If you like this story, please check out my completed book, “Butts in the Seat”; one reviewer said it was “amusing, entertaining, and provides therapeutic value.”
Melissa looks glum.
“Why so glum?” Jim asks her.
“Steve and Lenny are here,” she answers.
“Oh,” Jim says. “So sorry.”
Steve and Lenny are the owners. When they bought the bar two years ago, it was called Pogo’s; their first act was to rename it after themselves. They settled on Stenny’s after considering calling it Leve; they ultimately decided it sounded like a command, and not a welcoming one at that.
“What do they want this time?” Jim asks.
Most of the regulars knew that Steve and Lenny, usually referred to as Stenny to save time and energy, were the bane of the bartenders’ existence. Boyhood friends, they were partners in a 2-person accounting firm they named Thomson, a blending of their last names, Thomas and Dawson. They were very successful, had made a ton of money handling back-end accounting functions for small companies for whom those functions were both a nuisance and impossible to master. They also liked going to bars, so one day they decided to buy one, and after just a few weeks were the new proprietors of Pogo’s.
Other than the name, Steve and Lenny didn’t make any significant changes their first year; giving rise to hope that they would be the best kind of owners—flush with cash, absent, aware of their own inexperience and therefore perfectly happy to let the staff continue to do what they had been doing; after all, the bar was as profitable as most of the local competition.
Alas, that hope came crashing down as their 2nd year of ownership began; it started with a Sunday morning all-staff meeting.
Melissa had closed the bar at 2am the previous night; she was not happy about this 8am meeting.
“This blows,” she said to dishwasher Thomas as he joined her at a table in the dining room. Stenny’s was also a mid-priced restaurant; there was almost no overlap between customers who frequented the dining room and those for whom the bar was a 2nd home.
“Aw, Cher,” he said, using the nickname derived from her last name. “Aren’t you curious about what the boss men have to say?”
“No, not at all. Anything they say that I don’t already know will be stupid, or pointless.”
Fellow bartenders Stephen and Tara are also there; they nod in agreement.
Servers Sarah and Ryan join them; Sarah is chipper as usual. “This is exciting,” she says. “I can’t wait to hear their new ideas. I have some of my own. I hope this will be an open forum.”
If Melissa were less tired, she would have said something along the lines of Come over here so I can punch you in the face.
The rest of the staff drifted in—the barbacks, the cooks, the busboys, the kitchen workers, the hostesses. It was 8:07 and everyone was there, except for Steve and Lenny.
“Well this takes the cake,” Melissa said.
“That’s mild for you, Cher,” Ryan says. “And old-fashioned.”
“Yeah, it’s from the 1800s. Champagne Mike told me that. He loves idioms. Back then contests or whatever were called cakewalks; the prize was a cake. I’m too tired to curse right now.”
Steve and Lenny arrive at 8:12. Steve is carrying a laptop and a projector and places them on a table. He opens the laptop and begins punching keys.
Lenny says, “Sorry we’re a little late. We were polishing up our PowerPoint presentation. We’ll project it on that wall,” he says, pointing to a wall behind Melissa and Thomas. “Your close attention please.”
Now, a year later, Melissa remembers that morning and sighs as she begins to answer Jim’s question about why Stenny was in the house.
“Well, every one of their initial ideas failed miserably so word is that they came up with a new batch and will be presenting them after we close tonight.”
“What were some of the initial ideas? If I knew, I’ve forgotten.”
“Yeah, they didn’t last long. Let me think.” Melissa ponders for 10 seconds.
“No cash or credit for regulars—we had to send monthly invoices. That lasted for one billing cycle until Stenny realized how much time and money would be spent chasing late-pays and no-pays. Asking regulars to schedule their visits in advance, so there could be assigned seating. Charging a buck if they wanted pub mix. Stenny thought that was brilliant—they’d say ‘Straight to the bottom line, people, straight to the bottom line!’ Implementing a premium night—all menu items under $12 were unavailable. Stenny thought it would give customers a taste for the more expensive items and would ultimately increase revenue. Of course, customers who wanted a burger or a chicken sandwich just left. Some never came back.”
“Oh, now I remember premium night. You found a way around it. I wanted a turkey club. You charged me $12 but gave me a credit of $3.01 to bring it to the normal price. And gave me fries for free to apologize.”
“Yep, I did that for the regulars. But not for customers I didn’t know. Afraid they were spies.”
Melissa and Jim both see Crazy Daisy wave her hand to get Melissa’s attention.
“Let me know how the meeting goes,” Jim says, as Melissa heads down the bar to see what she can do for Crazy Daisy. She hopes Daisy just needs a re-fill, and is not in need of a therapy session.