In today's online edition of The Atlantic, an American restaurateur in Thailand talks about those problem employees who cripple every restaurant.
Whether server, bartender, or part of the kitchen crew, an employee that's difficult to work with -- late, lazy, rude, bad-tempered -- can be toxic to the success of a restaurant. But how to get rid of them?
The restaurateur in The Atlantic article knew he had to fire the employee, but how could he do it and not alienate the rest of his staff? In other words, he was afraid.
Instead of firing the staffer, the restaurateur in the article kept pretending all was well: "I felt like a character in a Jane Austen novel," he wrote, "all stiff upper lip and fake social grace."
Eventually he simply did what he had to do. And local restaurant owners and managers agree.
"It depends on what you mean by difficult," says Leonard
Mirabile, the co-owner of Jasper's Restaurant. "If it's a problem that
can be corrected, I'll bring it up in a general way at our weekly staff
meetings. If it continues, I'll have a one-on-one chat with the employee
in question. And if it still goes on, I just say goodbye. It's really
Brenda Nelson has been both a server and restaurant manager; she's been the manager of The Farmhouse restaurant for over a year.
"I don't believe in one way that restaurants frequently use to rid themselves of an employee who is not working out: they simply remove his or her name from the schedule without any explanation of why," she says. "Usually, it's just better to explain to the problem employee that it's just not a good fit. And there are other ways that employees just sort of phase themselves out of the picture. For example, if an evening server is notoriously late, you put them on the day shift. They won't stay too long."
Robbie McGowan, manager of Hamburger Mary's, says that he experienced his first firing-by-text message last week: "I don't like to fire people, although I've known other managers that seem to enjoy it. I always try to counsel first and then, if that doesn't work, I try philosophy and explain that it's just not a good fit.
"Last week, I had a server who just didn't want to meet with me. He only wanted to communicate by text. I wrote him that I didn't want to communicate this way, we needed a face-to-face meeting, but I only got text messages. So I relieved him of his duties in a text message."
That's one way to do it.