Monday, August 4, 2008

Ground Hog's Day

Our bakery has been open just over a year. In that time, I have let three people go, including the original pastry chef, an intended key player, had two no-shows and had another two give notice. That's seven people in one year. My current lease is five years. If I stay in business just those five years, for giggles, let's do the math. That's 28 people who will come and go for the balance of my lease. I will fire 42% of them, causing me no end of pain leading up to that point and angina, nausea and fear of karmic reprisal during the actual firing. I will have 28% break my heart by leaving me for greener pastures and another 28% f&*% me over.

Of course, I understood going in there is high turnover in the food business, but to experience it from the end staying, not leaving, is much more painful than one imagines. Ironically, it's not due to the dreaded firing of some manner of jackass or the sadness of a talented employee's resignation or the out and out f@#* you of a no show. The pain is that I have to experience every mistake I ever made with my particular recipes, my particular method of cake and cookie decorating, the way I have to box cake, store a food item or render a design, over and over and over again, on top of the other mistakes I am making managing people, money and operations. I don't get to be free and clear on the things I actually know because I'm delegating those tasks to others who, for a time, don't know what I know. What I've learned not to do, I get to experience for the rest of my time as a cake shop owner with each and every person who puts on an apron here.

Mind you, I am sympathetic to the learning process and the fact that it seems in baking (and decorating) you have to make a mistake once with everything you touch in order to eventually get it. It appears when working with recipes, the associated quirks are not something of which you can be made aware and understand intellectually. Well, this is what I tell myself. And I do admit, when I am down a man in the kitchen and I have to jump in to bake off cakes or cookies, nine times out of ten, I completely screw it up because I have been working in the office, finishing cakes, delivering cakes or designing cakes and I haven't as much as turned the oven on in weeks. Despite this understanding and the acknowledgment of my own fallibility, it's no less painful to deal with, especially when relived with each sudden or eventual departure and the consequent new hire.

So, what's the answer for this constant turnaround? I have no idea. I am in the process of trying to streamline operations, create procedures, make rules, communicate better, but this all takes time. And people.