“Give me an upturned bucket and a barstool and I’ll open a bar.” That was what a friend said to me the other day when we were doing the usual check-in. He’d been fighting the good fight to keep his doors open since this whole pandemic situation fell on top of the restaurant industry like a ton of infectious bricks.
“You good?” I asked.
“Yeah, we’re holding fast, but I’m really tired of getting kicked in the nuts,” he said, somehow still smiling. “Have you tried my cast-iron pizza yet?”
As each new challenge came, he’d duck and weave like Muhammad Ali sizing up a worthy opponent. He used the first shutdown to do some long-needed maintenance. Then as it began to dawn on all of us that we’re in this for the long haul, he reopened his doors and tried concept after concept, trying to see what was going to fit.
First, it was sandwiches and comfort food tooled for limited seating and outdoor dining. Then he tried setting up delivery-only menus, creating his own ghost kitchen. Then he switched to pizza. “Pizza doesn’t die in a box – it just gets better,” he explained.
And here’s the thing, while watching him navigate his way through a pandemic, through political drama and social unrest, he never wavered. And that’s why I love the restaurant industry.
I started Poached to solve a problem: restaurants struggled to stay fully staffed. Times were good and there weren’t enough cooks and dishwashers and bartenders and servers to go around. I knew if I built something that connected people – employers and workers, I could be a part of something bigger, something special.
When the pandemic hit, it hit Poached too. We were projecting our best year since launching in 2012. Instead, we saw the restaurant industry freeze in place. Job listings fell from 1000s a day to, well, a number that was three digits smaller. I could see firsthand how hard it was on owners trying to keep their businesses afloat, and for all the workers suddenly without a steady job.
And now that there is a glimmer of hope. As case counts drop and vaccines are getting into arms, I’m grateful to play a role in this industry.
To the owners, I’d like to say thank you. You’ve fought hard against an unseeable enemy. At each turn of the screw, you found a way to hold it together – even if that meant stepping away and closing down in order to save your resources for another day.
To the workers, I’d like to say thank you. You’ve persevered through way more than should have ever been asked of you. From not knowing if you’ll have a job, to finally getting to go back just to have to risk your health, so much of the burden of the last year has been on your shoulders.
As we step forward into this uncertain time, please know I love you. Owners and workers are the warp and weft that make the restaurant industry what it is. As we patch together our businesses and our careers, I know the future is brighter because all of you just keep making it that way.
I look forward to seeing you all soon, even if it’s just us, some buckets, and a couple of barstools.
— Kirk Thornby, Founder and CEO of Poached Jobs.