If you are a small business owner you might understand this dilemma.
Today I got a call from my youngest child’s school to let me know that he is feeling ill.
Now my wife, who also works full time took three days off last week to look after our middle child who suffered from the same thing going around the school as the youngest one is today.
So it was my turn to do the looking after, no problem.
However Wednesday is the day of the week that I am particularly vulnerable as I have a new kitchen staff member that is in training, so if I’m not there, who oversees the kitchen?
I had to make a choice.
Close the kitchen and limit the cafes offering to coffee and cake or take a deep breath and leave the cooking to our newest kitchen team member who has limited experience in a la carte cooking.
The stakes were high. People are now coming to the café with some mighty expectations and I have to remind myself that we are and always have been a café not a restaurant despite those expectations. Not an excuse, just a realization of what we are and what we are not.
If I closed, potentially many people would have been disappointed and the two parties booked would have had to find alternative venues at short notice, causing them much grief. Also I would be sending a clear message to the staff that I dont think they are capable of coping.
Or stay open and risk it all going pear shaped.
I took a deep breath.
I decided to stay open; the show must go on, rationalizing that my new kitchen staff member would cope and that they would rise to the occasion.
We had a couple of tables booked which is sometimes a gauge that we might be busy though that’s not ever a true indicator. We contacted to inform them that I would not be there as I had a family issue to attend to immediately- I thought this a good strategy as it will inform our guests prior to their arrival that we will not be operating on all four cylinders, therefore giving them the option to perhaps re-book should they be inclined.
But for the walk-ins we didn’t have the luxury of this approach and they will judge us as they see fit.
I deliberate to close the kitchen early if I am alerted by the staff that they are not coping. Even though I called several times, the crew said they were OK.
The way these things tend to go, it was a busy day. Gulp.
For the record and by all accounts, my new staff member held their nerve, battled on and did their best-which is all I could ask or expect. I am very happy that they did so well and thanked them accordingly. Sometimes it’s best to be blooded by experience rather than being fully protected until deemed ready.
Meanwhile I sit housebound worried about my child and worried about any possible negative experiences at the cafe today.
The dilemma for me is: Will the customers be as understanding of our situation?