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Finding Balance in an Unbalanced Business:

A life in the restaurant industry is unmistakably full. We work strange hours and push ourselves to the limit.  We work alongside colleagues that see us at out best and our worst and somehow love us anyway. Before we know it, the restaurant becomes our lives, and its staff our families. At first it’s not a problem: we’re loopy from lack of sleep and laughter comes easily. Everything seems fine until we begin to burn out, one by one.

Here’s something to consider: as much as you want your restaurant to succeed and as much as you want to be there 24/7, it won’t and you can’t. Your restaurant is not and should not become your life. I’m not suggesting that you disappear and rarely show your face, which is an equally destructive path. You just need to find balance. Here, I’ve compiled a short list of ways to lighten your load and improve your business:

  1. Hire enough people: Yes, the economy is rough right now, but it is slowly recovering, and trimming down your staff might not be the best option. If you are understaffed, the remaining employees will have to take on extra shifts and put in overtime to cover the cracks. The result? Grumpy, stressed-out, sleep-deprived staff.
  2. Hire the right people: Interviewing and hiring a competent staff is a true art form. Look for candidates who are great at what the do and love doing it. Your goal should be to hire folks to whom you can easily delegate tasks. If you are able, hire an electrician, a plumber and an accountant so that you don’t have to spend your day off balancing the books or unclogging the pipes.
  3. Delegate: I know how easy it is to want to control every minute detail, especially when your name or your pride is on the line. If you’ve followed step #2, then you have a great staff that has your back. Dole out tasks like a champ, making corrections as needed. Finding balance means learning to let go of the little things.
  4. Set boundaries: We’ve established that the restaurant cannot be your life. If you are properly delegating and letting go a bit, then you will have the time to enjoy outside interests. These things are just as important as your job. They keep you grounded and they keep you sane. Keep your work life and your social life separate.
  5. Set the example: If you are spending 80 or more hours in the kitchen on a weekly basis, you are sending multiple messages to your staff: To the conscientious it says, “You don’t work hard enough, so I have to cover for you.” To the competitive it says, “I am making you superfluous. Look how many hours I’ve clocked in this week.” Your late hours inspire both guilt and resentment. Stop it! It doesn’t have to be this way. When you find balance, your staff will follow suit. Everyone wins.

If you take these steps towards finding balance, I guarantee that you will see a positive difference in both your staff and yourself. Your head will be clearer and you might even find a jaunty new spring in your step.  Breathe: take a yoga class and remember: it’s just supper.