The Lucky Break

 

Today I take you back to February of 2011.  I was 24 years old, and even though I was a successful District Manager for a Dunkin Donuts Franchise in the suburbs of Rochester, I was enjoying the twenties lifestyle so much, that I had to work two other part-time jobs to support it and that box of a studio apartment that I passed out in.  Once in a while.

I had just found out that I was going to be a father and I hadn’t quite figured out what my next move was.  Like I said, I was working two other part-time jobs.  One being a bar back and cook at a local sports bar,  I was a bit overqualified for that position but I really enjoyed working there and for the couple that owned it.  And the other was a stint on the line at my current full service restaurant company.

I was hired with the company for the first time in late 2004 and though I had transferred and left employment from this company on three separate occasions, I always seemed to wash back on their shores in a moment of need.  Whether it was their need or my need depended on the situation.

Now, when it comes to my career.  I always have seemed to be in the right place at the right time.  “God protects fools and drunks” Anthony Bourdain once said.  And this occasion was no exception

 

Shortly after returning to life on the line that January, I remember how pissed off I was when I was scheduled against my availability to work the garde manger station on random Sunday afternoon.  That’s just a fancy term used to make a salad preparer sound more important, which these days depending on your restaurants concept can be very important.

Sunday afternoons were not in my availability and I sure as hell hadn’t worked that salad station in years.  Hell, I didn’t have a clue what half the preparations were.   But I showed up for the shift without complaint like the good soldier I was.   And there he was.

The “he” I’m referring to was none other that the Monopoly Man himself, the Regional Director.  He indeed bore a striking resemblance to Rich Uncle Pennybags from the famous board game and today he was going to change my life.

He and I locked eyes immediately.  Did the GM schedule me on this shift on purpose so that I would be here when he was here?  If so…well played sir.  I had worked with this RD before in many different restaurant locations and we had a great history, but I hadn’t seen him since I had left to gain management experience with another company.

And after hearing about what I had been up to lately and my son on the way, he inquired if I would be interested in getting into full service management.

The rest is history.  I few rides east,7795fdea050dd0849fbdf50e7bd76fc8--luck-of-the-irish-irish-luck to Syracuse in the winter for interviews and assessments, my POS Lincoln barely making the journey, and it was a done deal.  I relocated to Syracuse in March for Manager Training and my climb up the corporate ladder had begun.

My Personal “Hell Week” Begins

“Hell Week” is a Navy Seals term that is defined as “the defining event of BUD/S training. It is held early on  before the Navy makes an expensive investment in SEAL operational training. Hell Week consists of 5 1/2 days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep.”

For me, Hell Week is the week before I take a vacation from work.  I’m quite the control freak and in last 4 plus years I have only taken a full week vacation AWAY from the restaurant twice.

Its stressing me out so much because Hell Week is being followed by a few crazy weeks already.  Since the beginning of May my restaurant has been crazy busy.  Last week was the busiest week in well over a decade,  looks like the recession is far behind us.

So busy in fact that we finished the week with a total system crash…Credit cards were down, internet couldn’t be accessed, bills couldn’t be paid, and inventory couldn’t be completed.

So the week started with a 330AM arrival time to work on patching the network and by the time the computer was fixed and all the paperwork we done it was 6pm.

 

No time to slow down.  Completed the last week of the C25K program.  Now onto the 10K program

 

Might be busy but still had time to take the family for ice cream in the rain.

Mother’s Day blows

“​When the Italian poet Dante described the center of hell in his poem The Divine Comedy, he got it wrong. The epicenter of Hades isn’t Satan trapped in a block of ice munching on Judas Iscariot like an everlasting carrot stick. The center of hell is a restaurant on Mother’s Day.”. The Waiter Rant

The Waiter couldn’t have more accurately describes the kind of guests that comes to the restaurant on Mother’s Day in this tell all book.  

My mother’s day experience wasn’t as terrible as years past.  

I spent the day hidden in the kitchen expediting food orders.  That’s : organized and garnishing food orders by table and sending them out to the dinning room.  

By the end of tbe night the expo screen starts to look like cuniform, all the orders jumbled together.  

I’m glad the weekend is off.  

Time to get away for a few days.  

Gino’s Steak and Beaver Lake.  

Just completed week 5 of the C25K program so I decided to reward myself from Extreme Dieting with a Cheese steak covered in Utica Greens and Gino’s Steak and Onion in Fayetteville.   My boss took us there for lunch after our meeting.  

This place is amazing with their high quality sandwiches and hoagie rolls trucked in from Philly. 


After spending some time painting the wood railings on my porch, Liam and I took off to Baldwinsville and the Beaver Lake Nature Center. 

I try to go here once a year.  It holds alot of memories for me.  I had many camping trips and retreats out there growing up.  

Usually, I walk the 3 mile Lake Loop Trail  but that was flooded due to all the rain.  

So this was an opportunity to check out some of the other trails like the Lake view, pine Meadows, Bog, and Hemlock Trails.  

If you’re a novice hiker this is a great place to start.  

“Daddy wook, a pime cone”

Tried to get closer


The Snooze Button – A Chapter From the Franchise Years.

I’ve recently been having an dysfunctional relationship with my snooze button.  Mainly from all the work I been putting in and my unrealistic wake up time expectations.  It reminds me of another time in my life where I would be hitting the snooze button more times than I should.  That time for different reasons.

It’s late 2010,  I’m working as a District Manager of Dunkin Donuts putting in at least 80 hours a week for the last 12 months also going through two break ups that year which both ended very badly.  I was coming to the end of my rope.

The hiring practices where very strange at this franchise, where as, I didn’t have anything to do with the hiring of my direct report store managers, that was the Director of Ops job.  But I was responsible for recruiting, hiring, and firing of all hourly crew members.  I was also called upon to fire managers more often than I care to remember.

If you read my article Leaving the Franchise, you learned that I was getting paid peanuts.  So you can imagine what we had to offer  store managers…let alone hourly employees.  When it came to quality employees I didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to through it out of.   I did have a few hard working, trustworthy individuals but  they  soon were corrupted or would leave for green pasture.

You could say I was a glorified babysitter…unable in any case to get my manager to uphold any kind of standards.  I spent the day running around  putting out fires, firing employees for theft, trying to keep the trains on the tracks.  Then when my bakers failed to show up I would spend the night filling and frosting then driving the racks of donuts to all the locations.  “Time to Make the Donuts”.  I could feel my relationship with my boss and owner quickly souring.

This is where the snooze button came in.  I dreaded getting up in the morning.  I would just lie there paralyzed.  Eerily reminiscent of what  Anthony Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential, when is was used as a rachet man. “I hoped that if I stayed in bed a little later, showed up a little later.  Maybe, just maybe, it would be me that got fired this time.  That I wouldn’t have to do this anymore.  That his whole terrible business would end.”. 

I had not yet learned good organizational or management skills.  

Like in Bourdain’s case.  This would soon pass.  I would take a part time job back in full service in the beginning of 2011.  Now with middle management experience under my belt and a little luck.    My life would soon change forever.

Punch a kid…Get a sundae

Another day in the life

It’s 1030AM.  My kitchen crew is hustling to get set up and the days “priorities” finished.   My opening server and bartender filling ice and cutting fruit for garnish.  

 I’m in the office finishing up some emails and instructions for the night manager​ when my prep cook opens the door sheepishly.   She’s got her youngest of 4 boy’s principal on the phone demanding that she come pick him up.  

She’s nervous as I often blow up at this all too often occurrence.   She is a single mom trying to manage 4 boys of various ages.     I think I’ve met them all.  They are just growing boys….I remember how I was when my dad wasn’t around to lay down the law.   I do get iritated by it though due to the massive disruption her leaving does to the flow of the restaurant.  

I take a deep breath and say “just go get him and bring him back here.”.  Letting the prep cook off the hook but the little man…He and I are gonna have a few words.   I’ve calmly explained to him before how he needs to behave at school because it causes his mommy and I a lot of stress and makes her “sad”.  

Upon returning and hour later with her dismissed son in tow.  She tells me that he punched another boy in class.   She sits him down at an empty table.   He looks upset as I take a seat across from him.   

“So I heard you punched a kid at school today”. I say sternly trying to sound tough.

“Yea..” he murmurs quietly trying to keep the tears back

“why?”

“Because he was saying mean stuff about mommy and it made me upset.  I love her”

My heart grows a few sizes as I soften.  He can’t be more than 7 years old but   No one especially a young kid should have to hear disparaging remarks made about their family.  

“I’m proud of you for sticking up for your Mom.  But next time, get a teacher.  When you’re older…Take it outside.   Don’t do that stuff at school.  You’re a good kid”. He nods in agreement.  

I immediately get up and make him and ice cream sundae.  I even give him a little smile as I set it down.  

Monday Morning Attitude and the Parkway

It’s hard to measure “happiness improvement” on a day to day basis.   It’s not something that is tangible.   I spend all day with myself.  But I think I found one notable improvement.  My mood on Monday Morning.  

Let me explain.  Like I have mentioned before,   I have to wake up at 3am every Monday and head off to work to count and weigh all the food and beverage in the restaurant.  Measure all the liquor in the bottles and lift every tapped keg of beer.  I then have to imput all the numbers and compare them with the sales rung in on the POS and look for mistakes.   

By then it’s 6AM and it’s time to put a way the Food Order which has been stacked in either the freezer, walk in cooler, or back room over night.   After that it’s on to my regular opening responsibilities while catching up a delagating tasks after a busy weekend.   

By the time my guests and most employees arrive at 11am, I’m usually a ravng lunatic.  Short tempered and anti social is an understatement.  I’m just counting the seconds before I can get home and lounge the evening away.  

But I’ve noticed that in recent weeks that has all disappeared.   After taking a day off, I am ready to take on the week with a new found spirit and energy.  In addition to drinking all my water, I have downed an entire pot of offer.   I do my best to be cheerful and helpful to all my employees who are also tired from a very long weekend.  It’s now 730pm and I am getting ready for a run. 

Since I left work at 3Pm.  I have taken Liam to the Doctor, worked outside on the yard, did all my household tasks, and we took the kid to the lake for a stroll.   He’s so cute in this little voice “come back her futtterfry”.  #ThankGodItsMonday

Syracuse University Carrier Dome in the distance

That’s  Liam in the distance


Thought this Chevy was beautiful.