considered the mistakes were few and far between. The food which came out of our kitchen was first class and relatively speedily prepared. There are many amusing incidents which I would love to share with you which involved our kitchen workers, but this I will leave for a later post.

Our young waiters had all just recently left school and there were some amusing incidents (in hindsight, and not at the time). A few weeks into running the business a rather irate woman called me over to her table to complain about one of my waiters who had sworn at her. I asked who had served her and she told me who it was – the only boy we had as yet employed (girls were the favoured choice of the franchisor – but we soon changed the dynamics to suit our needs). I called the youngster over and, away from prying eyes, I asked him what had happened. It turned out that the woman had asked him what was in the pie of the day? Being new to the menu as well as the job he answered “shit, I don’t know!” We all found it amusing – pity the miserable old bat couldn’t see the humour! Anyway, afterwards we tried to ensure that all the young staff actually had a good idea of the contents of each day’s special pie!

Pub 3 350x233

We were put on a spot by our replacement bank manager to give his blonde and rather dumb daughter a part time waitressing job. Suffice to say she didn’t last very long as she just could not learn at all. The best memory I have of her was the busy Sunday lunch when one of the waiters was frantically looking for the chicken schnitzel which the kitchen staff had prepared ready for delivery to the customer. It had disappeared from the relevant preparation station. However, there was an abandoned ostrich fillet starter standing all alone in the cold prep section. We soon found out what had happened. The dizzy blonde had grabbed the schnitzel and taken it to the customer who had ordered the ostrich starter, who in turn hadn’t said a word and proceeded to devour it. When the waitress was told what she had done, her reply was, “well, I knew it was some kind of a bird!”

So many memories, but that is all for now! Will be back with another batch of memories of those busy days (and nights too!).

“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they  wake up
in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going
to feel all day.” – Jack Lemmon

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