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Staff issue

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I've recently expanded my business to include seating for 25 in a much larger space, but have continued my catering and wholesale business. I've worked with one of my employees- a friend, really- for years in different places. Another one has been with me for 2 years, and another for 1 year. We really ran into some problems yesterday and I'd like your opinion.

We had an outdoor wedding for 75 that I had booked months ago. I have my friend/employee come in a day early to help organize and pack the serveware and other necessities from a list I've prepared earlier. I do most of the cooking while my cafe is open utilizing the rest of my staff. On the day of the event, I have the rest of the staff come in to pack the vans and go to the event.

My major problem is that all the women who've been with me for some time have strong personalities and opinions. This is not always a bad thing UNLESS they decide to question everything.

I've been trying to have a packing list as well as a timeline/job description page for everyone. This way, there is no confusion as to who does what. Yesterday started with a multitude of questions about if this or that had been packed or was on the list. I was busy and said READ THE LIST and if you don't see it on there, it was an oversight and PACK THE **** THING.

The day progressed with one of them questioning whether or not I was going the right way to the event. I was. I had already been there twice. She was sure I was wrong. Mind you, by now, I was doing a slow boil as this one doesn't seem to trust my decisions at all. I'm not alone, though; I've heard her talk to her husband and teenager.

The contract, which I had discussed at length with the bride and groom stated that specific apps were to be passed for a specific length of time. Halfway through, the 2 servers "told" me that they had decided to add them to the stationary app table. I said no, that the contract stated that we were to pass them for 1 hour. Discussion was attempted but I walked away.

Later, while cutting the cake, they decided that it would be better to leave the cake on the buffet table. I said no, that the b & g wanted it served at the tables. One wouldn't quit- mentioned a few times that she thought it would be better on the buffet- that people liked to get up and walk around- that she liked it that way. I said to serve the friggin cake the way I said. Period.

There's more, but it's all small stuff that I won't go into, but that made me come home and have a handful of asprin and a strong drink.

My question is this: When dealing with your employees, do you simply lay down the law? Let them question your decisions? Run your business as a democracy or as a benevolent dictatorship.....a not-so-benevolent dictatorship?

I know we need a sit-down meeting with me outlining my expectations. I had planned to do it as soon as we moved into the new space, but we got so busy so fast, that it just never happened. We've been there for almost a month, so now's the time.

Just fishing for opinions/experiences from you all- especially those of you who have only a few employees.

post #2 of 17
Well, YOU have to decide who is "running the business". There can be only ONE person in charge if you want to avoid disaster.
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #3 of 17
There would be very few exceptions to the rule of "what I say goes".
Someone who's been with me a long time, whose opinion I value, would get some leeway.
Otherwise, in the heat of battle is no place to have these discussions.
I do not have time to explain why I want it done, the staff just has to do it.
Unless it's a safety or sanitation issue, the only response I want is "yes".
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #4 of 17
zi agree with the two gentlemen above and would like to add. Sit all of them down together. You are the caterer the buck ends with YOU. They dont get the abuse from client, if somethig is wrong, YOU do. They get paid even if YOU have to knock off some money from the bill. Your word is law, if they have questions ask YOU first. The secret of Mc Donalds, the most succesful concept ever is 'DONT LET EVERYONE THINK' because we all think differently and this is where consistancy goes out the window..
post #5 of 17
oh, lentil. A come to Abraham talk is necessary, past due.
You are the contact person, you talk through specifics with the host, you've been to the site visit. Even more important you sign their pay checks.

After the event do a followup with staff. Not a week later but the next day. Schedule it. Meet individually for staff review. They should know where they stand....and it wouldn't be near me for long.

I'd make time and look whom ever is making "suggestions" in the eye and clearly say, " I hope you are able to follow directions, the motto of xyz catering is that when in doubt pack it."

Start interviewing new staff now, look for the quiet efficient, "how high, how far" kind. I've got a buddy who picks externs from the CIA annually....he looks for people who have been in the armed service. They've always come when he's loaned them to me.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your input, all. I agree with everything said, and appreciate it that at least one of you understands the uncomfortable situation of having a friend be an employee. I think what has happened is that I started out so small- just myself and one other part time employee. Lots of times, we talked catering jobs through as a team and I valued the opinions of my "staff". It's been a difficult adjustment for me to go from a newbie trying to get it right and taking help where ever I could find it to a real business owner with all the good and bad that goes with that.

I'm going to schedule a long overdue meeting this week. Thanks for putting into words what I should have been saying. Bottom line is that this is my business and I have the last and only word when it comes to decisions.
post #7 of 17

Staff Issue

Lentil -
I really understand! As you know I am very small as well. I am also a verbal processor and often talk things out as I make decisions. I found that staff were questioning how I wanted things done A LOT! My husband often works with me. He eventually said to me, "you are the boss and the one in charge! You need to sound like you are in charge."
The funny thing is that after that I had to talk to my husband because I felt like he was questioning me in front of staff! He was right though - and so are the chefs above -
Congrats on the new business!!! It time for a Xmas tree visit!
post #8 of 17
It can be tough to have friends work for you. But while on the job you can't be friends- you must be employer & employee. Certainly you're not going to let your employees decide what parts of a catering contract to follow!

The problem might be that if you all sort of 'came up' together they may have somehow got the impression that you're all partners. But that's not the case, and you have to let them know in no uncertain terms that while you value their opinions and appreciate them you are calling the shots.

Best of luck! Hope your meeting goes well.
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #9 of 17
Anyone who questioned my authority and direction would simply not be engaged again. It could be my best friend, but, then, I never hired friends. During the initial planning phase, some opinions may provide value, but during showtime not a soul should question your decisions.

Recently, I consented to help a young chef/caterer at an event. I made it clear, immediately, that I was there to assist and follow his lead. There were issues during the event where I would have handled things differently than he did, but I deferred to his position.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Still haven't had the meeting, but soon. I think this woman has got to go. I'm giving her one more chance once we've met and I've laid out my position.

Yesterday, I was explaining to the new girl that we only put one piece of cheese on the sandwiches. This woman kept butting in to say that some of the cheese is small. (huh?) and I ignored her and repeated that one slice is what we use. She must have said it 4 times until I turned to her said "I said one and that's the end of discussion." She then began to defend her position. I walked away. I'm really beginning to hate her and that's just stupid on my part. She has got to go.
post #11 of 17
I've been watching this thread for a while, biting my tongue (fingers?) because I don't really belong in this forum... but I just had to say that I can relate and that I feel for you.
I just had a meltdown over a bartender accosting me about the price of a new menu item.
What the heck does that person know about food cost?!
"I do food costing for a living! Just pour the beers!"
Not what I said, but what I felt like saying...
Needed to take it with a grain of salt on my part.
Anyhow, if someone is looking over your shoulder and contradicting you while you are training someone...?
Well that's just ...
Seriously? Slices of cheese?
But to answer your question:
I don't mind answering questions or being questioned about procedures (that's how I learned), but I will not stand being argued with! Whether you're right or wrong, whether they agree with you or not, you are the boss. You should be treated with the respect due to the person signing the checks. Discussion is fine, but arguing???
Sorry about your situation... her being a friend and all.
Why would a "friend" put you in that situation?
I've worked for plenty of friends before and have butted heads with them, but at the end of the day I know where my bread and butter is coming from... they'll get it done the way they want it done regardless of how I feel it should be done.
I'll shut up now:talk:. Guess I needed to vent a bit. Good luck.
p.s. you're the boss!
post #12 of 17

Staff Issue

If you end up with her gone and need any help with events, give me a call - I am only an hour away - and I will work your event YOUR way :)

post #13 of 17
From what I read, your employees see themselves as partners rather than employees. If this is the case, and they do NOT have any money or sweat equity invested in the business, they will continue to behave as they do now untill they leave. How and why they leave will be your decision.

Beware the employee who wants to "help out", and who offers advice without asking. Employee input is good, neccesary in most cases, but should be asked for by the owner.

Best of luck correcting this problem. Maintaing the relationship after leaving the business is next to impossible.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
First of all, thank you all for your opinions. You've bolstered me up and given me the confidence to handle this situation.

Phyl, I'd love to give you a call when I need help. You're in my rolodex! Processing things verbally is how I do things, too. Not always a good thing!

Left4breadd (great name, btw) your input was very helpful. It's true that most of us learned by asking questions, but most of us know when to shut up....That's a skill smart folks learn fast!

Foodpump- you're right (again...)

I want to clarify that the person giving me the major problems is not my friend of many years; it's the one that's been with me for 2 years. My friend, on the whole is fine. There are times though, when she steps over the line. I guess I have a good enough relationship with her to be able to tell her to stop.

A young woman dropped off her resume yesterday who seems, according to her resume, to be a skilled baker. I called to have her come in to do a cake for me so I can get a feel for just how skilled she is. It will be interesting to see how this works out and how the woman giving me fits takes it as she's the one doing most of the baking. With any luck at all, the new one will be great, won't ask for the world for $$ and the other one will get PO'd and quit.

One can hope....
post #15 of 17
How did things turn out?

Since most of my employees are on call, I wouldn't be calling back the ones that were basically being insubordinate. I don't mind input from my staff, but what it comes down to is what the customer contracted for and what our normal procedures are. I have friends that help our when we are busy and they know that when we are doing a catering, that is where my focus is, not on being their friend. If they are giving me a hard time about something, I remind them that I haven't figured out their tips yet. That usually shuts them up. :D
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for asking. Still no meeting. I know, I know, I have to do it, but I just hate meetings. I have, however, not scheduled her for any future catering jobs. When she asks why, I'll tell her it's because she doesn't have faith that I know what I'm doing and shows that by trying to direct the job herself.

I hired the new person to start doing more of the "fancy" baking for the cafe and wholesale. The other one won't like having her hours and status cut. I'm hoping she leaves on her own.

Just a humorous aside: the other day she needed to make a long distance call from the house phone. I told her it was fine and that I'd let her know the cost when the bill comes in. She was very put out and said I could deduct it from the flowers she often brings in (on her own accord, btw). I told her to stop bringing them in.
post #17 of 17
I've always been lucky with bank staff. I call the ones who gel when theres a team effort needed.

Made a mistake with one permanent woman who wanted to be my friend...I liked her a lot, and under different circumstances...

Anyway, the old adage "familiarity breeds contempt" came into play and she kind of became a sounding board for new ideas. I was enjoying her feedback. She came up with some great ideas, but just as quickly started to question the order of the day and pricing (she didnt have a clue).

The end came when problems at home started to spill into the working day and i was finding myself doing her job as well as my own to let her off early. (I KNOW!!)

Long story short, we parted not so amicably and i learned a huge lesson.


I still took on board all the feedback i could get. Encouraging staff to write down ideas, greivances etc. and i held once a week sessions on pay day at a table in the garden, away from the work environment.

Worked like a charm
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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