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LuckyGuy's avatar

Is it my fault and, if yes, what is my obligation?

Asked by LuckyGuy (43583points) May 13th, 2023

In January of this year a small, family owned restaurant opened in my area. The husband and wife, in their young 40s, are from the South. They decided to differentiate their restaurant fare by serving more traditional Southern food like shrimp and grits, shrimp po boys, pulled pork etc.
The place is quiet, spotless, the food is excellent and interesting, and the service can’t be beat. That’s easy because they had almost no customers.
They are located in a spot where few cars go by and they are surrounded by farms and crop land. Far off the beaten path, there is no reason for a car to drive in that area.
The place is 4.5 miles from my house – running distance. I can go there in the morning about once per week and have breakfast.
Often there is only one other customer – an elderly gentleman in his 90s.
He and I were talking privately and he said he was hoping they will stay in business and frankly he can’t figure out how they survived these past 3 months. I agreed.
So I did something. I secretly told the Food and Restaurant critic for the newspaper about the place and suggested she check it out. Well, she did. And LOVED it! She brought a staff photographer and wrote a very positive article. While there she told the owners that I was the person who told her about it.
The article showed up online on a Thursday and on Friday morning the place was busy. On Saturday there were so many people there was no place to park and she called me for help. I cleared tables, washed dishes, helped cook. On Sunday she had 2 high school kids working – children of friends. But they can’t work on school days. At one point there was a ½ hour wait to get in.
A second article showed up in the print newspaper a few days later and things really got crazy.
So… I have been helping any way I can, running to the restaurant supply store, setting up a door announcer, washing dishes, helping cook, clearing tables, etc.
After two weeks of this pressure, the 2 owners are exhausted. They have offered to pay me – which I have refused. I said I just want them to do well. A shrimp and grits plate is enough.
On one hand this can be the best thing that could have happened to them. On the other hand they are totally beat at the end of the day. They are now only serving breakfast and lunch and stopped serving dinner because they cannot physically keep up. They are trying to get help but they do not have time to even breathe.

I have been helping them for the past 2 weeks and the surge is tapering off but it is still busy.
Is it all my fault? What do you think is my obligation here?

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23 Answers

janbb's avatar

Even you, overachiever and Type A personality that you are, must realize that you are doing far too much already to help them and that you were under no obligation to help them in the ways you have already. Restaurants rise and fall and it is great that your actions resulted in the surge they are experiencing. Usually, after an initial surge, the business will revert to a comfortable level and hopefully, they will start getting more help. You did them a favor by boosting the place, it’s nice that you have been pitching in, far too much IMHO, but it’s time to let them figure things out for themselves. Maybe you have to let them down easily by going in less to help but what you have been doing seems way over the top to me.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@janbb I agree with you. But to be clear, the only time they asked for help was at 9:30 on that Saturday when there were people waiting to get in.
I figure they only have one chance at making a good first impression. If I can help take the load off them a little and let her talk to customers, (in that interesting southern accent), I am helping increase customer traffic for them in the future.

I don’t for a second think they are intentionally taking advantage of me. They are extremely appreciative of anything I do. Also I have not had to pay for a meal since this happened. She also said when I host my event in September they will gladly close the restaurant so they can help me.
I just want them to do well. They deserve it.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

First of all, I applaud your wanting to help them. Although you did not intend for them to be overwhelmed, you certainly brought them more attention and more business.

I’m not sure you’re obligated to do more but I wonder if you might suggest to them that, until they are able to hire some more help, maybe they just do brunch on the weekends and then either breakfast or lunch on weekdays. This would still make for them being very busy for part of the day, but it would be a limited time and they could deal with it without being so exhausted at the end of the day. They can let people know that they want to be open more but they’re going to have to be able to find more help first. I know of plenty of restaurants that are only open for limited hours. If they’re truly in demand, and it sounds like they are, then this won’t deter business.

seawulf575's avatar

It sounds like you are seeing the unintended consequences of your actions. What you did was nothing other than touting their good food and their good restaurant. That does not obligate you to anything. They asked you for help one day and you showed up and it sounds like you have extended that to other help as well.

If you really want to help at this point, I’d suggest sitting down with them and telling them your concern. They already know you called the food critic so there is no confession there. But you might need to stress to them that you didn’t foresee the massive response that they got nor the negative impact on them. Work with them to figure out what they want now and how to get it. It might be that they don’t really know what they want or how to go about getting the help they need. Or it might be their desires are not what you might think. Communicate first and solve problems second.

Acrylic's avatar

Your heart was in the right place. You gave a good review, prompted another good review. Customers tried, gave good reviews, came back. You did well! You were not obligated to to give then anything, in turn they are obligated to you nothing.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Galatians 6:9–10

janbb's avatar

@LuckyGuy I agree with you. i don’t think they’re taking advantage of you at all. I’m sure they’re appreciative of what you’re doing and I know you’re doing it with the best of intentions. I just think you need to back off a bit.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Your obligation is as far as you are willing it too be.
Sounds like the best thing for the restaurant is to hire a good manager. Then. They could have things delegated.

Caravanfan's avatar

Not your fault and you have no obligation. Also, I wouldn’t work for free.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@Caravanfan he gets free shrimp n grits… Do people not understand this?...

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Caravanfan I consider anything I do for them charity. And I’m getting free meals. :-)

It looks like I’ll get it back when they take care of the food at my 4 day event.

Hey, Is anyone here looking for a restaurant job in western NY?

Caravanfan's avatar

@LuckyGuy @MrGrimm888 Fair enough. Still not at fault.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

It’s their fault for serving good food. If it was not you that discovered it and got the word out, someone else probably would have.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the rush of customers will taper off over the next few weeks. Not your fault. No way for you to know the response would be this amazing.

They could do reservations to control the crowd, but that can also be a big problem if they don’t schedule well.

I think it’s great you have helped out. You can’t do it forever though. Hopefully, business levels off to be more manageable.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You need to put yourself in charge of hiring…..

jca2's avatar

Help them figure out where they can find labor in the local towns. Maybe they can advertise in a ten or twenty mile radius. There must be people out there that are looking for jobs. They can post in local Facebook groups that they need kitchen help and servers. Posts in FB groups are free.

Zaku's avatar

You have no obligation.

They should hire staff to help. Possibly even a business manager, if they don’t know how to organize that efficiently.

LostInParadise's avatar

This reminds me of the Yogi Berra line, “Nobody goes to that restaurant. It is too crowded.” What you did is quite commendable. They should be able to hire more staff to help them run the place.

LuckyGuy's avatar

They decided to do a Mother’s Day Brunch buffet today and offered 2 seatings. 10 AM and 12 AM at a set price. Both are fully booked! I estimate 40–45 people per seating.
Their brother in law is helping in the kitchen and the 2 high school kids are working.
We’ll see how it goes.
(I am sitting this one out.)

jca2's avatar

The fact that they now have so much business when before they had almost none, was in itself a great gift that you gave them, @LuckyGuy.

SnipSnip's avatar

You have no obligation to help them in their success.

LuckyGuy's avatar

My worry was that they would be completely overwhelmed and screw up this one chance to introduce themselves to the community. That was why I felt I had to help them.

The Mother’s Day event went very well – without my help! It is clear they will have many repeat customers. She told me one person asked them to host a graduation party there and an “old guy” wants to meet there with his motorcycle riding group.
Great! I can relax.
I can now go back to running there in the morning once a week and enjoying a leisurely breakfast.

SnipSnip's avatar

Lucky Guy you are. ;)

Cupcake's avatar

In retrospect, perhaps, consider getting permission to invite a food critic. It sounds like things are working out, which is nice.

I’d think people would be willing to drive over from the nearest city, which probably has a fairly large population of people familiar with and desirous of classic southern food. I know of a few popular “soul food”-like restaurants that used to be in operation there, as well as less formal catering and delivery places. Sounds like a winner!

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