Entries Tagged 'Food' ↓

Why can’t the hospitality industry in Sioux Falls retain good workers? Greed.


You get what you pay for

I will say it, the honeymoon is over. I knew there would come a day that we couldn’t keep building a restaurant on every street corner of this town and expect them to make a profit and last. Some would blame a worker shortage on the problem, I blame something else, a wage shortage.

It used to be easy to gather a group of unexperienced employees to run a restaurant in Sioux Falls, make huge profits, and leave those workers behind. Not anymore. There needs to be a change in philosophy, something I have often suggested in public employees. Hire quality employees, and pay them well, and they will do the work of 2-3 unexperienced employees that you pay half the wage to.

Don’t believe me? Well, I may not have owned a restaurant in my lifetime, but I have been working in them since I was 17 years old (almost 27 years). Over those years I have done it all, dishwasher, pasta maker, bus boy, line cook, fry cook, host and server. I even worked as a maintenance man. I’ve seen a lot, but the one thing that has always been a constant is that good employees who are paid well in the industry stick around, are usually never late and have great attendance. Money may not be the secret to happiness, but working in a customer service industry like food service is very demanding, but can be very rewarding if you are willing to do the job right.

About 5 years ago when I was in between full-time employment in the printing industry, I worked full-time as a server for 2 years. It wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t the duties of the job that were hard, it was the way the employer treated me (a corporate franchise). Though I was the top earning hourly tipped out server and had $125K a year in sales, not only did my employer not give me a raise, they actually took almost 20% of my tips in a thing they call ‘tip share’. It is a scam that has been getting legal challenges across the country that forces tipped employees to subsidize non-tipped employees (like hosts, bussers and cooks). It saves these companies millions in wages, while killing the morality of their tipped employees who ironically are the front line of customer service for their business. Wouldn’t you want to be paying these people the best instead of robbing them of 20% of their income a year? It goes back to a change in philosophy.

The days where restaurants in Sioux Falls and across the nation can get away with poor pay, virtually no benefits and quite frankly abuse is coming to a close.

My advice is simple to anyone who wants to run a successful restaurant.

• Target your marketing to the customer base you want. Not only are good employees valuable, but so are good customers.

• Treat your employees like you would treat your customers. This one is important. Over the years I have seen good workers with good intentions get thrown under the bus because of a bad customer. In fact I quit my last serving job because of it. I don’t believe in the mantra that the ‘customer is always right’. In fact, 90% of the time, they are completely wrong. When I have been asked what to do with a bad customer, my answer is the same. Apologize to them, thank them for trying your place out, refund their money fully, then ask them to NOT return. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen good employees get fired because a restaurant owner wants to save a BAD customer. Think about how senseless that is? Not only are bad customers bad for your bottom line, they affect the morality of your employees, and whether you ask them to return or not, they won’t anyway, and they will still talk smack about you either way. Asking them to not return is the smartest move.

• Pay all of your employees well, but also hire quality (experienced) people. I’m not just talking about front of the house, but I am also talking about hosts and dishwashers. Putting your employees on an even keel is the best way to keep peace in an industry known for unrest. There is nothing more frustrating for experienced employees who work their tail off getting paid the same as slackers they always have to carry the water for. Trust me, I believe in the team mentality, but that whole team has to be strong. It’s like links on a chain. Don’t coddle the slackers and reward the hard workers.

• Give customers something they will come back for. This one is very simple, give good service, provide a great product, and have a great ambiance and do it 110% of the time. With the saturation of restaurants in town, let’s face it, their are only so many customers to go around. And if they have one or two bad experiences, they may never return. This goes to how you run your operation. You wouldn’t hire a fisherman to run a battleship and vice versa. I have often joked with people for years, “500 restaurants in Sioux Falls, but not 1 decent place to eat.” Think about that for just a moment. Could you name 4-5 restaurants you have eaten in Sioux Falls where the food and service has been consistent 90% percent of the time? I can’t. And eliminate the price point. If I am going to eat out, price is not a factor, if I get something good in return. Put value in what you are putting out there, that means valuing your employees along with your product.

• Trust your employees. This one is huge. Never take the word of a stranger (your customers) over your employees, unless it is blatant they are lying. We all have bad days, that doesn’t make them bad employees. But there should also be REAL consequences to employees who screw up, which brings me to favoritism and nepotism. I see this all to often in the industry, in Sioux Falls it is like the Black Plague. Treat all of your employees the same while on the clock. There is nothing wrong with management being friends with their employees, but keep your love fest for each other off the clock.

The restaurant industry in Sioux Falls is on the cusp of collapse, I really believe that. My last job certainly proved that. This saturation of bad food and service cannot last and can only be tackled by higher wages to better employees. The industry doesn’t want to admit it, but they know eventually they are going to have to change. Quality people are available to work in the industry in Sioux Falls, I have worked with many of them throughout the years, but with quality people has to come quality wages.

But this isn’t just up to the industry, the legislature and the city council need to make some changes to the laws on the books. Years ago a team of well intentioned restauranteurs made their way to Pierre to change how employees in the industry get paid. Those guys are about ready to retire, and you can probably guess who they are. They have made millions on the backs of their employees by suckering the state legislature over the years. And they have strong allies that need to be persuaded to make changes to, like the Retailers Association and the Chamber of Commerce who are consistently anti-hospitality worker.

Here’s some quick changes that could be made;

• Eliminate the tipped employee minimum wage. It should be identical to all minimum wage earners. A tip should be an ‘extra’ a server or bartender gets for good service, it shouldn’t be 90% of their overall wages. Tips are too volatile.

• Eliminate the ‘tip share’. Allow tipped employees to keep 100% of their tips.

• Pay your front of the house employees the same as the back of the house. Harmony is a good thing.

• Hire more full-time employees, provide them benefits and PTO. A consistent workforce equals a consistent product. Keep hiring low-wage, part-time alcoholic stoners and you reap what you sow. By law, require restaurants to have a certain percentage of their workforce to be full-time.

I know, I have worked in a lot of places, and I can truly admit, not every restaurant runs perfectly. But blatantly ignoring the 700 pound gorilla in the room will only doom the industry in Sioux Falls eventually.

Pay better and hire better employees. It really is that simple.

Time to get my ‘Czech’ on in Omaha


The liver soup was to die for!

Bohemian Cafe, a staple of South 13th Street, will close its doors Sept. 24.

Pretty bummed as a half-blood bullhunk who enjoyed some Czech fare at this place. The liver soup, rabbit, dumplings, kolaches and ‘Bohemian Sidecars’ will be missed.

The Perfect Deviled Egg – Chicago

Best BBQ in town?


Just a couple of thighs you don’t have to propose to.

Okay, I haven’t obsessed about this much, but after getting home today and smelling my chicken smoked filled t-shirt, I kind of flipped. I tried Mr. Ryan’s BBQ ribs a few weeks ago at Bro’s (it is a Sunday Night deal) Best smoked meat in town. I obviously will eat most anything, at least once, but his ribs were perfectly cooked, fall off the bone, and on top of that, no sauce required, even though he makes his own sauce that is fantastic, and the red cabbage slaw is to die for.

Mobile Food Vendor Solution, reverse ONE ordinance

It seems after watching the full discussion on the proposed food truck regulations (Public Services Meeting, FF: 44:00-notice supporting PDF documents are missing-imagine that!?), the simplest way to fix the problem (that really doesn’t exist) is to eliminate the ordinance that mobile food vendors can’t park on the public right-of-way. Which is kind of ironic, because they all do it currently, but who complains while filling their face with shrimp jumbalaya or fried pirogies at 2:15 AM while on a drunk bender?

The proposed distances, permitting fees, hours of operation are just an attempt by brick and mortar restaurants downtown to chase the mobile vendors out. Which is ironic, because it wouldn’t ban the food ‘carts’ or the pizza places from delivering to you DT (which is competition with them also).

Everybody should know, the best way DT restaurants can eliminate their competition is by getting a city fire hydrant to explode and fill a basement restaurant with 2 feet of water while it takes our Fire Department over an hour to shut down the hydrant. Then blame ‘God’ for why it happened.

Never mind about all that JAZZ . . . because once again the city is influenced by the affluent trying to to make DT more of a yuppie-wealthy playground.

The success of DT will be diversity not exclusiveness and more regulations on eatery choices will NOT help DT to thrive. I want more choices then the senior citizen salad bar or the overpriced steaks justified by the $20,000 aqua green couch that every newlywed needs to have their portrait on.

Sometimes I just want loose meat and onion juices dripping out of my drunk ass mouth.

The snobbery around the proposed code regulations are obvious, and you are not even fooling pizza delivery drivers.

Change the public right-of-way ordinance, and move on already. We have enough D-Bags that hang out DT that think they are important, let’s flush them out with one ‘Taco in a Bag’ at a time.

City worried about Mobile food vendors, still waiting to hear about restaurants recycling


While the city worries about where these trucks park and sell taco in a bag, they still haven’t addressed my issue with restaurants recycling glass, aluminum and plastic. They claim there has been ‘complaints’ about noise and litter. How many? And did they know that current ordinances already cover litter and noise? This is a non-issue looking for a solution.

Kill these proposals!

To heck with FEEDING South Dakotans, how about PAYING South Dakotans so they can afford to feed themselves


I commend anybody who is willing to give towards combatting hunger  in SD;

large donation from a Huron couple is helping a non-profit organization which fights hunger in the state.

With a food distribution to follow, officials with Feeding South Dakota announced the $1 million donation from Paul and Muffy Christen Tuesday.

The money will go into an endowment. Its interest will feed South Dakotans for years to come.

I think it is great many leaders and philantropists are coming forward in SD to help this charity, but I often wonder if these same leaders put the same amount of time and effort into raising wages in South Dakota and raising our quality of life if it would be time, energy and money better spent instead of helping these people once they hit the bottom of the pyramid. it would also be nice if we eliminated the sales tax on food.

Like I said, there will always be ‘hungry’ people in our state that need assistance, but let’s work harder to reduce those numbers by helping some of these people make a living wage. Prevention is usually the best cure to a problem.

There are great places to eat in Sioux Falls


Image: David Eggen for The New York Times  

Congrats to Michael Haskett for being featured in this NY Times article;

Just across the street from C. H., the choices switch from sweet to savory at the M. B. Haskett deli (mbhaskett.com), in a former brothel, that’s a mainstay with the lunch crowd. The owner, Michael Haskett, 34, who grew up in Sioux Falls and studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, uses premium ingredients in his sandwiches and salads from nearby purveyors, eggs from his own farm and bread from a local artisanal company.

The best chef in Sioux Falls, hands down.

The Ugly ‘Broken’ Table


Please, leave your messy brat at home.

I won’t wait 24 hours to respond to this story;

He didn’t do that Wednesday after a customer posted a one-star review on the Elements at 8th Facebook page. Instead, Derheim typed a hasty defense of his manager and in doing so ignited a summer blizzard of controversy that could take months to thaw out social media users.

It started when Todd Gannon posted his review on Facebook, mere minutes after finishing his meal. But there was more to it than just a night out for four adults and a toddler.

Gannon, who did not respond to a paid Facebook message asking him to contact me, wrote, “Food was lousy, and the manager followed us out in the parking lot to tell us to bring a toy for our son next time so he doesn’t bang on the table. Thanks for ruining my wife’s birthday.”

His son had done a little pounding on the table, Gannon acknowledged, estimating it lasted 60 to 90 seconds.

In an early response to Gannon’s review, Derheim wrote that Gannon’s 2-year-old had caused $300 damage to the table and invited Gannon to come back and see it. Another response asked Gannon to contact the restaurant with “any offer of restitution.”

First off, let’s get the little things out of the way. I wouldn’t say the food is lousy at Elements, I would classify it as ‘unmemorable’ and not worth the trip. Which is disappointing, because I like the atmosphere and enjoy having drinks there, just eat before or after you leave. It also surprises me, because Pinnacle, who manages Elements, also owns TRE Lounge, which is hands down one of my favorite fine dining establishments, always good service and the food is fantastic, every time. I think some of the issues Elements has is that they are being micro-managed by the Hilton franchise, but that is only an assumption.

As for the kid pounding on the table, there is a simple solution; LEAVE YOUR KIDS AT HOME WHEN DINING OUT! It’s okay to take kids to places that have play lands etc, but it is not the duty of a server to babysit your child, or to get on our hands and knees to pick up little pieces of torn up mac and cheese and cheerios off the floor. When are people going to realize that when your kids are old enough to behave in a public setting, that is the time you take them out to eat with you, not before. Oh, and I have heard all the excuses, my favorite BS line, “We can’t find or afford a babysitter.” Then guess what STAY HOME! There is so many expectations of restaurant employees these days, especially from young parents (who typically are crappy tippers on top of it.) How would you like it if you invited me over for a dinner party to your house, I puked on your table and threw my food on the floor, screamed at everyone, then left. You wouldn’t be happy – THINK ABOUT THAT the next time you dine out with your little Angel. I hope Elements makes the man pay for the broken table, double.

Many people complain that JL Beers is a 21 and older establishment, mostly parents of young children. I think it is pure genius.

Review; Prairie Berry on the Eastbank


My $6.42 beer advertised as $6

I’m not a ‘star’ rater, but if I had to rate the place after my first visit, it would be a 3 out of 5. Which means I will be back to try more beer and food.

The interior is spacious, rustic and beautiful, and the remodel job is fantastic, very well done and high end workmanship, I would however have either hung a rust colored metal mesh or some other kind of wood panel under the PVC piping exposed in the ceiling, I think it takes away from the rustic look of the place and need to be hidden. But I did like the steel umbrella’s on the patio, nice touch.

The staff was very friendly and helpful, but a word of advice; If you are going to be an eatery downtown of that size, you will need to have table service, maybe not at lunch, but definetly at dinner. That may fly at Red Rossa or at the Empire Mall food court, but people dine and drink downtown because they want to be pampered, and your prices are reflective of table service. Going up to the bar to grab a beverage or place an order is inconvenient and I’m sure the tips to the servers reflect that. Also, include taxes in your beer prices. If you right on the chalkboard that a beer is $6, I should be paying $6, not $6.42. Every other bar and restaurant in SF has figured it out, maybe you can to. I think there is a thingy-ma-jigger on your POS that can fix that.

I did not try the wine on this visit, I was looking for beer. I had the Pale Ale and the Brown Ale. The Pale was good, but did not reflect Pale Ale notes that well, but you could tell it was freshly made. The Brown Ale was fantastic and had just the right amount of sweetness, I look forward to trying more beer.

We tried the grilled cheese sandwich and mushroom flatbread. The grilled cheese had too much cheese on it and needed some ruffage on it. It was pretty much a panni and cheese, that’s it. A little too heavy, but was tasty, if you like a big glob of cheese in your mouth.

The flatbread was fantastic, and had just the right amount of ‘things’ on it. Though the crust was thick, it was very light and airy.

I will return, I like the atmosphere, the food and want to try some more beers. I wish them luck, always nice to see more downtown eateries.