The mysterious investor had hired someone to run the restaurant. I got the impression that this person had to have been the nephew of someone powerful that this investor ‘owed a favor to’, because he dripped of incompetence. The investor also had hired a chef, which was important because this valley city, bordered by four sawmills and cattle ranches all around it was about to be introduced to Thai food and Bento Boxes. The restaurant would have Western food as well, but was limited to only 25% of the menu. I thought that was strange, considering this was a 24-hr truck stop, but he was the boss and he was signing my paycheck so I went along.
I organized a job fair for the business – the first of its kind in this valley city and we had over 600 people apply for the 50 positions. We held it at the Civic Center and it lasted all day with on-site interviews granted. I followed up with secondary interviews and slowly I put together the team that was going to help us open up this complex. I also developed a truck parts retail store to fill that 2,000 sf and got busy getting that set-up so it could open at the same time as the other businesses. Pretty soon we were within days of opening the doors to the public.
Fuel was delivered, inventory received, last minute checks on all equipment, and the training complete with the new staff. Finally, the day came and the doors opened. I remember clearly the very first customers into the restaurant. They were three truckers, mud-filled boots, all weighing well over 300 pounds who came into this elegantly styled restaurant with vaulted ceilings, rock faced pillars and high-end wicker chairs, all with large windows that looked out onto the valley and the community airport. They took a seat and examined the menu. I looked on from a distance, not sure what to think. Smiles and excitement came over their faces and when the server approached them to take their order they excitedly ordered sushi and Thai dishes.
I was shocked. Who would have thought? I was expecting a lamentation filled with profanity about where the missing deep-fried chicken was or salisbury steak with mashed potatoes drenched in gravy. Apparently I had some misconceptions about truckers and their appetites.
There was much excitement and fanfare over the launch of this new truck stop. Business began to boom as more and more people stopped by to check it out. Weeks went by and I was beginning to imagine just how large that bonus was going to be. And then the complaints began to come in. One by one, customers would leave the restaurant and walk over to the C-store counter and spout off about what they had just experienced in the restaurant. Apparently, it did not take long for the ‘nephew’s’ incompetence to come shining through. Most notably was his methodology in dealing with various customer complaints. He would march out to the table and confront the customer, with the result being a very loud yelling match, which inevitably would end up with the nephew telling the customer off, demanding that he leave and never come back. It was like a really bad example of Seinfeld’s “The Soup Nazi”.
It didn’t take long after that when suddenly the nephew disappeared without notice. When I spoke with the investor about it he only told me that “His assistance was required back down at the coast”. I was now given the task of repairing the damaged reputation of the restaurant as well as continuing to build up the rest of the businesses in this complex.