Unexpected Employment Interuption

Darcy O'Neil :: April 14, 2007 9:52 PM

bartendingWell, in an interesting turn of events I am no longer working behind the bar at the restaurant, which I now refuse to mention. When I went into work on Thursday I discovered that the manager had replaced me. Really, it isn’t a bad thing, since I hadn’t really enjoyed working there since last October (2006). But, I did enjoy the guests, and the staff. The kitchen staff were by far the best crew that I ever had the opportunity to work with, true professionals. But on an interesting side note, the Chef handed in his resignation a week before I was let go. That might give you a little insight. This post is long, and I haven’t proof read it, so excuse the errors.

I’ve always been a professional in every job I’ve worked. I was lucky that when I was 15, and had my first real job (grounds keepers assistance), I worked for my Uncle Jim who showed me what work was. He would intentionally give me “interesting” jobs, like squirming under trailers to look for snakes, because some old lady thought she saw one. There were no snakes, but a hell of a lot of spiders. Then he’d make me dig a ditch for telephone cables and tell me a little girl could do a better job. But it worked, I’d get pissed off and show him up. Of course he patted me on the back and said I did a great job, buy me Coke and let me take the last hour of the day off. Fun times.

Once I got into the real world, I always showed up on time, almost never called in sick and absolutely never missed a day because I had a hangover. Mind you, there were some really, really rough days (19th, 21st and 22nd birthday come to mind, which never fell on weekends), but I’d tough it out. One time, when I was working as a cashier, with a bad hangover, I checked a customer through and then ten minutes later he came back and said I need this, and he handed me a coffee. He said I looked a little “green around the gills”. But at least I showed up to work.

When I started working at Chinook Chemical and then Imperial Oil Research I loved my jobs and my bosses were great (Mohammed M., Gerry M. and Doug H.) . They would expect good work, but would always recognize it and show some level of appreciation. They showed flexibility and were always able to resolve issues with a few words. They never berated or embarrassed people. In return I worked as best as I could and tried to leave every place I worked a little better then when I arrived.

Then I came to London, Ontario. I like this city but in the six years I’ve worked here, I have yet to find a decent manager. I’ve met some great people, but I still haven’t been able to reproduce that state of blissful happiness that I once had. I know when I worked at Imperial Oil, there were times I wasn’t happy, but I know there were more times that I laughed so much with my co-workers (Mike & Byron in particular) that it hurt. Good management seemed to encourage that sense of comradery.

In particular, I find the Food & Beverage industry to be seriously lacking in professional management skills. Now I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m just saying I haven’t found those people yet. What would be considered grounds for dismissal at my chemistry jobs, is now common place and accepted as normal. Sexual harassment, theft, intoxication, intimidation, fraud and major labour code violations are all common place. Usually management is doing these things or turning a blind eye.

My problem is that I entered this business after about 10 years of working for businesses that had a code of conduct. Now I’m in this world of freestyle, “rules, we don’t need no stinking rules” type management and it puts me in an awkward situation. I still think I work at a place with a code of conduct, but that seems to rub management the wrong way.

Now let me reiterate; I work hard and I like the satisfaction of doing a good job, be it solving a multi-million dollar problem at a refinery or making a perfect Mai Tai. But, I won’t put up with stupidity, rude behavior, illegal activity or any form of harassment, be it from a fellow employee or management. If you do any of the above, I’ll usually politely call you on it. This never, ever sits well with managers in the Food & Beverage industry. Ever!

You see, most of these business are small business to medium size businesses that have had to do everything possible to compete in this very competitive business. They’ll cut corners to save a few nickels, treat employee like crap and tell them that if they don’t comply they’ll be fired and drinking on the job seems way to commonplace now. I find most employee don’t stand up and say anything, they just allow this stuff to happen, which re-enforces this evil behavior from managers.

Actually, I must admit that for the past few months I’ve just put up with most of this crappy behavior, even though I didn’t put up with all of it. For example, the restaurant I just parted ways with, the manager required that all servers and bartenders pay out 3% of their total sales to the house from their tips. So if I sold $1000, I had to pay $30 for the privilege of working there. If I earned 12% in tips, it was now effectively 9%. And yes that is 100% illegal. If a business wants to make 3% more, they need to do it on their own, not steal from employees.

The other thing I do is always try to improve things. Making a better cocktail or figuring out a better way of doing things is common with me. For me it’s a science thing, because that’s what scientists do, figure out how the world works and use it too our advantage. But the manager at this restaurant didn’t seem to appreciate this. There were at least three ways of doing things, all his way, and they changed depending on how many drinks he had that evening. Of course if you did it the “wrong way” he’d berate and embarrass you in-front of everyone. The guy was a screamer.

There wasn’t much opportunity for doing things my way, even being left handed seemed to irritate him (I put things on the wrong side). Dam cack-handed, leftist, with his sinister placement of items. Only 10% of the population will understand that line.

Another example is the dilemma of powdered sour mix. I loathe the stuff, who really wants lime flavoured koolaid in their drink, aside from maybe a 19 (or 21) year old who doesn’t know any better. But this was fine dining and he thought sour mix was fine, I didn’t, and held my ground. One time he asked me why everyone liked my Mojito’s, but not his sour mix ones, so I told him that I used fresh limes. He snapped at me. Actually he snapped at me a lot.

When I first started, I designed a cocktail menu with his full on approval. I spent lots of unpaid time working on it, designing it, researching it, and actually making the drinks at home. He had it printed and once the restaurant opened, he said he wanted to wait for a bit until things settled down before he handed it out, which sounded reasonable. On a few occasions I handed it out to people at the bar, after the second seating and they loved it.

A few months later, the cocktail menu still wasn’t being handed out. Then one night somebody, ordered a classic Singapore Sling (2oz) and I made it. When he found out he flipped out because of the price ($8.50 CDN $7US or less because of taxes), which he approved. Not because the customer said anything, he just assumed they wouldn’t like the price. Mind you he charged $12 for a Grey Goose Martini. I was then informed that the cocktail menu’s were going to be thrown out. That’s when things started going down hill.

I’m not going to rehash all the problems, but there was an incident a week before my dismissal that I found odd. On the Wednesday the local newspaper (London Free Press) interviewed me about bartending and Tales of the Cocktail. They asked good questions and of course they wanted to know where I worked and I told them. They asked if they could get a picture of me behind the bar. I didn’t figure that was a problem, I think most businesses want free publicity, especially when it is for genuinely good reasons. When I came to work on Thursday and told the manager, he wasn’t too happy about it and told me, in a not too pleasant way, that anything written about the restaurant needed to be cleared by him, effectively giving him editorial control. Well, the options in my opinion are you can have your restaurant mention or not, you don’t need to get angry about it. Anyway, he sent me home five minutes after I arrived. He also got my name wrong three times, so I corrected him, but that didn’t help and just added fuel to the fire. Just show me some respect and get my name right, I’ve only worked there for eight months! The worst part is when I told him that I was going to Tales of the Cocktail, a few months prior, he told me I could mention being the “head bartender”, which were his exact words. Again, things changed frequently.

The following week, I had been replaced. I received no notice and no compensation which really pissed me off, and I told him so, in a not so friendly way. Luckily I still work part time at Robart’s Research Institute so I’m not completely unemployed. But I hate the disrespect. I hate the fact that this guy knows I have a 2 month old baby and he couldn’t care less. At least a few weeks notice would give me some time to find a job. This is one of the biggest problems with this industry, people are treated like dirt.

So anyway, it’s time to update my resume and think about what I want to do. The lure of the chemistry world is strong and I’d be successful at it, but I don’t want to give up everything I’ve worked for in the bartending world either. Having my own bar would be fun, but I don’t have the money. I like to write, but it doesn’t pay much, at least not blogging. Let see where this goes.


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