Well, I changed my name the day I left
I cut my hair, I hemmed my dress
I was damn sure about it
– Laura Gibson, Damn Sure
2017 is skidding to a close and kicking up so much snow we’re not sure if we’re all heading straight for the tree line or an open field of untouched powder. We careened our way through the past year’s ups and downs, hoping to make our world just a little bit better. Now, as the New Year looms, we’re unsure what comes next.
The Food & Drink Industry enters a foggy 2018 with a lot of challenges. Regulations and taxes are changing, wages are rising (but housing costs are somehow rising faster,) and talented workers (especially cooks) are difficult to recruit and retain. Running a restaurant has always been challenging, as most of you already know, but this year comes with an additional challenge: how to move forward in the face of uncertainty.
When things are uncertain it’s easy to lose focus – to forget why you chose this business in the first place. Whether you work in restaurants for love or for money (or possibly both), it’s important to remember what makes this industry so special. Working in the industry means being a part of something larger. It means being in a community of people who want to cook and serve delicious things. It means treating customers as guests first. It means treating your team like the family they are. It means staying open late just to give someone a better experience. It means making the world just a little bit better.
Uncertainty can be used as a weapon – to create confusion and fear. 2017 was a year where certain truths have been treated as less than self-evident. Facts have been called “fake” not because they are untrue, but only to create doubts and divisions. Instead of uniting us, our politics are being exploited to undermine the very foundation of our nation – that all people are created equal.
Uncertainty can also be used as a tool – like with most weapons, it only depends on how you hold it. Not knowing outcomes can motivate you to plan more carefully, but to also be flexible as plans evolve. As fewer things are predictable, being nimble and embracing change can be the difference between staying open and closing the doors.
We can use uncertainty to help us step back and consider what success really means. Is it money? Is it same-store sales? Ticket counts? Providing a better wage? Providing better healthcare? Is it creating a place where you have regulars who are indistinguishable from friends? It’s likely a mix of those things and more, but take a moment to figure out what you value the most and strive for it.
Uncertainty can make us resolute. Not knowing what comes next, but moving forward anyway is a near heroic act. If you’re open to the risks you need to take and share the rewards you’ll earn, you’ll never worry about being alone.
As the snow and the fog hide the horizon, obscuring your view, just remember you’re still moving forward. You don’t need to be certain. Just do what you know needs done – and be damn sure about it.