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01-08-2010, 21:30
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This is one of those long rambling posts that is more for me to get stuff off my chest then a well-written blog post. If you can, stick with it because it gets there in the end, and it's a very honest post. I haven't re-written it at all.

Things have been getting harder at the pub. Summer trade is up, but staffing levels are down. I've chosen a bad time to try and organise a beer and literature festival! The pressure is on now to keep the progress on the brewery going, get the beer festival truly finalised and advertised and get a Christmas Menu written (yes, already) whilst running the bar and kitchen, and often now the hotel side as well whilst Mum and Dad pop over to Norfolk to keep an eye on the building work that's being done there.

I know I've stretched myself too thin, but I can't see a way out of it at the minute. We've advertised everywhere for a chef, but every one that sends in their CV needs accommodation providing, something we haven't got the space to do. So even though I'm batch cooking 40 portions of Steak and Ale pie or Steak and Kidney Pudding, it's selling out every week because I only have time to batch that many in one go, before covering staff days off etc.

I'm extremely annoyed at myself over the celler. My pride and joy, always spotlessly clean and always presentable should someone want/need to go down (Cask Marque assessor or BOC gas man for example). This week I noticed a couple of bar flies down there. Since I've been here, I've never had any form of animal life show itself to me down there. Obviously not the end of the world, but a sign that my standards are slipping, and the cellar is the one place I'd promise myself I'd always look after.

Some things are going very well - last week saw us sell 775 pints of ale Wed - Tuesday. This week is looking to be higher. Food sales are climbing, which I'm hoping is a result of the consistency and high standards I've demanded in the kitchen. We've started doing weekly specials, on the basis I can get a better deal from my suppliers and we can then type them out once a week rather than constantly updated a blackboard, which it seems nobody can write neatly on! I'll have to train the staff somehow - God knows how, I learnt from having to re-write the boards until they were up to scratch but we don't have time for that. Sadly this week we sold out of every main except lobster salad 3 days into the week.

Obviously all the above comes at a cost. And it appears to be my family life. Working every day from 10am (I rarely have to cook breakfasts now which is a relief) until 10,11,midnight, 1am means I don't get time to see my partner and son. She's stopped work at the pub now, in order to get a part time 9-5 job that will mean at least she'll be there for mini-me after nursery. The last few weeks, even when I've been home I've been on the computer typing up stock reports/specials menu/rotas or emailing guests for the beer festival. And Saturday night took me to my limit.

I was nervous - I'd really pushed the boat out with specials including scallop skewers, lobster salad and Dover sole. Nothing too challenging, but expensive food to get wrong. And before anyone points out, we are a pub, not a gastro or the sort. Fresh fish is a gap in the market around here, and the customer base we've developed don't mind paying more for quality - that's always been our mantra, we don't do cheap, we do quality. Service was going well, specials flying out, and then something tiny happened that started problems.

One of the tables had ordered steaks, and when the steaks went out they then asked for Stilton sauce. We do ours fresh to order, and as we were in full flow with all 3 of my chefs busy I came off the pass to make the sauce. For those that don't know, the pass is where cooked food is plated and given to the waitresses. At busy periods I'll have all my chefs on stations and I'll stand at the pass, plating the food and checking that everything is cooked right.

Whilst I'm making the sauce, the next check goes to the pass, is plated and a quick 'this all good?' comes from the chefs. A quick glance, nothing missing, everything in the right place, send it. I send my sauce and get back on the pass.

The meal that I sent out without checking properly was the scallops main course. And they came back - quite clearly over cooked and dry. Send the waitress back out, very sorry, can I re-cook the order or offer them something else? No, they've lost their appetite.

After a long, busy week, an excellent service and great reports back from the waitresses, I didn't want to send the penultimate check out poorly. A real downer.

The last check was two veg lasagne, a popular dish that night. So popular in fact, that the dishes we serve them in were all out. Nothing I could think of, short of putting the lasagne straight on the plate like you'd get in ASDA cafe, would work. I sent waitresses out to clear tables and look for these dishes, my head waitress to the table to apologise for the wait and that it'd be with them shortly.

By the time we'd got two dishes, they'd been waiting 45 mins when the waiting time was 30 (and they were told 30 at the bar when they ordered). They asked for their money back and left by the time I was able to send.

After cleaning down the kitchen, I went to the bar to clean a couple of the lines that had run out and put new ales on. After that, some nutter who had walked out of the pub just down the road started walking over threatening one of our customers having a cigarette out on the patio. Mum stopped him (always send a member of the opposite sex to diffuse a situation) entering, so he started picking up the chairs and the bin we put out on the pavement and throwing them at the other customers! A quick 999 and all was sorted (I'll talk about this more in a later post about the government's ideas to charge pubs that open late more).

So a crap end to a busy week where I'd really over-stretched myself. And it hit me hard. I stayed up til about 3am that morning, just replaying parts of the week, good and bad, in head. I'm taking 2 days off this week - I'll be in London for the GBBF on Tuesday and Wednesday. After that, I think I'll have to look at renting a place just to get a chef in. I can't keep going on like this, neglecting my family and putting my hobbies (Rugby for the local club and MTB-ing) on hold, whilst not being able to do the things I really want to do like get the brewery up and running and give the cellar a bloody good clean.

And in case you were wondering, I do it because I love it. The pub, the job, the people I work with, the people I meet. Seeing something grow over 4 years because of what you've put into it, people sitting at a bar that you built, drinking drinks that you've brewed and looked after in the cellar, eating food that you've come up with and cooked. There's nothing like it. I'd like a couple of extra hands around to help though!

Cheershttps://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/5810592934633194812-8478940025917705192?l=studentbrewer.blogspot.com


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