The Ego Dilemma

Over the last 20 years, I’ve been in this game, I have met and seen several restaurants close forever because of an owner who had to do it all. They wanted to keep it personal and be a part of every decision and task. These owners were incapable of trusting. Never able to train, and as a result, could never correctly delegate any task. They would assume everyone else didn’t have their best interests at heart or couldn’t be taught, and they would work themselves into a tizzy. I’m all for keeping it blue-collar, knowing your craft, making food on the line, and chopping it up with customers. But because I can, not because I’m the only resource.

A restaurant owner I’ve known since I started in 2004 owned a rib restaurant, and he would be the one going to Sam’s Club even into his 70s. While in the store, he picked up the trash instead of having a protocol to clean up each shift. I saw him push aside a server off the counter to say, “I’ll do it. You’re not doing it right.” He was a dedicated owner who just did everything backward. He’s a nice person but not a great leader. He eventually got very sick and had to close. He was the keystone; without him, nothing could run. This is how he designed it, even if he didn’t knowingly realize that.

Another restaurant had an insane level of sales, but because the owner wanted to be the only one making the tacos, they decided to close on Sundays so he could have a day off, then close forever when he got sick unexpectedly. This decision was at the peril of the rest of this family, who were eager and willing to make the food, but he wouldn’t have it. They eventually closed for good, to the stunned surprise of everyone in town who loved them.

The need to be needed is an emotional weakness. Sure, these guys can play it off like they’re passionate about their craft, and there’s even a marketing angle to that, but it’s a dead-end path.

Doing every single task and not letting go is an EGO play. I repeat, It’s ego. It’s an egotistical move. It’s the belief that no one on earth could do what you do. As much as passion plays a role in this job, it is not sustainable. And if you don’t want something sustainable, if you want to make the food yourself and have that be your thing till the day you die, that be it, so be it. But if you have other lives that depend on this job besides your own, then you should spread the wealth and even focus on the things you dig that you love. Let’s say it is making the pizza yourself. Great, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the one who goes to pick up every single drop and handle every single nuance.

You’ll never grow that way, and growth is scary. Growth means doing something not in your wheelhouse. Most young people are filled with vim and vigor to take on the world, but they need to do it themselves for an extended period to understand the task. Eventually, they get it. People who get set in their ways DO NOT ALLOW those kids to develop; they only hurt themself. They feel so comfortable in that role that they can’t imagine anyone else doing it, and it’s at the peril of themselves and those around them. Take this as a warning to your ego: your employees, both current and future, won’t be perfect. Still, perfection only happens through repetition. Allowing others to win with you is the only way to win yourself.

And you can win, and be home, and have a restaurant that doesn’t NEED you and still be worth the success you’ve rightfully earned.

Here’s the book that started it all...


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