Lyle's Blog

A house of cards

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sometimes when I write it is because I cannot sleep. Tonight is one of those times. Actually, I was sleeping very soundly when I had a bad dream. In that dream, I was asleep and someone was in the room and about to swing a bat at me. I yelled out and Judy woke me up. As I lay there in bed, I began to think of things and wondered if my dream was a manifestation of my thoughts of the days that we are in right now.

We are living in very interesting times right now. And the next few weeks just might be some of the most important weeks for our nation that we in our lifetimes have ever come across.

We watch as the value of our IRA, houses, and other investments dwindle instead of grow. We again watch as the government bails out the banks that gave out the loans to people that they should not have. We also see others lose their houses who in good times, would not have because of those same banks loan practices. It is disheartening to me to see those people cry out to the banks only to have those same banks show disinterest and to have those same banks cry out to the federal government only to be bailed out by them. Now, I understand the importance of the bailout but I also understand the importance of responsibility.

We watch as energy prices rise and add more fuel to the economical fire. Our dependence on foreign oil only leads to more fear as we watch certain parts of our governmental machine block all attempts to separate us from that dependence. We need to be working on alternative energy but we also in the mean time need to be be working with equal fervor to produce more of the energy and fuel here.

We watch an impending election and await the results. But we also watch as those same politicians that we are due to elect bash one another and give us general statements on what they intend to do instead of how they intend to do it. We watch a media report these things with their own personal biases (rather left or right) instead of giving us the facts and letting us make our own decisions. We also watch those same medias bring up race and gender issues seemingly trying to ignite other things into the process that not only don't need to be there but can, in my mind, only generate certain anger in some areas. As that detective of old on TV used to says, "Lets stick to the facts, only the facts.".

All these things affect us both personally and in business.

I have been watching my business closer than ever lately. I strive to keep the product and service to the highest levels. I watch my prices closely as I know that I am in an interesting level of my business area. My purveyors can raise their prices up with the market but I cannot necessarily raise mine in the same manner. For instance, I have seen some products rise as much as forty percent overnight but cannot raise my menu prices in the same manner. This is not a complaint but merely a fact.

I watch others fall around me and that makes me become even more diligent to insure that does not happen to me and my crew. I am constantly aware that their are forty other people here who are relying on Judy and I to be successful so that they can remain working also.

I scrutinize my profit and loss statements on a monthly basis. Our sales have remained stable with only a 3 percent or so reduction. I feel good there in that others have claimed up in the 20 percent range. I have been able to keep the food prices in line at the same time but have been frustrated with the added fuel surcharge that they are all giving us. It seems to be one more thing that they can add to help themselves in this problem that we all have that I cannot pass on. Would any of you put up with a nickle surcharge on one of my burgers to compensate for my added fuel costs? LOL

The payroll over that last few years has been an area that I cannot seem to get under control, however. To me, the biggest reason for that is our minimum wage law that we put into effect a few years back. My payroll percentage has constantly increased over the years to where it is now encroaching on 50 percent of my sales. The biggest area of that raise has been in the waitstaff. And we are soon to give them yet another 45 cent per hour raise. The problem there is what I have been saying for many years. We are giving the person who is making them most in the business the biggest raise. In this enforced raise, we cannot give the others that need it more the raises that they deserve. I have all of my areas broken down and can easily show this. While the rest of my crews wages have stayed stable percentage wise to my sales, my waitstaff wages have grown exponentially over the years. And to top that off, when I am forced to raise my prices at the end of the year to compensate, they will gain yet another raise in that with the higher menu prices come higher tips. Most of us tip on percentage. Once again, the media will put its own spin on this issue. They show how the minimum wage law helps the struggling single mom who is waiting tables to make a life but does not continue on to the dishwasher, cashier, or cook who needs the wages also but are held back. Before this minimum wage law started up, I was paying dishwashers as much as $1.50 more than minimum in some cases. That has reduced to most of them being minimum or only slightly over. Once again, not a complaint but a reason why so many restaurants are falling and why many more will.

After my rant, I can only come to one conclusion, however. We must all go on as business as usual. It is important that we continue to watch and to correct as we need to but not panic. If we panic, we will all run and pull our money out of banks that will then bring on more pressure to a government that will only produce more money to prop up the banks and in turn make the bills that we have held out more useless. We must all continue buying and selling. We must continue to attempt to maintain our businesses and our lifestyles.

As in my dream, we must be alert to what is happening around us.....but also as in my dream, it is important that we get the rest that we need to do the prudent thing. And.....that is why, I need to go back to sleep. Maybe now that I have gotten some of this off of my chest, I can.

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