Even with all of that support, our first year in business was the hardest of our lives. Our agreement included taking on every existing staff member, which meant they were taking us on, too. Here we were, two 22-year-olds, walking into ‘their’ restaurant and becoming the new authority figures. It was a tough transition, especially since we were still learning the ins and outs of the system. We didn’t have the chance to train in our own location, so we had to rely on our employees to help us learn how to do pretty much everything in our restaurant. In fact, we actually rotated through more than 100 employees during that first year.
Some days, people just wouldn’t show up for their shifts, leaving us to fill in those spots. There were days during which both of us would be there all day long, doing whatever needed to be done to keep things up and running. If a cook didn’t show, we were manning the kitchen—two girls whose cooking experience was limited to basics like instant macaroni and cheese. It was quite the scene!
We knew from watching our parents that owners have to be physically in their restaurants in order to make them succeed. That’s the only way to inspire trust and loyalty from your staff. That said, there were days where we’d be crying in the office, asking what we’d done to ourselves. We felt so busy, almost out of control. However, as time went by and we worked at it, we started to feel more comfortable.
Learning from experience
We’re still perfecting things, but the business is now far more stable overall. There are always issues to deal with—staff turnover, slow sales and that sort of thing—but over time, you build trust with key employees and develop a flow that works for you. Now, we have a team we can rely on and we know when to jump in and help in the kitchen or spot issues before they get out of hand. Our problem solving skills are so much better now than they were then. We’ve become plumbers, nurses, accountants—whatever it takes to get things done.
The community has been really supportive, too; we feel like we have a hundred surrogate parents out there, all rooting for us to do well and offering feedback on how we might improve. Plus, we have our actual parents, who have been great about lending a hand when we need it. That said, they’ve never given in to the urge to take over. They let us do our own thing, make our mistakes and enjoy our own victories.
Each month is different. Life is never dull. Every single day you can be faced with a new problem or issue, but that variety also makes the job more fun. If we’re feeling particularly social, we’ll go out on the floor and interact with people; if not, we have an office day to handle any paperwork. Other days, we might feel like cracking a few eggs in the kitchen; sometimes we have that flexibility. We still have to deal with people who judge us based solely on our age, but we realize its just part of doing business. We know we have to prove ourselves before some people take us seriously, but we’re up to the challenge.
These days, we split up our time a bit more, but one of us is always there over the lunch and supper rush. Our hours have also been a little nicer. We’ll get a day or two off, or half a day here and there.