City number one. Restaurant number one.
My first restaurant with this long-established corporation . Sales over a million and a staff of around thirty. It was also a union work environment, which at the time was very much a rare thing, even today it is still relatively rare. The employees were represented by the largest union of auto workers in the country. Apparently only representing workers who are building vehicles for us was not enough, they wanted to branch out into fast food as well.
I was with this restaurant for the duration of the other manager’s maternity leave. She went on leave a couple months after I started there and I ended up moving onto the next restaurant just a couple months after my first child was born- shortly after her return from her maternity leave. During my time at this restaurant I would end up working twelve hour shifts minimum each day and often six days a week all for a paycheck that couldn’t cover my bills. The shift supervisors in this restaurant were making very close to what I was making, which made the extra time I was putting in for no amount of extra pay all the worse. To top it off, during my time in this restaurant I had my life threatened by a customer. He explained to me that he was going home to grab his gun and would be back to kill me. I called the police and it took a group of about ten men to take him down in a spectacular scene that played out in the restaurant’s parking lot.
When the other manager returned from maternity leave there was room to have me stay on, and the allure of having to work much, much less was attractive, but then corporate approached me with an offer to move to another city to cover for the manager there who had just gone on an indefinite medical leave. They offered to cover my moving expenses, provide me with a bonus and a raise. How could I say no?
City number two. Restaurant number two.
This restaurant did well under half a million dollars and had a staff of ten if I were generous. It was also a union shop and they knew it. When I moved to this city I was instructed by corporate to focus on customer service as it had suffered considerably over the past while. At that time corporate had quite an extensive mystery shopper program in place that would provide an extensive monthly report on how well the restaurant was performing in a variety of areas. Having already found some success in this area in the first restaurant I applied those similar techniques in this second location. To my surprise and enjoyment, the first three months that I was there we scored a perfect score. To score three perfect scores in a row made both the manager and the store itself some key rewards from corporate.
It seemed interesting to me that the previous manager suddenly made a miraculous recovery and demanded to be returned to her position as manager in this store. There was some behind the scenes chatter with her and corporate, and considering her tenure with the company had been pushing twenty or so years, the company relented and made arrangements to move me along.
City number three. Restaurant number three.
The third restaurant that I was moving to had sales between half a million and a million and a staff of around twenty during peak times of the year. It was not a union store, but the manager was still instructed to follow the union contract, offering all the same benefits to the employees in an effort to keep the union out of the store. The current manager was being transferred down to the coast, although in confidence she had shared with me that she took whatever transfer she could in order to have corporate pay for the move, but in reality she was going to leave corporate shortly after she got to her new location.
The neat thing about this third store was its location. It was right back to the same city where I started with corporate. In the same city where both my family lived and my wife’s family lived. In that sense, it couldn’t have been a better move for us. When we moved back to this city we came with our first born, who was right around the six-month mark. We had been married for just over a year and a half and since corporate paid for the move once again, threw in a bit of a bonus and a raise, things were looking much, much better for us.
In a lot of ways it was great that we had found ourselves back in this valley city. We left this place as two single young adults, who had just gotten married but hadn’t spent one day in this place as a married couple. Now, a year and a half later we had returned as a married couple with a child. This new legitimacy also provided an opportunity to clean the slate once again so to speak. A chance to re-invent ourselves and re-position ourselves back into this community and back into the lives of our families. After all we were now Mr. and Mrs. and our parents were now grandparents and our siblings were now uncles. Just enough things had changed to reset the clocks.
Things were looking up.