So I, yes, ” I ” want to to get some stuff off my chest…
Now, normally, I refer to Sparks and Smoke BBQ Takeout as ” we ” because while I can and HAVE run the place all by myself, my cast of characters here make US who WE are… but, not this time. This time it’s all about ME !!!
I got a comment from someone who was obviously disappointed that the shop was not open at a time they thought it should be. He said:
“who closes so early with a brand new business? Ive seen 3 business go under at that location
none lasted longer than a year. I was gonna take my family of 5 there tonight but there already
closed at 530. I guess we shall spend our $100 somewhere else. Good luck”
Does this anger or irritate me? Well, except for the grammar and punctuation errors, not really…In fact I kinda feel bad for the guy and his family. I know what it’s like to get all worked up for something and then not be able to get it when you want it. But…
Folks, I already went over in another post about why we have such short hours and odd days open from a physical stand point. I never mentioned the financial issues because, frankly, that’s nobody’s business but mine.
But just to get things off my chest and reassure everyone that I am doing everything I possibly can to make this thing work, I am going to give a little “behind the scenes” look at the stuff I go through daily…
I have 2 employees, besides myself.
One I hired via a normal Craig’s List ad and application. Kimberly is truly outstanding in her work ethic and a real asset to the operation. She kicks me in the shins when needed, adds to my understanding of what we need to do to make our customer experience better, engages the customers in conversation and is as reliable as anyone I have ever worked with. She also makes sure all the food we serve has been taste tested to her satisfaction. In exchange I pay her pretty well for what people might expect a small restaurant wage would be. She gives me “real value” so I pay her accordingly. She works about 25-30 hrs a week.
My other current employee is my wife’s son from a previous marriage. Jesse is also not afraid to kick me in the shins to get my attention. He also works very hard to make sure we greet and interact with our customers in a very friendly and informal way. He is my kitchen assistant while we are open and does quite a bit of the “grunt work” around here (sweeping, washing the pots and pans, assisting with making our sides, etc…).He also gets paid very well for his work. He works about 32-35 hours a week.
Then there’s me. I get in anywhere from 1 am to 5 am every day of the week. Depending on the state of the joint, I work anywhere between 80 and 110 hours a week. Let me repeat that, I work between 80-110 hours a week. I do all the “cooking/smoking”, balance the register, all the shipping and receiving, shopping for fresh vegetables, re-stock the food, make all the sauces, clean the bathroom, fix what breaks when it breaks, pay the bills, do the bookkeeping before sending THAT mess off to my my REAL bookkeeper, do the payroll, mop the floor, clean the smoker, make the rubs, come up with all the recipes, etc, etc, etc. I do not take a salary, a paycheck or money from “the till”… I am running the place off of savings, a loan from my father and what ever money comes in the door.
I have spent an enormous amount of time and money cleaning out the place, adding an updated Fire Suppression System to the kitchen (which was not only not “up to code”, but had not been properly serviced in at least 5 years, according to my fire suppression contractor), added all new appliances, a commercial smoker, brought in environmentally friendly packaging (as much as possible) and generally cleaned up the joint. Yeah, I know there is still work to be done, but I have gone as far as I can afford to go at this point. I’ve worked my butt off to get to a point where I can be open 4 days a week. You can read the details of my “normal” schedule at http://www.sparksandsmokebbq.com/i-got-an-email/
My wife is dealing with never seeing me for more that an hour or 2 a week (which, to be honest, she probably is thankful for), I have dropped 35 pounds of weight due to stress and not having time/forgetting to eat. My lawn never gets mowed since I am never home except to sleep and shower. I walk around smelling like smoked brisket (BONUS) and bad cabbage (“10 points from Griffendor !!!”).
So all of the above is me whining and stomping my feet and pretty much saying “I’m doing the best I can!!!” then running off to sit in a corner and stab myself in the leg with a Magic Marker…
And, really, I know some folks will say “It’s not enough”. To them, I can honestly say “I am truly sorry…I am trying to do better…”
And I _really_ am.
But, my finances are not bottomless, I can’t afford more staff, yet. I refuse to use cheaper cuts of meat that would pad my “profits” so I could add staff and stay open longer – which would make me just like “everybody else”, I refuse to use inferior ingredients, I refuse to buy instead of make my sauces from scratch, I refuse to cut corners on the meat smoking times, I refuse to reheat product instead of serving fresh, I refuse to buy racks of ribs with no meat on them, etc etc etc…
What I do now and WILL ALWAYS DO is: Give my customers QUALITY and VALUE for their dollar and then try and give just a little more. If I can only do that 4 days a week, that’s what I am going to do. If that is “inconvenient” for some folks, I truly apologize… But then again if those folks who don’t “get” what we are trying to do are upset, please, by all means, go somewhere else where quality takes a back seat to “convenience”… We won’t ever do that. I would rather jump out of a perfectly good airplane at 30,000 feet without a parachute, than to sacrifice my vision for this place.
Last time I checked, this was America. In America we used to say “We can do just about anything immediately, the IMPOSSIBLE may take us just a little bit longer…” If you ask my wife or anyone that knows me well, the worst thing you can tell me is, is that there is something I can’t do. She has seen me do “the impossible” before, so making this little BBQ joint successful is just another chance to prove what can be done when I set my mind to it.
I apologize to those I offended, but I will never apologize for my vision and for what I am trying to do…