So I usually try to keep my posts to a short length, something easy to read, light, nothing too serious… then of course I didn’t blog for months at a time. Mostly because I just didn’t know what to say. A few people want me to just talk about the food, because we are a restaurant. But we are also first time entrepreneurs. That has been a huge challenge. My main career is also in health care and not at the restaurant and so there have been a lot of things that I didn’t even begin to realize about working in, or running a restaurant. Or in truth, having employees, or trying to manage expectations of customers, the public, our employees….
Overall, I am very proud of where we are and what we have accomplished in the first 10 months. Yup, as of the 10th it’s 10 months. And for the most part we put out good consistent food with good consistent service. And we have learned that sometimes stuff happens and we are quick to try to make it right. We are in a small town in a very rural part of PEI. There are a number of seasonal and full time operations in town that serve food. There are only so many locals and islanders to keep these places going through the year.
And I think each place in the town has a role, a place, and I think all of us working together in some way help the community be better. Its why we made a few decisions over the fall and winter that I thought worth mentioning. We know that in Souris, there are a few places to eat, and we all have good food and, I think, a specific mood we are promoting. At Lot 45, we don’t do the fine dining that 21 Breakwater is known for. We don’t have VLT’s or a dance floor. We try to make sure that we don’t overlap by having a big event when someone is having a big event. We even try to make sure that our wing nights don’t coincide with the other pub in town. We want everyone to be as successful as possible and so we have tried to do different types of events (like the dinner theatre) than the other spots in town do.
It was a lot of fun in November and December to do Christmas Parties and the dinner theatre. We got to decorate and get the back room ready for 100 people for a sit down meal. It let us channel our inner creatives and gave us the opportunity to give some extra service experience to our youngest staff members. Overall there were very few hiccups and we were extremely happy with how it all went. I certainly don’t think anyone left hungry! We are also very thankful to Upstreet, their support and partnership to help us pull off this event.
Any time you may be thinking of booking an event we can certainly discuss menu options, special meals, different types of environments from mix and mingle events with munchies to full sit down dinners with a bit of a different type of meal – we just need some notice and time to discuss options. If your group is planning to come on short notice (<24 hours), we can always put together a shorter list of menu items to order from for almost any sized group.
We opened in March and went full tilt until Labour Day weekend. Once we opened the deck we realized that we needed more staff – and over the summer we often had pay periods of 30 staff members – and that doesn’t include all of the work Darin does or hours he puts in on the line. We learned about the traffic with the CTMA ferry and the panic that happens when the ferry pulls in. We learned that our restaurant can go from empty to full in less than 20 minutes, so sometimes we need to have a lot of staff on even though it seems dead. We have also now learned that while in the summer we needed 5 people in the kitchen and 6 people out front, now we can actually get away with 2 staff for half of the week. That’s a huge adjustment. Not to mention of course how much stock you need to deal with all of the meals served.
And unfortunately less traffic meant staff cuts and layoffs. When we were going into August and a big chunk of our staff was leaving for various reasons we had to replace and so we hired some more. And we learned that we had too many staff for September and October, but they were also new. And new staff takes a little longer to do some things. And need to learn. And once we had everyone kind of trained up to where we were comfortable we realized….we had too many. And we weren’t sure how many we could sustain over the winter. Unfortunately I think it came as a bit of surprise to some that there would be layoffs. I wish that wasn’t how it was but…. I am learning such is the nature of seasonal work.
I’ve never worked seasonally. Not even as a kid. I worked in a grocery store, then offices, then as a RN before becoming an NP. Layoffs were never part of my life and in truth, over the last 16 years I have often had more work than not and deal with understaffing vs overstaffing. It’s a whole new challenge. You want to make sure the people you have on, have enough hours. Even if it gets lean and it’s slow. You also want to make sure you have people who can handle a reduction in hours if need be for a short term, otherwise it’s likely kinder to let them do EI for a stable income.
And, we still have the same philosophy that everyone needs a place to start, to learn, to get better at things and then if they move on you feel like they have learned something.
I also thought, somewhat naively that working in the ER and an ICU environment would prepare me for working in a high paced area. I’m used to working with all sorts of different people, in all sorts of different emotional states. Over the years, it was not uncommon to hear nurses remark that some patients felt that the H for Hospital really stood for Hotel and that patient’s expectations are sometimes unrealistic. I can now say with some confidence that there is nothing like the restaurant business and being a server or working in a kitchen. I now know why some of the calmest and most go with the flow nurses I ever worked with started as servers or worked in restaurants . . . it’s an eye opening experience.
What has been amazing though has been watching some of the staff that have been with us since Day 1. I will admit, there aren’t many at this point. In the kitchen Sherri, Rose and Riley have been incredible workers who were with us in March and continue along. Out front Allison, Cassandra, Shea, Skylar, Sarah and Olivia have all proven to be keen, reliable and a marvelous asset. We have other staff right now who are great, and staff who have come and gone who have been wonderful too. BUT there is something special about those people who have been with you since the beginning (wow I make it sound like it’s been decades!). But in truth these people have worked through our new computer system, the menu and changes, the crazy busy summer and the quiet fall, the time the pipes froze in March and the time they froze this winter…. They just know and understand how this place ticks. And we have grown together.
Speaking of pipes freezing we know there have been some heating issues with the really cold days being back again. We are hoping that the recent renovation that was done will help, and that it won’t continue to happen over the winter. And trust us and the oil bill – we really hope it doesn’t keep happening over the winter!
So…. For a minute lets talk food. Our BBQ Nachos – made it to the regular menu. Our naked wings (which were usually only on Tuesdays) made it to the regular menu and are still cheaper on Tuesdays. Our wings are now available as take out even on Tuesdays (but you have to come in and order them). We are continuing with our burger of the month – January is the French Onion Burger which is 11.99 for the platter. We always have a daily soup, sandwich and our supper special. Advertised of course daily on all of our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
I feel like I have gotten caught up a bit now, and so for 2018 my goal is a blog a month. But as usual, I do enjoy input. Any specials you would like to see in 2018? Any thoughts you would like to share with us? Anything you would like me to talk about in a blog?
Above all else I am very thankful for you, those people who have come back and eaten with us, drank with us, and spent some time with us so far. We hope that over the coming year we continue to make great memories together.