Someday the band will get back together

Closing a restaurant means staring directly at your reflection and seeing a quitter staring back at you

Source: How to Close a Restaurant – Eater

A few months ago the staff of the restaurant I was working at were all told of an all-hands meeting. Nobody thought it strange as it had been over six months since the last meeting and that one had resulted in an entire reworking of the menu. So it was time.

I started getting giddy when the corporate Chef showed up, and then one of the owners showed up. Something was afoot. So we all walked down to the conference room of the building, and the boss immediately dropped the bomb on us.

The restaurant was to close down when the lease was up, a month and a half from that day.

It did come as a bit of a surprise to most of the staff—myself included. Our numbers weren’t the best but we were breaking even, or so I thought. We had a fair number of regulars, and people regularly raved about the quality of the food.

It meant a number of things but first and foremost it meant a fair number of employees would have to seek out new employment in the slowest season of the year.

But here’s the thing. This is closing down a restaurant from an employee’s point of view. I did not have to worry about emptying out the space, or closing down accounts with suppliers and purveyors, or worrying about those last paychecks. It is a very different experience since as an employee you… get to just walk away worrying only about that last paycheck.

It still smarts. There are always more restaurants to work at but it is a special thing when you have a good crew working together.

Maybe someday it will happen again.

Leaving, both ways

This post started so innocently, in a most innocuous manner.

Got up from the desk, went over to the kitchen with my mug. Grabbed some tea, filled the mug with hot water, set a timer. That’s when I saw them:

iPhone with timer app open
There’s an app for that

All the timers I had set for items I would be cooking:

  • Baked beans
  • Braised chicken
  • Spicy ground meat. Deep, red spice and heat, almost a chili.
  • Sous-vide eggs
  • Random odds and ends that just remained there

Those timers were on my phone for months while I worked at this establishment. Timers for basically everything there was, with names that were easy for voice recognition to work with.

Without these timers I assure you, I would not even be in a kitchen. Al the product I would be burning and throwing away, all the waste. Working on the line gives you a great sense of timing but nothing beats having a timer.

And then, my mind still in efficiency mode, I deleted them all.

It wasn’t until I was done with this that I realized what it was I had done. This restaurant recently closed down and I know a few of the employees there are still reeling, yet here I am casually deleting the last remnant of it on something I use every day, namely, my smartphone.

Yes, there are the mementos: a couple of spoons, a pan, a mug, the great many pictures of my coworkers goofing off. But these timers… they were something of actual use, not just something that was done for fun. This was done for actual work.

But they’re gone now.

You leave a restaurant, and slowly, bit by bit, a restaurant leaves you.