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You're the boss, act like it

Welcome to In the Weeds. Kyle will be right with you -- most likely to complain about something. Usually he is pleasant, but this is his place to blow off some steam. Don't take it personally; he just needs to vent because he's been doing this for about thirteen years. Enjoy your meal.

Look at the guy at the end of the bar. He's knocking down shots, yucking it up with some friends and has that "I might throw up later" look on his face. He's getting a little boisterous, but that's all right, After all, it's Friday night; he's probably blowing off some steam after a long work week.

What's that? He's the owner?

This just went from mildly entertaining to rather pathetic in a hurry.

Bad restaurant bosses come in many forms -- for example, those who tell their employees to kill themselves. But while the asshole boss is unnecessarily cruel, he or she typically still holds some semblance of authority. If the manager or owner is less responsible than the average server, though, both parties are aboard a sinking ship.

Obviously, the restaurant industry can involve long hours and late nights, and copious amounts of booze are readily available. That's a bad recipe for a boss who lacks discipline. But managers and owners are supposed to have more self-control than the sixteen-year-old dishwasher who happens upon the unlocked liquor room.

I fully expect the average bartender to sneak a free drink every once in a while. I'm less accepting of the boss who treats the bar like his home liquor cabinet. A glass of wine every now and then while conversing with guests, especially if a group offers a glass, is acceptable. But if a boss is hitting the well as frequently as he or she is checking the expo line, we're all in trouble.

There's a thick line between being the life of the party and someone who makes guests question the integrity of the restaurant. I'm just guessing here, but if the owner drops by a table to say "hi" smelling like a bucket of whiskey or throws up in the guest restroom, that will have an effect on whether or not the diners return. A slurring, mumbling manager checking in with guests mid-meal usually goes over about as well as a rake to the face.

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Perhaps more damaging than the guests' perception is how the staff reacts to a boss who appears to be on a 24/7 bender, shows up late or sleeps with the staff. The principle should be simple: Act as you expect your staff to act. Actually, you should probably aspire to a standard higher than that -- but what do I know, I'm just labor.

I would be more receptive to my boss telling me to stop chatting with co-workers on the floor if he did so without a bottle of tequila in his hand. And try preaching to the staff to clean up after themselves when you're constantly leaving remnants from last night's mini-party on the tables. Knock it off, it's not the opening server's job to clean up after you because you have the "drink now, worry later" mantra of a first-year frat boy.

An owner might think he or she is relating to the staff more by drinking with them -- but really, the employees are just glad they got free drinks and think it's sad the boss can't hold his or her liquor. A boss is also going to have more success telling the staff not to let their personal relationships affect work performance if he's not sleeping with the hostess -- especially if he's married. There are enough staff hook-ups, gossip and drama in a restaurant without the owner acting like Arnold Schwarzenegger when he's alone with the maid.

Drunk, philandering or irresponsible bosses will take care their own problems before too long: They will either be fired or run their business into the ground. In the meantime, all they have to lose is money, self-respect and the respect of others. Cheers.

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