I’m crazy, clinically so, but I am far from stupid. After spending as much time as I have in Kitchens all over, I’ve learned to see through the bullshit and be able to tell the posers from the pro’s. While I have worked for some really amazing restaurant owners, I’ve also worked for some shady motherfuckers. Than you have the places that, despite their best efforts are about to go out of business for one reason or another. Either way, there are a few red flags you should look for when you’re looking for a new gig. Some you can see as soon as you walk in and others might not be so obvious until you’ve been there for a week or two. No place is perfect but if you see more than two or three of these, you might want to keep your resume handy.
They pay at 5 on Friday
I just had to deal with this over the week. What it means is that they don’t have the cash to make payroll since they just spent everything they had paying vendors for enough food and booze to make it through the weekend (see below) and are hoping that they have a busy Friday night so that payroll won’t bounce. This used to work but now people can deposit their check on their phone in the bathroom and I’ll be the first to tell you, my check bounces you either pay me cash or I walk.
They’re on COD for deliveries (and not by choice)
Granted, some places do this to stay on top of their books so they know about each dime going in and going out. Other place have just bounced so many checks that vendors will only take cash for deliveries. These places also get shitty customer service since vendors don’t care about them. Not to mention the drivers hate it because it’s a pain in their ass as well
They have a high staff turnover
Point blank, good people don’t leave good jobs. Unless the place is brand new, if the majority of the staff is brand new, you have a problem. Even when I don’t need a gig, I still pay attention to what’s going on via poached and craigslist. Places that have a high turnover
No one cares
When no one is making money, it’s hard for people to stay motivated and care. People start letting things slip, the place gets dusty and loses its shine. When customers do come in, they feel it too. No one wants to eat, drink or spend money in a place like this so the few that stumble in stay for a quick one and leave, tipping only 10%.
The hours change
Some weekends they serve brunch, other weekends they don’t. Might be that the Chef just quit due to the fact that his paycheck bounced or that they just don’t have the front of house staff to cover the shift. Same goes for lunch, one week they’re open, the next they’re not.
The menu goes from grand to sparse
While the Chef and the Owners might have had grand plans for a from scratch menu, when the place starts losing money, the first thing that gets cut is the menu. Items that don’t sell get taken off and even items that do sell get dumbed down. Three pages turns to one and the next thing you know, even the entrees are now small plate “tapas” style aka “appetizers” that can be made by any half trained line cook since the Chef stopped caring months ago.
So what do you do?
I’ve worked in enough of these and been in enough toxic relationships to know when I’m in one and honestly, I’m well suited for it. That said, it’s never worth it, you’re not going to fix it. Trust me, I’ve tried too many times and it never ends well despite the best of intentions.
Often, it’s a combination of various factors that are tangled together and the people that are able to fix it are either unwilling or unable. If you find yourself in a place like this, find another gig and don’t get sucked into the drama. Learn as much as you can while you can but get the fuck out as soon possible.