Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another side of running a restaurant

What kind of weekend did restaurants have? Judging from news reports, a sporadically violent one. A Google search reveals that eateries were the scene of one rape, seven shootings, one murder, an armed robbery, a full-tilt drug raid, a slashing, a stabbing, a break-in, two car crashes, four fires, and a prolonged, heated dispute over a dog’s name (Pink, the rules-disdaining rock star, kept calling her obscenely named pooch while visiting a Beverly Hills place, much to the outrage of patrons dining with children). And there’s no reason to think that the most recent Thursday-through-Sunday stretch is any different than most.

Granted, the affected places represent an infinitesimal portion of the more than 800,000 food outlets that were in operation during the last four days. But those are only the crimes that made the news. It’s rare, but it does happen. It’s an aspect of the business that isn’t worked into restaurant-based sitcoms or reality shows.

That’s a good thing, given how difficult it is to recruit workers without that added drag. But it’s a shame the hazard wasn’t appreciated by more outsiders, especially the folks who view the restaurant business as a lark, the sort of trade that anyone could take up. Make a mean omelet? Get raves every Thanksgiving for your hors d’ouevres? Like interacting with people? Dine out all the time? Hey, why not open a restaurant? It’ll be a blast. So much better than a real job.

They have no idea how difficult the trade actually is—the hours, the attention and diligence that’s required, the headaches of having a largely young workforce serving a clientele with sky-high demands. And then there are the real undersides to the business, like crime, or dealing with drunks, or the job’s disproportionately high divorce and alcoholism rates.

Maybe if the public knew more of the downside, it’d think twice about casually burdening restaurants with new fees, regulations and social responsibilities. It might moderate it’s stance of give, give, give, and consider what a restaurant sometimes has to take.

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