Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Service is a four letter word

Let me prefice this by saying that all restaurants have good food. If they don't, they will soon be out of business because people will just stop coming. So, if you want your business to stand out, there is one aspect that you need to pay particular care to and that is service.

And service, in my opinion, can be wrapped up in one four letter word...."care". Let's take, for instance, the server. The most important aspect of a server that I look for is that they honestly care for the person that they are serving more than the money that is put on the table. To one degree or another, every one of my servers has that characteristic or they just won't work out on my staff. Any time that one does not have that, they generally don't last very long with us. And I am not saying that I fire them, I actually don't fire many people at all. They just don't fit in and most of them come to that realization quite soon and just move on.

A case in point is a recent server for us. She had worked for me 10 years back and she had a bright dynamic personality but I had forgotten that one flaw that she had. I quickly remembered it however when I caught her asking the cashier if a particular customer had tipped on their visa card. It brought back the memories of her past time. I instructed the cashier that she was not to give her any information regarding her tips other than the total at the end of the shift. I then began to pay more attention to the busing in her section. I would insure that I was the one picking up the tip and then when she would ask where they came from, I would say "Oh, somewhere in your section. I am not sure which table.". The fact that she didn't know where the money came from (even though she did pretty well) seemed to eat her alive and she soon moved on and is now serving in some other restaurant in this town.

Now, I am not saying that my servers don't have flaws. As a matter of fact, all of them have at least one. But, one thing that they all have in common is the care of their customer to one extent or another. I have one in particular who at times drives me up the wall with her other characteristics such as forgetting to put drinks on her ticket, not pricing out something, spending to much time with a customer when she has many others, not always paying close attention to her presentation, or not doing all of her backup. But that one part of her work outshines all of them and she is one of our most sought after servers. "She cares!". She laughs when they are happy, she cries when they are sad or hurt, and she takes the time to know them on a personal basis and I love her for that.

I have and will continue to preach that one word to every employee that I have. The dishwashers have to care enough to insure that cleanliness and sanitation of every plate and silver. The cook has to care enough with his or her food whether that be in preparation or in presentation and taste. The cashier needs to care enough to greet each customer and attempt to insure that their food and service was what they expected. And the server needs to show each and every one of their customers that they are important to our business. I am not saying that all of those things happen all of the time. I am saying that that is what we strive for, however.

BTW, I ran into another blogger today. I talked with Duncan on the phone regarding his father who is one of the Docs who meet twice a week in our diner. We really enjoy (Judy especially) the presence of the retired Doctors who were the foundation and the epitome of what medicine used to be in this town. Back then when a Doctor specialized in his patient not just a particular part of his body. We are truly blessed to have these guys come in a couple times a week and have coffee and talk. When I was 11 yrs old, I had to have emergency surgery. One of them put me under while another worked on me. I told the surgeon about that and he said, "Wow, I found a survivor!".

Anyway, Duncan told me to keep on blogging and I returned the greeting. I am sorry, Duncan, that I could not keep on talking. I was caught up in my responsibilities at the time. I realize that we both have something in common and that is we both remember Bend the way it used to be and in our own ways strive to keep that up in our own businesses. One day, I hope to be able to sit down and get to know you better.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

House for Sale

I have recently put my house up for sale and am moving shortly to a larger house closer to the diner. I had wrote earlier about this adventure but after receiving quite a bit of negative feedback and some of it downright insulting, I pulled the report until I had figured out how to screen the feedback. I have no problem with people who disagree with me, I just don't feel that I need to accept the insults.

The purpose of this entry is not just to promote my house sale but to bring to light the realtor that I have found to sale the house who in these less than favorable times has used his ingenuity, worked incredibly hard, and most importantly has shown to be a man of his word at every step and every move.

We signed the papers on Friday for him to be our agent, he took pictures of the house, and by the end of the day, he had built a website for the sale based upon the physical address of the house. Yesterday, he placed the sign and put the beautifully finished brochures in it. He did all this while doing all of his other realtor chores such as showing the house around the corner from the one that we bought.

His name is Tarris Rogers and I firmly believe that with his hard work and diligence, I have found the realtor that will sell my house in these challenging housing market times.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


31 years ago on a Saturday evening, My wife Judy started having her first pains marking the beginning of the coming of our firstborn, Carrie. Now, of course she wasn't Carrie just yet, as a matter of fact our midwife had told us that beyond a doubt, the baby was a male. So, we were waiting for young Mark to arrive. I had even gone so far as to buy young Mark a San Diego Chargers uniform.

When the first pains came, I got out a card that I could fit in my back pocket and registered the time. You see, I had been to Lamaze classes so I was fully versed in child birth and knew exactly what a coach was suppose to do. My first job was to make her comfortable and to keep the time. We were suppose to call the mid-wife when they got down close. But the first night, they were very far apart and each time they awoke Judy, I got out my pen and paper and recorded.

That Sunday, we did our best to spend the day as we always had and as the contractions times continued to be large, we wondered how much our lives were about to be changed. We had no idea just how much this one event would change them, however. As the day drug on, Judy began to wear from the contractions interludes and we both began to worry what was holding the event up.

That evening when we went to bed, Judy went out to the couch as she said that she was more comfortable there. With the times still fairly far apart, Judy did not bother to tell me them and when I awoke on Monday morning, they were coming fairly fast. I contacted the midwife and by mid day, I was driving Judy to the hospital. Arriving in the emergency room check in area, they had me wheel Judy in in a wheel chair. She informed me that she was having another contraction so I started doing my coaching stuff and trying to keep her relaxed as I walked her through the interlude as a good coach should.

A big fellow on crutches came through and told me that he wanted by. I looked up at the big guy and said, "Could you wait a second, my wife is having a contractions.". "You need to get out of the way." he stated. "Just a second.", I returned. "I said, get out of my way!", he demanded. Now, I am a pretty easy going non violent type of guy but I had had enough. I stood up to stand my ground with this monster and prepared to fight to the death for the honor of my wife and soon to be child. Reaching back for a big swing, I was grabbed by laughing nurses and staff and told to calm down as we weren't even up stairs for the main event yet.

They whisked us off to a waiting elevator. As we arose to our floor, Judy had another contraction. I dutifully took out my card and recorded the time. The nurse started to laugh and asked me if it was our first. I wondered how she could tell.

We arrived in the prebirth area and they began to prep Judy for birth. By now, I was having pains of my own since I was so nervous that I was unable to have the needed movements of my own that one normally has and it was causing constipation pains. I was totally out of my element and my anxiety grew as fast as the excitement of the event. I prepared with my camera in hand to do my coaching job to the best of my abilities and to record this blessed event.

As the time grew close, the nurse gave me a gown, pants, hat, and face mask and told me to put them on. I pulled on the pants, put on the hat, face mask, and the gown that I tied up up the strings neatly making it look kind of like a bow tie. As I walked back into the room, the nursed let out giggles all around. "This is your first time, isn't it?", one of them said as she helped me turn my gown around to tie it up behind.

Judy was wheeled into a sterile operating type room and I watched in wonder as the midwife and nurses prepared for the end event. I can not even began to explain the feelings that went on that evening in side of my head. I was about to become a father. We were about to become a family not just a couple. My out of body experiences were brought back into the room as Judy's pain increased. I began to wonder if something was wrong. After all, I knew she was suppose to have a lot of pain but this seemed to be allot more than I expected. Judy seemed to troop through it and I remember once when she told me, "I am never getting pregnant again!". I thought, "Well, I guess we are only going to have one child."

Then it all seemed to happen at once. The midwife told Judy to push and she responded. Time after time, he told her to push. My coaching seemed to be over and I took a back seat to the new coach, the midwife. So, I watched and took pictures as the midwife pulled a purple bloody bundle from my wife's woom. Something had to be wrong. My child couldn't be purple. The nurses laughed and the midwife giggled as she placed the young baby on Judy and cut the cord. "You have a beautiful baby girl.", she stated.

Now getting married had not really changed my life much. Judy and I had done lots of things together and it was if I was doing the same things but now with a buddy with me. But this day, my life and Judy's had totally changed. No more, could we just jump in the car and take off on a whim. This little girl was now the center and purpose of our life.

I tell this story because this little baby has just turned 31 and although she still owns a piece of my heart she is all grown up and has a life of her own. She is a single mother and is doing an outstanding job teaching young Jayden, our grandson, how to be a good young man.

As a matter of fact, she has just turned into a blogger herself. You can keep up with her on her blog spot.

Carrie, I love you, sweetheart and am very proud of you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jake's Diner Knicks

We decided to sponsor our grandson, Jayden's basketball team this winter and it turned out to be a real treat. I have coached and watched various teams over the years and this one was special. They all seemed to get along real well, played together real well, and developed into quite a good team.

They set screens, passed the ball around, and were physical on defense. Since the games were on Saturday, Judy and I had to trade off on watching the morning games but I got to see quite a few of them and took note that the further along in the year, the better they played.

The last game meant the most to me, however. I was watching the game when a tap came on my knee. I looked down to see Chase (KC from the twins son). He said "Thank you for being our sponsor.". I became speechless and overwhelmed as one after another the whole team came up and did the same. I don't know what parent came up with the idea but I actually began to get chocked up as the line of little athletes just kept on coming. It was an incredibly good feeling.

The season now over, we had the team into the back room this evening where we served them a buffet of Chicken Dinosaurs, Mini Corn Dogs, Cheese Sandwiches, and French Fries. At the beginning of the evening, KC gave me a thank you card from her and Chase which was a cute scrap book type card of pictures of the games with a picture of Jay and I also.

After eating, the coach brought Judy and I over and presented us with an autographed picture of the team and a thank you card. The team clapped and thanked us out loud and once again, it just felt real good. We topped off the evening with cake and the boys all signed each others shirts. Some of them had me sign their shirts also.

I would highly recommend sponsoring to any business out there. It was the best $200 in marketing that I have spent in quite some time.

Jake's meets Let's Make a Space

We have been working on this for a couple of weeks now but are close to finalizing the deal. On April 20th, Jake's will be closing at 3PM. Our crew will come in and pull everything out of the front room, clean down all of the walls and shelves, and turn the room over to the Lets Make a Space crew. And then in the twinkling of an five days anyway, they will transform our front room with a complete make over. The transformation will be videotaped and used on a future television show.

Judy and I (or anyone else) will not be able to see the room until it is revealed on Saturday morning (April 26th) in a Grand Revealing or Grand Reopening of our main floor.

Jake's will not be closed during this renovation however. We will continue to operate for the week out of our back room. All of our normal meetings for the week will have to be discontinued for just that week and we will be contacting all of the clubs and organizations that normally use it to let them know.

So, April 26th will be named "Grand Revealing Day". If all goes well, the Let's Make a Space crew will work alongside our crew in serving the public that day. Judy and I have decided to turn over the profits for the day to a local agency to assist in helping out the less fortunate in our area.

Why are we doing this? The answer is two-fold. We realize that we look a little cluttered at times. The local food critic from the Bulletin last year even went so far as to say that we have no atmosphere in our surroundings on our floor. We want to make our floor less cluttered and more inviting to our guests and friends.

So, it looks like April will be a very hectic month for us capped off with the new and improved Jake's. I will attempt to keep you abreast of how I feel during that stressful week. How do I feel right now? Both scared and excited. But both of those are a part of being in business today.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Web Site

Finally, my website is now up and running. Thanks to Jim Harrison for giving it wings and lifting it up off the ground (BTW, Jim is a pilot and can fly the real thing also). Now if I can just get myself going with some copy for events and such, it will hopefully be the marketing tool that I had hoped it would be.

At the present, it only has three pages but we hope to add many more including the menu, events, and updates on what is happening in the world of Jake's including a link to this blog.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Universal Studios

I awoke at 3AM, my anxiety beginning to build. I knew that the flight would be leaving in a couple of hours and wondered just how well I would go with it. My daughter and I were flying to LA and going to Universal Studios. I had been given the tickets to the park and Trinity works for the airlines so the only cost would be the rented car, gas, and food.

I nibbled on one of my magic pills and tried to relax and clear my head but the anxiety just grew. I heard Trin's shower come on and waited till it stopped to get up and start my own shower hoping that the warm water would cure the fear that was growing inside of me.

After the shower, we said our goodbyes to Judy and off we went. We arrived at the airport and chatted with some friends who were heading down to Disneyland. As the flight got closer, my anxiety began to grow again. I took another nibble and Trin and I went for a walk in the cold morning air to try and clear my head. Returning to the terminal we quickly went through security and sat waiting for the flight. We sat in the back of the room and I took another nibble as I watched people begin to board. Trin asked if I wanted to go back home and I said "No" and we stood up and boarded the plane as the last two on.

I watched as the door closed and felt the vibration of the engines as they fired up and the plane began to taxi. I knew it was my now or never time and did my best to just relax and enjoy the ride. After take off, Trin pulled out her laptop and we tried to watch a movie but the head phone splitter malfunctioned so I told her to go ahead and I would just listen to my MP3 player. My anxiety grew so I took another nibble and tried to concentrate on the music. I dosed off for a few minutes and when I awoke I felt pretty good. Trin's movie finished and we talked as the plane made it's final approach. The anxiety behind me, the excitement begin to grow as the plane landed and taxied. We called Judy and Trin took our picture as I talked to Judy on the phone.

We followed the instructions on the computer sheet from the car rental company and before we knew it, I was behind the wheel of a brand new Dodge Charger and heading out towards I-405. We creeped along the 405 in the right lane going from 10 to 20 MPH. I looked over in the fast lane and spied one of those car pool lanes that was traveling pretty well. I told Trin that I was going to try for that lane. Putting on my left turn signal, I quickly realized the basic difference between Bend drivers and LA drivers. No one was going to let me in. I rolled down my window and stuck out my arm hoping that someone would be courteous enough to allow me over. That was a mistake as it seemed to give them a target. The game was who could come closer to the idiots hand.

Giving up, I rolled up my window and took my breaks when they came up. Fifteen minutes or so later, I was in the lane and traveling at a pretty good pace. The only problem came when a couple of miles down the road, the car pool lane ended and I was back in the bumper to bumper again but this time in the left lane knowing that I would have to be in the right lane when I arrived at the 101. I arrived over in the right lane just in time to make the turnoff and we pulled into Universal five minutes before the park opened.

As we walked into the park, Trin let me know that she was hungry so we stopped at the first restaurant. I spied a sign that talked about an all you can eat pass. We enquired and found that the pass was $20, good for three restaurants, and if we signed up there, we could get a free breakfast. We got our armbands and sat outside eating a breakfast burrito and figuring our first move.

Most of the rides and attractions were to start at 10:30 so we decided that we would go for the one that we wanted to go on the most, Jurassic Park. We arrived at the ride before anyone else and got on the first boat with no one else on beginning a day full of rides, attractions, and food. We hit every attraction at least once and rode on the two rides, Jurassic and Mummy many times. As we walked to one of the attractions, Frankenstein was walking the other way. He high fived Trin and I didnt notice that she was not walking next to me. "Dad!", Trin giggled and I turned around to find her dancing with Franky to the tune from a close by band.

We enjoyed the park and each others company until the park begin to close and then got back in the Charger and drove back to the airport. As we went down the 405, we were listening to the radio that was announcing that the freeway was running smoothly. Looking at the speedometer that read 20 MPH, I guess that smooth meant that it was not stopping. It took us as long or longer to get back to the airport and we arrived an hour before our flight.

Trin began complaining that her throat hurt and she was having problems breathing. I wondered if she had breathed in too much of the self induced fog on the rides and attractions. I bought her some Benedryl and we waited for the plane to board. As we sat there, she began to shake and I told her that she just needed to relax.

We boarded the plane and as the plane took off, Trin began to get sick. She grabbed a bag from in front of her and that began a very miserable ride back for her. She spent most of the time laying down on the vacant seats across from us.

As we approached Redmond, she came back over and sat next to me with her head on my shoulder. "Daddy", she said, "Even though I got sick on the way back, that was one of the best days of my life.". I had done allot today. I flew to LA and back, drove a brand new Dodge Charger, and spent the day in a very popular amusement park with absolutely no lines but that one statement had just made my day and when I layed my head down on the pillow, I was a happy and contented man from it.

PS. Trin went back to Portland the next day and went to see a doctor to find that she had the flu. She was so miserable that Judy ended up jumping a plane to be with her. I am kind of happy now that I took that flu shot last fall that made me feel so bad afterwards.....that is unless this flu is another strain. Only time will tell.