1:21PM Oct 13, 2021
Howdy partners, sometimes here on The Check, we think we're running saloons out yonder in the wild west.
Welcome to The Check, a podcast about restaurants. I'm Brady Viccellio, owner of Steinhilber's restaurant and La Belal Italia in Virginia Beach.
Welcome to The Check everyone. I'm Alvin Williams, chef and owner of Cobalt Grille restaurant in Virginia Beach.
On our last episode -- number 30 -- we talked to Jordan Ferger about restaurant technology. Today, it's just Alvin and I.
Just the two of us. And we're just gonna, I guess, chit chat about what's been happening in our restaurant lives over the past week. So tell me Brady, what's going on?
Well, I've been washing dishes. How do you like that? I love it. I enjoy washing dishes.
Yeah, it's one of my favorite places in the kitchen to be also, although it's not my preferred place. And I don't I like to do what I want to do it not because I have to do it.
It's actually surprising to me that it's not an easier job to fill. Because every time I do it, I have a sense of accomplishment. I'm good at it. So which is you know, for me to be good at something that's pretty, pretty cool. And people appreciate it. The server's appreciate the nice clean dishes and the speed at which I'm able to wash them right and cooks certainly like it because when I'm there washing dishes because we don't have a dishwasher. They don't have to wash dishes.
And every plate that they pick up is clean and dry and fresh and ready to go.
So why are you washing so many dishes right now?
Well, I mean, nobody wants to watch a dish I haven't.
Alright, well, is it nobody wants to watch a dish? Nobody wants to work? Are you not getting stuff back? Because I am not getting much stuff walking through.
I do have an ad and I'm finally starting to get a little bit of action on it. Okay, um,
Because the floodgates are supposed to open come September when the the the money from unemployed unemployment or unemployment was implemented was halted or stopped or ended. But I haven't seen these floodgates my way.
I haven't seen the floodgates open either. I think my wages have gone up. They've had to had to go way up, which is fine. And I think that's part of the part of the grand plan.
Yeah, butour costs have gone up. Our costs have gone up expensive have gone up, our payroll is gone. Everything's gone up
Everything. Your menu prices have not gone up. At least not that much.
Not not at the same rate. As as our expenses. Yeah, my neither. So you know, we're passing some of the expense costs on to our consumers, but not eventually, eventually it's going to have to catch up, eventually is gonna have to catch up. Otherwise you have to close down.
There was a recent interview from Chipotle CEO, whatever, I can't remember what it was but but the he said that they're going to have to suffer with lower. It was a something for the stockholders. Yeah. And basically, they're gonna have to suffer with lower income for a while until two other menu prices catch up to the burn rate the expenses?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's tough because you don't want to. I mean, we've had a hike in all our prices. And it's not just the prices of the food and stuff that we get, if you can get it. You know, I think we had this this discussion about crabmeat before and...
It's, it's very, I was very fortunate I bought, I can't remember 500 pounds of crabmeat on the spot. So I've got crabmeat, and I've got it in an okay price, right. But But, I mean, if I was to pay what I'm paying now, two years ago, I would have I would have been,
But let's sit in the in the shoes of our of our clients, customers and guests. And if they came in last week, and they ordered a steak and it's 30 bucks, and then they come a week later. And now that same steak is 45 bucks. I mean, that's a big jump. It is it's kind of shocking to see. But that's kind of what we haven't to deal.
Well, the last time I filled up my car with gas, it was $50. And all the time before the last It was $50. And in this past time, a few days ago, it was $63.
Yeah. So what do you think about our customers? Do you think they understand what we're going through? And they're just and they're willing to be along for the ride and
I have one customer the other day asked me about the same question. He's actually he's in the wine business. And he said that he's looking at the same thing. And what what he said what you should do, Brady,
I know you love it when people tell you what you should do is
... raise all your menu prices by 25%.
Okay, today, okay, um, what's his theory?
Well, I just put 25% On this check extra
Did he complain?
I'm just kidding, I should have.
Yeah, I don't know if everybody understands it. Or maybe they do understand it and then thinking to themselves, well, now I'm paying a premium. So now I really expect service to be excellent, and the food to be excellent. And no more excuses about COVID and not having staff. You're charging me these premium prices. So I want premium food and premium service.
It's funny, though, because there's a buildup, I mean, you can't. So there's no secret that we've been we've been strapped with employees. I mean, we just don't, if I'm washing dishes, there's something I'm not doing. Yeah. Previous to that. I've been cooking for a lot. I've got, I've got some really good cooks. I've got some good dishwashers too. But you know, they can't work seven days a week. If I'm doing some job, that's not right, then you know, managing a restaurant and you're not doing your job. And I'm not doing my job. And yeah, and they said, Well, you know, the thing if you're managing restaurant pot properly, you'd have it properly staffed like, well, you're normally. But I mean, when a normal time, I'm paying 50 to I'd say 100% more in wages to those labor positions. And still, I've got no shows I've got, I've got regular call outs, I've got and what do you do? So with the call, I need a next weekend off.
So somebody calls and says, Well, I'm sick, or I'm having symptoms of COVID, you have to immediately say, don't come to work, of course, go and get tested on something. So some people I'm not saying all people of our employees, but some will take advantage of that situation.
Because I've had some people who have COVID symptoms every weekend. If it's nice if it's raining, if it's raining, then miraculously, no COVID, doing very well.
But if the weather's good, and the surfs up.
Yeah, very susceptible. Yeah, yeah. family member waiting for a test.
Yeah, well, yeah. It's tough.
In our hands, right now we're holding an article entitled Restaurant Recovery in Reverse. Industry Groups Warn Amid Rising Costs..
Yeah, one of the paragraphs says, amid the Delta surge, 78% of restaurants experienced a drop in demand for indoor dining, and 95%, face delays or shortages of key food and beverage items. Despite the dip in customer enthusiasm, nearly 80% said they do have not they do not have enough staff rather, to support current demand. What do you think about that statement?
I think it's completely accurate. And I feel it and the thing that I didn't see in that paragraph. Now I had to read on a little bit here. But the thing that I don't see here is the fact that the the demand is up to normal levels, I would say. I mean, I think that we could serve as many people this week as we did this same week, two years ago. If we want it Yeah. I've had to sandbag my book a lot and decline reservations, because I simply don't have the staff. And, and I've had to 86, I've had to mark items as out of stock that because of shortages or even I've had, I don't know if you had one of our seafood suppliers last week had to shut down for two days because they didn't have anybody show up for work.
Yeah. I mean, how painful is that, that we have to turn away customers, all we have to do is strive to get customers in to the door so we can show them what we do and you know, be proud of our service and and our food. And then now we're saying Well, sorry, we don't have a seat for you. Because...
Well, we have a seat for them, but we don't have service for them.
If you can't serve them, you can't seat them.
I mean, well, you know, I've had to put people on wait when we're sorry, there's a half hour wait, right now. What are you talking about? I've just sit right there. Is that reserved that table reserved? No, it's not just I can't I can't serve you. I don't have it. And that's a hard, hard thing to explain to somebody. And it's funny because I don't know, I just just to guess I would say half of our clientele understand exactly what's going on. And the other half. It's like, Hey, what's what's what's, what's happening, and all of a sudden, everything should be back to normal.
But we're not the only ones getting bitten by this. It's not just restaurants, it's many other industries. So a lot of other people understand it. But at the end of their days, they want to go out and get something to eat. They don't want to be really confronted with the same problems that they have at their job, when they come out to eat in our restaurants. You know, but it's reality and that's where we are.
Absolutely, and as restaurant people who were food enthusiasts, you and I, we're part of the demand on the restaurant industry, as well as the supply. Yeah.
I'll tell you one. Another example. Alvin, as you know, I was, in the beginning of this pandemic, I started, some restaurants shut down. I had an I had a opposite goal. I wanted to be more present for my guests. I wanted to expand my hours, and I saw it as an opportunity for to be there. Yeah, one of the things that we did was we opened for brunch, we dove in for lunch and brunch, but we continued the brunch up until up until just recently, frankly, we had a bad brunch service, because out of five kitchen employees for called in for various reasons, you know, there's nothing you can do. They don't come in. So you got there's one person in the kitchen that serving 100 people. And that's a recipe for disaster. I couldn't continue to push those hours, which I saw as additional service. I couldn't continue to put my limited staff. Yeah, through that. Yeah, you can't do that. And expose, expose ourselves to potential for mistakes, right?
And those mistakes will be irreparable to your, your image and your reputation. So
I hope not,
Sometimes, but so here's what I can tell you about.
We're open your open for lunch for a little while you closed for one week.
Yeah, we were closed. And then we open for lunch. And then we figured that as COVID plotted on, we decided to reopen for lunch, which we did for three months. And it made a lot of our customers happy. But it was such a strain. On the restaurant, it was a strain on the staff on, you know, the Front of House staff, the back of the house there. And it just wasn't financially viable. So we we cut that off. So now, we are not serving lunch, much to my chagrin, and a lot of my customers. And it's it, it's kind of heartbreaking because you have customers. I go to work every day. And I go to work in the mornings, and we're just serving dinner right now. And a lot of people don't know what we do. You know, we go into work in the mornings, right? Even though we're not serving dinner until night. So of course, so like you say, you know, you wash dishes and you do other stuff. So when I go in, I'm dealing with the market in and I'm printing menus, and I'm updating the website and getting the QR codes, all right, and I'm doing stuff and while I'm there, the phone is ringing. And I answered the phone, and it's somebody who wants to come for lunch. So so so they want to come for lunch because they want to have a meeting or they want to celebrate something all day. They just hungry and they love our food. And I have to turn around and tell them. Well, sorry, we're closed for lunch right now. And a lot of people say, Yep, we understand. We've heard it from other places, you don't have the stuff. And sometimes I'm upfront and I'm, I don't know, I'm, I'm dusting the paintings up there or whatever. And I see people talking on the doors at lunchtime, and they they're trying to get in and I go out and I just have to explain to him I'm really sorry. But we're, we're not open right now. And as a lot of people just coming to us naturally organically to have lunch, and we have to turn them away.
How does it feel when you're up there and you're stepladder and you're dusting the painting of yourself?
Whatever. I just I try not to have paintings of myself around the restaurant. Well but there are a couple what what do you do so if you're the chef owner and you get an award for something or you're you're in a magazine article and then especially as people like to, to to print those things up and drop them off for me. So what am I supposed to do? I've got to put them up someone's been kind enough to keep it clean. You got to keep it clean. But I'm also changing lightbulbs and other stuff. I'm not just dusting off my pictures. But yeah, he got to keep the pictures well lit you know, change those light bulbs. But yeah, it's it's it's it's a little upsetting and I tried to if I see see the people I don't look behind the curtains and not you know, not answer the door. I'll go out and explain what's happening and and we don't know how long that situation is gonna happen.
We've talked about before how much the restaurant industry might be changed permanently going forward. Because all of these people, yes. who used to work in restaurants because, you know, for one reason they fell into it as as young adults.
Because we were social misfits, like Anthony Bourdain says, We're social misfits. And we found somewhere where we felt comfortable and...
Right, but with the shutdown, all of those people have found another place to go. Yeah. How long is it going to take to get another crop of social misfit misfits like yourselves?
Well, I don't think I mean, people are saying once that money stops in September, people are gonna go back to work. It's October that October so that nobody wants a job, right? So that's not happening. And those who are just sitting at home not working. They're not coming back before the holidays. They're gonna come out and find a new job, you know, right before Thanksgiving or before Christmas,
What's what's that gonna do? What's the holidays gonna be like for us?
I don't know, but I'm telling you, I don't feel these we're gonna get a surge of people until maybe February. It's gonna be interesting.
What I am excited about is to see how many people are coming out to us and to the oceanfront, we just wrapped up the Neptune Festival season. And a lot of people came out to the boardwalk and to the, the wine festival and to the sand castles and a lot of people came out were real happy, and it's pretty cool to see all these people out there. excited about being, I guess back in the game, eating, drinking and supporting, you know, our local resort here in Virginia Beach. I'm actually going to go back and do Roman pandemic first hit and we were doing the dinner packs. People are great they were driving up and they were getting dinner for four or whatever dinner for two and, and storing it I'm gonna do another version of that.
You're going to do the paella again.
Yeah, we'll be doing the paella and you know, some chicken vindaloo and some other things.
Chicken vindallo, you're going to put that on the market? Because that's that's like something you just did for friends and family.
Everyone they are my friends and family. My customers.
Put it out there.
I think I'm gonna do something. So we're gonna go back to doing dinner packs, because now we're pretty proficient with the takeout you know, I mean, we're getting regular takeout boxes now and we know what sells well and what travels well. So that's a positive that's come out of all this thing. We've figured out how to do another line of our business.
Right? And it's here to stay I think.
Yeah, yeah. And now we I mean, now we're super efficient. perficient rather, the curbside and having people prepay or you know pay for the cars not have to get out the cars it's it's just like it's actually like running two restaurants within a restaurant because you got your diners that are in any diners that are out. Well, I guess, I guess fast food, places have been doing that for years. He didn't just come up with this. I didn't just come up with it. But now I understand it.
All the fast food places they're just running one than not yet.
Now they reversed--food places have closed their doors to indoor dining, and they just do the takeout. Brady, what are you looking forward to the holidays are coming? What are you excited about? Oh, you're gonna make me some more eggnog this year?
Yeah, that's, that's the highlight of my holiday season is making you eggnog.
Trashing my kitchen in my house.
I'll make it at home this time? You don't have all the proper cooking equipment.
I know. So what are you excited about? Just generally with the restaurant business? What do you feel is gonna happen? What do you feel?
The closer we get to some stage, the closer we get to where we were two years ago. And that sounds so weird to say. But I think every day is an improvement. And and as as things begin to get back to normal. I'm happier every day. So I'm looking forward to that trend continuing? If it doesn't, we'll deal with it, of course, but I am looking forward to that trend continuing. And specifically always like, always enjoy we kind of miss Thanksgiving last year. I'm hopeful we'll be able to have it again. We'll have it returned to that this year. I mean, we're always busy. From basically from thanksgiving to New Year's Eve.
How do you think we're gonna fare this year with with holiday parties? What do you think, you think we're gonna get big groups? And again, because remember, last year, it was like, Oh, you can't have a group of 25 or something. Everything canceled. Yeah, awful. Yeah. What do you think is gonna happen this year? Do you think we're gonna be allowed to do them? But will the mindset of the people want to do them?
I think certain people will and certain people won't. I think that will be we'll have as much businesses we want. As much business as we can handle. Yeah, a lot of those groups are going to say, no, we're not doing it. But there's going to be somebody in to fill the shoes. Normally, when Christmas parties are over, they'll book for next year, on their way out the door. Because the slot says pole position site sites as Fridays and Saturdays right before Christmas. They get snatched up pretty quickly. So they'd like to lock that in on their way out the door. And they some of those people have lost their slots because they haven't booked this year. Right. And I mean, our December is starting to fill up, I'll say.
So I just had a thought. You remember that restaurant? It's a it's a steak restaurant. I can't remember what it's called. And you go there and you cook your own steak.
Is it the Great Steak.
Yeah, that's a great concept because let's say you were short staffed, you know, don't have many cooks or anything. They come and they cook their own food. And we don't have to worry about hiring line cooks.
Just come and drop it. You drop off some steak. It's the thing that I like about that is I...
And, and they can't complain if they overcook their own steak. It's like genius. We should open a restaurant based around that.
Around the Great Steak that closed because they went out of business?
Why did they go out of business? Maybe they retired because they made a whole bunch of money.
To Florida, so much money.
Brady, thanks for another Check therapy session.
I have restaurateurs go to spill there. You know, we should get a couch in the studio. So we can just ...
I was thinking about that. We just have two couches that where there's little reclining couches, and then, like lazy boys. Yeah, that'd be fine. And then we could just sit and have a session together on lamenting session. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. You're welcome. And I've enjoyed it. Thank you. Alvin, one more thing I'm excited about is now The Check is available on Amazon, on amazon music and on Audible. Yes, sir. And, and you can play it directly from your mobile app on remote mobile Facebook app.
Yeah. It's very, very exciting. It makes us readily accessible.
And that is Alvin. In addition to Apple podcast, podbean.
We're all over the place. Google. You can find us there's no excuse not to listen to the check. Well, there's a couple reasons.
I don't know if there's any excuses not to listen? Well, accessibility is no longer an excuse.
Yes. And we're still doing transcripts and photographs and that kind of stuff. Right? Of course. Yeah. All right. the checkpodcast.com
checkpodcast.com. A podcast about restaurants,
and the people working in restaurants, and like to dine in restaurants, and who own restaurants and who wash dishes in restaurants. Well, I'm Alvin.
And I'm Brady. And this is The Check