January 20th, 2016

     ...Continued from October of last year...

    Quick recap where we are in the story: I had just moved from Iowa to Cleveland to take the reigns of the Hey Joe's kitchen.  I believed in Hey Joe's for what it represented to the Delta even if it was brand new and had no street cred... yet. Hey Joe's was a place where live music and creativity could thrive.  My mission wasn't to immediately get payed millions of dollars in this environment, it was to make everyone- from the staff to the community- believe in Hey Joe's, so that everyone could see it for what, to me, it was worth.  I took the responsibility personally.

    So, you ask, how do you make people believe?  In sports, more specifically running track, which in a previous Weejy's World tales I've compared to working in a kitchen, it's simple to make people believe.  You make people believe by winning the race.  If you win every time, people believe that you're an awesome runner.  Restaurants aren't too different, but the race of the restaurant world starts on the first day of business and might not ever end.  There are definitely daily check points along the way in the restaurant world to take metaphorical water breaks.  If people are cheering you on at these check points, or, in other words, if people are still coming into your restaurant on a daily basis, then you're doing something right. 

    Bear with me.

    Backtracking a bit, Hey Joe's wasn't sure what it wanted to be in its conception. It was originally supposed to be a record store or a coffee shop, as in, a "cup of 'Joe.'"  Hence the name.  Somewhere during the planning phase and after the naming phase, however, it was decided that Hey Joe's would be a burger/beer/music joint. Fair enough.  Good plan.  Anyway, if you talk with the owner of Hey Joe's, Justin Huerta, he'll tell you the first year was tough.  I actually came here one year after it was open, so sadly, I missed all the fun that comes with opening a restaurant (sarcasm).  Anyway, there were tons of mistakes made in the first year just like any other restaurant on the planet.  When I started in August of 2010, let's just say there were still some issues.  The good news for me was that the kitchen staff was pretty decent.  They could cook, more or less, and they could work fast- a solid base to start with.  The issues had more the do with a lack of systems and a lack of real identity.  There was no real menu nor a set way of "what went on a burger."  Nothing in the kitchen was portioned out.  I repeat, portion control didn't exist in the Hey Joe's kitchen prior to the summer of 2010.  In other words, one burger might've weighed 6 ounces and the one next to it might've weighed 14 ounces.  That's not good for consistency.  That's not good for pricing purposes.  That's not good for anything.  There were some other kitchen "no-no's" that I won't get into due to time constraints, but, long story short, there's no way the place would be open today had it kept operating in such a foolish, and, I'd say, disrespectful way.  In racing terms, there would be no one cheering us on a various daily checkpoints under this model.  So, mission number one was to set up an actual menu, set real systems in place, and fire the moron who claimed responsibility over the kitchen prior to me.  I will not, at this time, discuss problems with the front of house.  But for the first few weeks, I can say I missed a lot of my co-workers from the Fairfield Golf and Country Club, even Jess, the compulsively lying waiter who always stirred the pot- and trust me, that's saying something.

    Around the same time I was coming into a groove of setting systems in place, a buddy of mine asked me while hanging out at Hey Joe's:  "How does this place make money?"  He meant it literally, not facetiously.  I was shocked at the question because it made me realize that no one honestly knew what Hey Joe's was.  Of course, when I came into Hey Joe's I understood that it was a restaurant, but right then, I realized that no one else had any clue.  An entire year had passed by and no one knew what Hey Joe's was.  My hands were much more full than I previously thought.  The former track runner inside me had been standing on the block ready to endure whatever mileage it would take, waiting on the gun to sound.  I realized then that the starting gun had blasted long before I got to Hey Joe's.  I was entering a race that had started a year before I even got to the track. It was time to catch up. 

To be continued.