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Ethics: A complicated sauce.

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
I haven't made my mind up on what to think about the situation I am about to describe; I am somewhat irritated at the moment, but am willing to listen if rational arguements can be made that I am merely a scrooge/fuddyduddy/whiner etc.

I am a salaried employee. I take it for granted that my sole reason for existance, is to ensure smooth operations and make as much money for the ownership as possible. For this, I am compensated. Enough or not is a matter for arguement, but be that as it may, I accept that I am to be available 24/7/365 to help haul in the loot.

Most of you who are salaried in this business know that it also means long days, and many times very few days off. We accept this as a necessity of generating revenue. We can always bring it up at the performance/salary review (if we actually get one).

Now the conundrum:
I work my can off. A three day weekend is rarity, and about half the time I get two days in a row, many times only one, and sometimes none.My average day is 10-12 hrs, running in to 12-14 on busier days, with 18 hour days on occcasion. OK, fine. I'm making money for the boss. No problem. That's life on salary in the food biz.

But over the past few months, a new twist:
The boss has been selling parties to his favorite charity, at cost. As in, we aren't adding a dime to the bottom line. His money to throw away if it makes him feel good I suppose. But.....Buuuuuuuttttttt.... I lose days off, parts of days off, and have hours added to already long days because of my boss's generosity. I might feel better if it were for starving children, the disabled, poor etc. But it's simple church fellowship we are talking here, nothing more.

The last point is that this is partially moot, since I won't argue it, but it will stiffen my spine greatly when it comes to review time.

Am I being too tightly wrapped, or should I be bugged to have my rest and relaxation time tithed away?:rolleyes:
post #2 of 44
Too tightly wrapped? Hardly. You only live once. Yes, work is part of life, but is it all you want in your life?

I personally think it is extremely unreasonable for the boos to do as has been done. You agreed to a salary for a certain amount of work. You're apparently satisfied with the original agreement, and as many feel, don't mind the occassional extra effort along the way. What you are describing is not occassional, and seems extraordinary. If you are such a valueable employee, one would reasonably consider that while the boss wants your input, they also want your longevity. Working you essentially to death is not in your best interest, nor in the best interest of your boss and the business. It will become harder and harder for you to bring your "A" game to work every day, and over time things will start to slack. Not intentionally, of course, but just because you have been so "abused" that you haven't had the opportunity to properly maintain your health and well being, both physically and mentally.

I have a friend that works for a caterer in somewhat similar circumstances. He arguably doesn't get paid enough for working his backside off, and deals with the occassional extra effort times, but is very happy. Why? Because the boss is reasonable, and understands when he is making unreasonable demands and trys to accomodate some sort of compensation for said demands. I recall one story where a huge party wrapped up and everything had to be cleaned and prepped for another huge party the next morning. The staff knew that meant long hours, and begrudgingly went to work. After a while, the boss called everyone out to the dining area. He told them all to take a load off for a few minutes, drinks on the house (within reason, to still work) while he went back and continued to work. He told them he knew he was pushing the limits, and appreciated it. My buddy said the staff appreciated the gesture, and when they went back to work, they went with renewed determination of quickly accomplishing what needed to be accomplished.

Bottom line, from your description, I think you know you are overworked, and now with the additional responsibility would agree that abuse may be a reasonable word. I would talk to the boss and lay it out as it is. You can only do so much, and he can only reasonably expect so much. If he wants one person to do the work of 100 people, go buy a robot. If he wants personal touch and flair with accute attention to detail, yet needing reasonable time to recoup and recharge, keep you around.

That's my opinion, for what it is worth.
"Life ain't always beautiful; Sometimes it's just plain hard. Life can knock you down, it can break your heart. Life ain't always beautiful: You think you're on your way. And it's just a dead end road, at the end of the day. But the struggles make you stronger, and the changes make you wise. And...
"Life ain't always beautiful; Sometimes it's just plain hard. Life can knock you down, it can break your heart. Life ain't always beautiful: You think you're on your way. And it's just a dead end road, at the end of the day. But the struggles make you stronger, and the changes make you wise. And...
post #3 of 44
Whether or not your boss charges the church full price or not is irrelevent in your situation. If your primary duties involve production, you should be getting time and a half for every hour over 40 that you are working.
Check out this page from the Dept. of Labor's website about FLSA(Fair Labor Standards Act) law:
It's helpful to click on the links that define the exemptions to this law for executive, administrative and professional employees. Without more detail about your pay level and supervisory duties, it's hard to tell whether you are exempt from overtime pay or not. I'm sure if you read the specifics, you can determine that for yourself.
Regardless, it wouldn't hurt to quietly contact your local office of the Dept. of Labor and see if you have a case for compensation for back pay. At first flush, I think you do. However, I am no expert, but have some experience with this. I have friends and coworkers that received considerable compensation for overtime hours when working at a salaried food service jobs when their duties almost solely involved production and service work.
This is a dirty secret of the food service industry that is slowly (very slowly) changing. That is, most operations pay a flat salary to many production employees (giving them titles like chef, sous chef or my favorite, kitchen manager) for unspecified and uncontrolled weekly time requirments. Basically, according to owners and management, "you work until the job is done, regardless of the hours involved, and get the same weekly salary and I have the right to increase your job requirements as I see fit." This is exploitive employment practice no matter how you slice it-it's also clearly against the law.

My guess is that if your employer was required to pay you overtime for your extra work, he might not be quite so generous with his "gifts" of food and service (read, tax deduction) to his church.

I know there are not a few chefs, owners and managers on this board who will respond with "how can we stay in business if we have to pay overtime to our production workers?" One might also include in this argument the shameful rates at which food service establishments provide health, dental, life and disablity insurance benefits to their employees. My answer is-increase the retail price to accomodate fair employment practices and let the chips fall where they may. Many poor and mediocre establishments will go out of business, for sure. But that only increases the quality and service available to the public-not a bad thing in the long run. A little market adjustment in this business sector is long overdue.


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!



Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #4 of 44
Not saying that you are but too often there is a misconception about what entitles us to a "performance increase". As you pointed out the sole existance of a Salaried individual is "to ensure smooth operations and make as much money for the ownership as possible."

Since the misconception lies more with the ownership/Upperlevel Management of the operation...I personally find no fault with your thought process or believe that you are off base on your perception of things. Yet there are too many that focus on the "make as much money for the ownership as possible" and forget about the operation as a whole.

With that said I will try to explain my thoughts. A long time ago, in a land far far away.... People would be evaluated on doing the whole job. Not just one aspect like profits but on everything. From Cleanliness and organizational skills to how the restaurant performed as was viewed by the general public in addition to generating sales and profits. Hey people never opened a business to lose money. (Okay in the legal sense of doing things;) )

Over the last several years this changed and very unfortunate to the industry as a whole. More emphasis was put on taking away, reducing or even eliminating details all together to increase the bottom line. As a salaried person it's no longer our responsibility to simply operate operate the business or hold the position but now to become all of the positions that have been eliminated as well as work with what ever impositions the ownership wishes to send our way. When you have to start watering down the bleach in the gallon, not buy soaps and cleaners or cheating the weights on portions of food as well as reducing quality to make your costs.....:eek:

The business itself has a long history of employing and being run by people of questionable ethics or judgment (the drinks on the job thread or the rampant use of controlled substance makes this case for me). Plus it also has the reputation of chewing up it's work force. Yet for me, it wasn't the work that did it, it was the ethics/judgement of others and the fact that inorder to make these owners/CEO's as much money as possible I was forced to wear 20 hats instead of just the 10 I agreed to and like you Rivitman, I accepted those 10 without question.

I'm not sure the reward you're seeking will ever materialize. The reason being is that now you aren't making the owner as much money as possible. All those parties that are being donated are accounted for and when it comes to compensation talk.... The numbers just don't translate into effort or more simply put, your costs just aren't as good as they were.

I hope you are an exception to things here and the owner will reward you for your efforts. IMHPO and if I were in your shoes.... I'd have one eye focused on "other opportunities". The grass may not be any greener, yet it may not be as tough to chew. In the beginning that is. There's always gonna be eager beavers willing to do more for allot less.:mad:

BTW and for the record...Charity work is a positive thing and can be very rewarding especially if it involves strenghtening ties with the community Plus I have believed (from time to time) that no good deed goes unpunished. No...wait that's unrewarded. I can say that I try to do my part whenever I can/could. Yet it does help when the Owner/boss/CEO doesn't double dip and I mean by taking the tax break and then with-holding a raise because the charitable event hurt your cost areas. This is/was my point from earlier in the post
post #5 of 44
I love ya, Old School, that's great!

Keep your eye on other opportunities, Rivitman, but don't do so without talking to your state office of the DOL. I'd be willing to bet you are in for a pleasant surprise.


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!



Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #6 of 44
Sorry, Rivitman, I have to take exception to this statement too. As stated above, this would be a pretty clear definition of indentured servitude-something that has been illegal in this country for well over 200 years.
DO NOT ACCEPT IT! Did any employment contract you signed state this anywhere? I would confidently venture a strong NO!
Give yourself some credit and stand up for your rights.


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!



Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #7 of 44
I'm willing to bet that the majority here are on your side. You are in a tough situation no doubt and I wish you the best, I know how it goes. But to answer your last question no you are not wrapped to tight. You are well within your rights to want sanity and a life!
My latest musical venture!
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
My latest musical venture!
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
post #8 of 44

Taking the Piss

No matter wich way you cut it the employer is taking the piss, he may be paying a salary but he quite clearly has very little respect for you as a proffessional.

The source of his income is from the kitchen and the professional chefs therin.

You are not alone, in the UK and so it seems in the states chefs are not treated as a proffessional occupation and as such are treated as blue collar. The rest of europe and austrolasia are quite different. For example on the immigration points system for australia, a chef gains three points higher than a doctor. In new zealand a head chef or sous chef gets immediate citizenship. The French revier chefs as does the rest of europe all except the uk and the states.

Now im not trying to plug a site but chefsworld.net has launched in the uk on the site you are able to rate employers to let other chefs know what the employer is really like. Given time this will eliminate all the muppets who couldnt give a rats about chefs and their businesses will suffer unlike the employers who understand the importance of a chef in the kitchen will benefit. As chefsworld.net grows they plan to open american, african and austolasian sections. So keep an eye out and rate your employer.

Buy the way the aim of chefsworld.net is to empower chefs through communication.

post #9 of 44

Old School and others have added some great insight into your situation. The following comments are just my humble opinion, no facts to back them up other than my own personal experiences. I can personally relate to your current dilemma.

As for your desire to keep your days off, fight to keep those days. They are far and few in this business for most of us. If your are single, your boss may has the misconception that you have nothing better to do than work. As you are a hard worker, your boss is more than glad to take advantage of your desire to perform your job well to give him more free time. But as I sometimes say around here "you can only milk the cow so much." It's "country boy" talk meaning that your boss might milk you dry if given the opportunity, as in work you to death. Ask yourself this, other than your salary, does your boss ever do anything to show his appreciation for you for working those extra hours? If not, he is just milking the cow for all it's worth IMHO. Seems to me the more you do the more bosses expect you to do. Just my two cents worth.
post #10 of 44
The problem is in the translation of salary. Yes comitted to 24/7/365. And there whenever needed, but the same is true when your not. You jump in to save the day but you should be able to jump right back out when it's slow.
Charity work is usually never a boss spending his monies wildly. I do plenty of charity, Why, because it's a dollar for dollar write off. It should always show on the bottom line retail. Then losses are calculated. In your situation I would venture to say your boss is doing it without your knowlege.
I also think this type of problem can fester into a huge problem.
A sit down is needed. The boss won't give but play your hand the way I discribed the hour trade off. Explain to him that the extra hours are ok with you but you really need to get back that personal time. Let him know, if I'm not needed, I'm gone and still on call.
just my 2 cents:D
post #11 of 44
I always think some charity work is good. Maybe 1-2% of your time should be donated. Maybe ask for some personal recognition for yourself, your staff.

Also ask the boss if he will change the compensation package to include at least percentage of your check from sales. ;) That might set off a lightbulb.

Anyway the owner isn't making money either. Does he get that buying something for $5 and selling it for $5 makes the food cost 100 percent?
post #12 of 44
If I do a function that would be profitable at lets say 25% and I loose 2,000.
I can claim the 2000. those are huge numbers if you are trying to pay yourself.
It's not a matter if the boss is making money, that is 2,000. less he has to pay in tax.
post #13 of 44
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for your replies so far.

First I'd like to clairfy some butter...um things, and one in particular for my non USA colleagues.

1. Labor law in the states divides employees into two groups. Salaried, and hourly. While individual employment contracts and union bargaining can modify this a great deal, that two caste labor system is firmly entrenched, and in the absence of another legally binding contract, employers are required to pay the base salay to a salaried employee, nothing more. Therefore, I am legally entitled to nothing more than what my salary numbers are. Things happen in this country that would make many europeans shudder. Not all of them are bad, but some certainly are.

2. The ownership is HIGHLY unlikely to accept that these charity functions burden me personally a great deal.

3. One offsetting plus is that my underpaid, overworked cooks sometimes get a few extra bucks working these functions as they are hourly, not salaried.

4. As to making charitable donations, I'd be happy to. My picks though, not the bosses, I'd much rather cook a meal at the local homeless shelter than at our facility, for some pretty well off and well heeled churchgoers. My time is being used on a non-profit basis for folks who are in no way needy. And not one of them knows that instead of sleeping in till 8am, I had to get up at 2:30 am to get them thier breakfast. And that I may well work till 9pm that night, or perhaps even longer.

5. As absurd as it sounds, I DO consider myself available 24/7/365. But in return, I expect skilled and thoughtful, as well as ethical use of my services in this regard.

For this and other reasons (see my rock/hardplace thread) January is going to be pivotal. There is going to be a new agreement, or riv gathers up the knife roll, and cleans out the locker. If I have to work elsewhere for less, fine. My job is a real killer. I spent four years in the army as an infantryman, and while I had days that were much tougher, on a day to day basis, my current job is the most physically and mentally demanding I ever had. at age 47, If I'm going to take this sort of beating, it has to amount to something.

What I am trying to establish is the validity of my thinking on this issue. There are others. But I like to be certain in my thinking on there sorts of matters. I don't like to act rashly or go of half cocked.
post #14 of 44
Really? So you mean if I lose 2k the IRS will give me back my whole 2k? I always thought you could deduct expenses only, and the tax benefit would be the marginal tax rate on the cumulative profit/loss for the quarter.
post #15 of 44
not a professional chef, but worked in a profession that is usually salaried, & underwent a similar situation, so figured I'd give my .02

As a salaried individual you are contracted to work a certain number of hours, NOT 24/7/365. Those hours may be erratic, they may be wierd, they may be more than 40/week, but your time is not your boss' to do with as he pleases. If he wants more time from you than is originally contracted for, outside your regular job duties, he needs to increase your salary, or pay you a per diem in addition to your salary to cover the additional time you put in.

He can donate HIS time to his church if he wants. Not yours.
post #16 of 44
Thread Starter 
rzn, at this point, i have to agree.
We are an event facility, and caterer, not a resaurant. We typically are not open for business on christmas, easter, or thanksgiving.

Today I recieved head up that the owner has booked a thanksgiving dinner party on behal of "personal friends".

We may not recieve formal notification until monday.
Everyone in the kitchen has plans for the holiday.

The Chef and I (both salaried) will likely come in and knock it out ourselves, just to be kind to our subordinates, and to avoid giving them another in a long list of reasons to quit with the holiday avalanche facing us. Neither the chef nor I will see a day off for the first 23 days of december.

Come january, I plan to be very firm in my requirements to stay on. I am fully prepared to resign on the spot if no agreement is reached. The consensus I'm getting is that I am both a little crazy, as well as being taken advantage of improperly.
post #17 of 44
I can see why this place goes through chefs once a year.

Jeez, that's totally taking advantage of you, and you're both too nice.
post #18 of 44
Today I recieved head up that the owner has booked a thanksgiving dinner party on behal of "personal friends".

What would happen if you premade the food or had a grocery store that's open do Thanksgiving....FYI Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, New Years are all dbl time up to 3x for New Years.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #19 of 44

I may be misreading you post, but are you saying chefs that work these holiday should be paid double and triple time?

post #20 of 44
Thread Starter 
The latest word is that the turkey day party will not happen.:D

But as you can see I am up at 3am this morning (forum time is GMT I am on U.S. west coast). Last saturday, more of the same. Up at 2:30 am in by 4:30, out at 6:30 pm.:eek:
post #21 of 44
I am a salaried employee in a different business. I am also available 24/7/365 without the hours being counted. Big difference, however... If I get the job done in less time, I work less hours. If I don't, I work more. I also choose the "unusual hours" and can refuse without consequences (usually a tv news show interview at 5 am or some such is the unusual hours bit).

Here's what I see is the problem... my responsibilities are clearly outlined and yours are not. Rather than being responsible for x meals per month, you are responsible for x + boss' desire. If you are going to be paid by your output, no matter how long it takes you, you must clearly define the output (# meals, whatever). Otherwise, you should be paid by your input (your hours).
post #22 of 44
PS By "meals", I mean number of dinner services etc, not piecework such as number of steak dianes.
post #23 of 44
Thread Starter 
I think it very reasonable to maintain a position that when one takes a salaried poition, that one needs to make hay while the sun shines. But if the sun shines a lot, one should not get burned. A reasonable expectation of a salaried employee would be that the higher ups use good judgement and discretion regarding the salaried individual's workload.

Just what constitutes good judgement and discretion on the part of our GM and ownership seems to stretch those concepts beyond the breaking point.
post #24 of 44
Certainly make hay while the sun shines, but you have no outline under your contract. For instance, I have to produce a publication... I must write articles, analyse data, coordinate editorial assistance, etc. At the end of the day, my obligation is to get the publication out on time and looking good. If I encounter obstacles or take my time getting it done, then I must work more hours. If I have an easy time, I work less hours. I make hay while the sun shines. My contract is explicit about the output... number of publications per month, titles included, expectations about content included. If my responsibilities are expanded, my salary expands at the next review.

Same should apply for a chef position. If the position requires a certain amount of profit be reached, so be it. Determine your contract by output... X amount of money, X amount of services or whatever, but determine it. Otherwise you have a nebulous "contract" of sorts in which you've signed up to do the boss' bidding, tantamount to being his slave.

Either define the contract by input... hours you will work and therefore an hourly-paid employee...

Or define the contract by output... how much you will produce, whether it be number of services per month, dollars per annum, whatever, therefore a salaried employee.
post #25 of 44
Thread Starter 
Linking salary to revenue sounds like a good idea. But it isn't really.
My job is to assure that my end, the food, contributes it's full share to sucessful functions, while maintaining resonable food and labor costs. As well as keeping the place clean, and the health department happy. This is my only mechanism to generate revenue, and it gets done, every day.

I don't sell the functions.
I don't price them, and I have little to no input on the price per menu item. I ca nonly advise on service, advice usually ignored.

How about a "meals served" basis?
That doesn't really work either, as we are an 'anything you want' caterer, and the actual difficulty and time involved can vary wildly from function to function.

By hours? No, I'm not punching clock as a salaried employee. A slow january in no way compensates for what December is to me.

The only way to handle it is my judgement of the subjective value of the job. This, of course will differ with the Gm's and the owners. But that is just tough.
I have had, and continue to have, a standing offer:
Pick any three days in december, and just stand next to me. Don't do or say anything, Just shadow me, EVERYWHERE.
I'd have the GM crying like a little girl; the owners would last about an hour.
fact is, neither one of the has ever spent more than thirty continuous seconds in the Kitchen, and choose to remain remote, detached, and ignorant of the facts.
Ignorance is NOT bliss in this case, and I won't understand come review time either.
post #26 of 44
You can talk to the owner or begin to search for another job.
This situation was not expected.
post #27 of 44
Well, Rivitman, without a measure of success or completion of the job, there is nothing you can do. I suggest you really find a measure. Profit/revenue is not the measure you like even though you state it is your purpose. Even salaried employees only work 40 hours/5 days a week. If the job takes longer then either 1) the employee is incompetent or 2) the job definition is not correct.

So how do you measure your success at the job? When do you feel you've done a good job?
post #28 of 44
Thread Starter 
If our sales force were competant, then revenue would be the measure.
But when janitors have to show clients around the building because sales has gone home for the day?

No way.

Some clients require a tasting before signing on the dotted line.
No problem, we ALWAYS win them over with a tasting. But these usually occur in the evenings, and there is NOBODY from sales on hand to close the deal.

Additionally, our sales force never sets foot outside the building, and for some beaurocratic reason, ot takes a minimum of three client visits (including a meeting with the owner) before an function can be booked.

My only measure are:

1: the event closing reports. Was the event sucessful from the food side? Was the client happy?

2:Is food and labor cost under control?

3:How exhausted and mentally beat down am I? How much personal time do I recieve?

So in the end analysis, what the GM and the ownership think of as fair compensation is completely irrelevant to me.
I'll simply make them an offer. One I think is fair.
I'm a cook. I can work anywhere.
But I'll think long and hard before accepting a salaried position ever again.
post #29 of 44

Salary yes, but track those hours

Hey riv,

I realize you're salaried, but I hope you are tracking the actual hours you're working.

Your boss seemingly knows nothing about the kitchen (or preventing staff burnout) but I'm sure he understands numbers.

If you estimate that in the "real" world you would be expected to work 37.5 hours per week on average that would be 1875 hours per year (plus 2 weeks holiday).

Take your salary and divide by that "norm". Then take your salary and divide it by the actual number of hours you are working. If your salary would "normally" work out to, say, $25.00 an hour ($46,875 per annum) but your actual working hours average out to 60 per week, your actual earning would be in the neighbourhood of $15.62 per hour ($46875 divided by 3000 hours).

These are numbers your boss should be able to understand and he can then choose to offer to:

a. increase your salary to reflect the extra time and effort,
b. reduce all the extras he keeps throwing at you, or
c. a little of both (although I would want him to have a "budget" of how many extra events/hours he can throw at you before you can either say no or he has to pay you some bonus money).

It would also be prudent of him to offer a bonus for the past year's service in order to keep such a loyal employee happy. Especially if he is made aware that you know specifically how much extra you've been providing.

p.s. - It takes a special kind of sales moron to leave their tentative deal in someone else's hands, but....if nobody from sales is there to close the deal you should be earning partial commission from the sale.

My two cents, for what it's worth
post #30 of 44
In a perfect world with perfect employers, that would be great! The restaurant business is replete with individuals who are salaried, typically at the management level, and most are told upfront that they are expected to "be there when the business is there".

If one makes it to the management level, by that time, the individual should *know* that they have to be there, be it 5 days a week or seven. I always make sure I'm present for volume or functions...if I have to work 7 days, fine...I'll take a couple of days-in-lieu. If you're working six or seven days a week on a regular basis, you're likely understaffed. I've been there many times.

My employer has made no bones about the fact that they expect a minimum of 50 hours/week (I'm salaried), and be present "when the business is there", also, "run it like it's my own business". I expect the same out of my other salaried employees --- spread the onus and workload around --- delegate --- so there is no reason to BE at work on a regular basis for 6 or 7 days/week.

Let's face it, the buck stops with the Chef...I have no one to turn to when sh*t hits the fan! I've learned to treat my head chef jobs like I own the place...I have advanced in salary AND respect a lot further this way over the years.

This is where I sit on the situation...I'm conditioned for the long hours and 'abuse' as it where, over the 17 years I've spent in kitchens.

If you have a legitimate beef about your current workload, be upfront and approach your boss...do not let it fester and become a blowout.

My $0.02

"...I don't want to be old, and feel alone...
...an empty house...is not a home..."

"...I don't want to be old, and feel alone...
...an empty house...is not a home..."
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