If you look up the word c*nt in a dictionary, there’s a better than average chance you’ll find a picture of a restaurant Regional Manager. Regardless of gender.
Regional Managers are all in. They have, quite literally, sold their souls in exchange for advancing the company line. Many of them are on the road two to three weeks a month monitoring their various restaurants, living out of hotels and accruing frequent flier mileage like a heroin addict chasing his next fix. They often cheat on their spouses, drink excessively and are the ultimate control freaks in their never-ending quest for things like unearthing a .01% savings in the cost of paper napkins. In exchange for their allegiance, most are paid exorbitantly. Especially in upscale prime steakhouse and cheesecake-influenced concepts, their compensation packages go well into the six-figure range and often include additional perks like complimentary automobile use, corporate expense accounts and anywhere from four to six weeks annual paid vacation time. The majority of these sausagewashers have an unconscionable penchant for sadism and will terminate at will anyone who they perceive as standing in their way of further advancing themselves or their egos. Regional Managers are not paid to be your friend, and will fuck you while smiling and shaking your hand and never think twice about it. The most successful ones have the sort of moral compass that would make Larry Flynt envious, and they have – for the most part – traded their conscience for being excessively big fishes in exceedingly small ponds.
The primary job of any effective corporate Regional Manager is to ensure the maximum profitability of all the restaurants in their assigned region. Most of them accomplish this through fear by berating and threatening the jobs of the General Managers of the specific units on a daily basis if they don’t consistently meet what are mostly unrealistic financial budgets and goals. Ask any self-respecting General Manager what they fear the most on any given day, and most will reply that they dread the sound of their Regional Manager’s voice being on the other end of the line when the phone rings.
But phone conversations pale in comparison to the monthly Regional Manager visit. These rendezvous are usually scheduled in advance, so it gives the General Manager plenty of time to mark the day on his calendar, freak out and put the entire staff on edge. Several days before the visit occurs, the restaurant is scrubbed, primped and primed until no dust bunny remains unswept. Corporate specs and procedures that may get overlooked on a daily basis are revisited and drilled back into everyone’s head. On the day of the visit, only the best employees are scheduled and there’s an underlying threat of either termination or shift reductions waiting those who fail to bring their A games while being the best little corporate drones $2.13 an hour can buy.
And so it was on the day my Steak and Ale career took an immediate downturn.
I had worked my way up to lead waiter and certified trainer. Which really meant that, in exchange for the best shifts, I received a dollar more an hour and was responsible for training all the rookies on the waitstaff and getting them up to snuff as quickly as possible within the parameters of the corporate-mandated training schedule. It wasn’t a bad gig, really. The General Manager liked and trusted me, I was able to maximize my earning potential on any given evening and was usually able to get away with more shit than the average bear. I had earned more than my fair share of call customers on any given night, and life was going about as good as it possibly could for me in waiterdom.
Until I started banging one of my coworkers.
Misty was ten years older than me, divorced ten years on with two teenage kids in tow. She had gotten married and started her family much too young and was doing her damndest to recapture the part of her youth she felt that she had missed out on. That part, thankfully for me, included drinking and drugging and fucking every chance she got. Her hobbies at the time coincided ideally with mine, and it wasn’t long before we were getting off work and hitting the bars until two or three in the morning and waking up naked next to each other at noon the following day. Then it was back to work by five and everything started all over again. Our little slice of temporary paradise and all that.
The only problem, though, was that Misty failed to tell me that she used to have a liaison with our (married) Regional Manager whenever he would pop in for his monthly visit. This, of course, was strictly forbidden under company policy. But that’s another thing about Regional Managers – they have ways of getting away with shit that the rest of us get pummeled for, and there’s not a goddamned thing you or me or anyone else can do about it.
When visit day arrived, our Regional Manager blew in right on schedule and immediately began wreaking havoc, raising hell and pretty much reducing our entire management team into nervous ten year olds sweating a bad report card. With Regional Managers, nothing is ever right and even the things that are are never quite right enough. Food portions and quality always fall short of expectation, the cleanliness of the restaurant is always suspect at best, the financial controls are never being adhered to strictly enough, the server’s uniforms are never pressed to spec and blah blah blah. The only good thing about his visit was that he usually left anyone who wasn’t a manager alone except for the occasional obligatory “Hello, good to see you again, how is everything going?” He mostly preferred not to soil his hands on the hourly help, leaving that instead to his managerial minions after he left.
All things considered, the day of his visit went remarkably smooth in spite of the constant cracking of eggshells beneath our feet. There were no significant customer complaints, the kitchen got the food out within the expected cook times, no one on the staff came in drunk or noticeably hungover and everything ran about as smoothly as a restaurant can be expected to run. On his way out the door about an hour before we were due to close, he pulled Misty aside and muttered something to her.
“What was that all about,” I asked her after he had gone.
“Nothing. He was just saying goodbye.”
We finished our end of the shift sidework, turned in our daily receipts and headed across the street to the Cat-N-Fiddle as was the customary nightly ritual among the majority of the waitstaff. The Cat, as we lovingly referred to it, had been a local landmark for over eighty years and was the quintessential dive bar where everyone regardless of profession or cultural standing was on a level drinking field. Everyone from bankers to waiters congregated together under the neon haze of cigarette smoke and cheap booze, thumbing quarters into the jukebox between games of pool and shuffleboard. It truly was one of the few places you could go where what you did for a living didn’t matter and status took a timeout.
We were on our second pitcher of beer and had just inserted four quarters into the shuffleboard table when the cocktail waitress sat a shot of tequila on our table. She tapped Misty on the shoulder and said “Here, Hon. That’s from the guy in the corner over there.”
Through the secondhand cigarette cloud I could see that the guy in the corner over there was our Regional Manager, sitting by himself. No telling how long he’d been eyeballing us.
Misty grabbed my ass, planted a wet kiss on my mouth and said, “I’ll be right back.” She tasted like cheap beer and cigarettes, none of which I had a problem with.
She picked up the tequila shot and walked it over to where the Regional Manager was sitting. She sat down next to him, and when he tried to kiss her she pulled back. I didn’t know what the fuck at that point, and stood there trying to decipher what I’d just seen. Michaela, a server who worked with us and was a charter member of our drinking fraternity, must’ve sensed my bewilderment. She walked up to me, put her arm around me and said, “Dude, don’t you know? Misty was fucking him on and off for a year before you started working here. We all thought you knew.”
Misty returned, planted another kiss on me and whispered in my ear, “I told him I can’t see him again, I’m with you now.” The Regional Manager downed what was left of his drink, got up to leave and glared at me the entire time as he walked out. I kissed Misty back, had a pull off a beer and aimed a shuffleboard puck. All was right with the world after all.
The next day when I got to work I fell into my usual routine. I checked in at the hostess stand, looked at how many reservations were on the books and how many of the names I recognized, confirmed my section for the night and started polishing the wine glasses and silverware on my tables. I was twirling a polishing cloth inside a wine glass when the Assistant Manager approached me and told me that I was needed in the office. When I walked in, the GM was in his usual chair and the Assistant Manager closed the door, leaving the three us there alone in the room so that no one could hear the conversation that was about to take place.
Never a good sign.
The General Manager looked down at the floor as he spoke. “Look, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Bart (the Regional Manager) phoned me this morning with his report about his visit. He said this was the worst trained staff in his entire region and that he was embarrassed with the lack of attention to detail. He told me to demote you from trainer and put you on lunches only.”
I sat there letting what he just said sink in for a few moments, pretending that it didn’t feel like I’d just been bashed upside the head with a two-by-four. Being banished to lunches was the equivalent of having my pay cut by three quarters, and we all knew it. Not knowing what to say, I let go with the first thing that came out. “So do I need to start looking for another job at this point, or what?”
There was thick silence as they both looked at each other and then back down at the floor. I didn’t need them to respond. I already knew the answer.
- Terry Everton
My blog: Working Stiff Review