Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features Business and Operations Staffing
the pizza chef: The trouble with tired


April 4, 2011
By Diana Coutu

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Face it: This is a multitasking business. There are always small things to do, big jobs to finish, phone calls to return, e-mails to deal with, errands to run, meetings to attend and, perhaps, some time with the family to squeeze in there too. Today’s operator must wear several hats in order to get the job done. In this business there is always more work than can realistically be done by one person and there is always work left undone at the end of the day.

Face it: This is a multitasking business. There are always small things to do, big jobs to finish, phone calls to return, e-mails to deal with, errands to run, meetings to attend and, perhaps, some time with the family to squeeze in there too. Today’s operator must wear several hats in order to get the job done. In this business there is always more work than can realistically be done by one person and there is always work left undone at the end of the day.

Many pizzeria owner/operators run themselves ragged trying to do it all by racing from one thing to the next, smoothing over upset customers and staff, and putting out fires. Sometimes it is out of necessity, but often it’s compounded by the accumulated effects of not taking proper care of oneself coupled with the stressful nature of our industry. What am I talking about? I’m talking about skipping breakfast because you don’t think you have time, yet funnelling a pot of coffee before noon (and another by 4 p.m. – gotta be ready for the supper rush, eh?) I’m talking about getting home after a long shift and staying up watching infomercials until the wee hours instead of going to bed. I’m talking about running on steam, getting less than six hours of sleep a night for weeks on end and operating on autopilot. Only you are not a robot, my friend, and your autopilot skills suffer greatly when you don’t feed the machine. Once you pass a certain point, you’re twice as likely to make poor decisions. This is how you burn out. Then one day you realize that you’ve lost the passion for your product, your customers and your staff. Burn out is when you feel like you’re getting beat up every day.

Every operator experiences exhaustion at some time or another. It’s important to recognize the signs of when you are overly tired so that you can avoid making bad decisions that will come back to bite you. Take one of our blunders. As new parents, my husband and I are sleep deprived, more so than from just operating the business. A yellow page rep took advantage of this distraction and had my husband sign a “placeholder contract.” Because his tired brain didn’t hear the word renewal, operating on autopilot he signed a paper she presented him. She left without giving him a copy and he subsequently totally forgot about it. Two months later she informed us that it was a renewal contract with 2011 rates, committing us to an ad that we had no intention of renewing at a cost of over $13,000. Imagine our confusion! Not only did my husband not remember signing any renewal, it seemed like so long ago he couldn’t even be sure of what had transpired during the meeting. Luckily, we caught it before the books were printed, but it was a battle and a half to get her to tear up the contract.

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This is a tough business, but it’s a lot tougher when you’re so darn worn out that you aren’t able to see the big picture and get lost in the weeds of daily minutia. You need to fill your cup first in order to have plenty left to fulfil the demands of the business. Unscrupulous people will take advantage of you in your weakened state. It’s the law of the jungle. The strong always prey on the weak.

It’s imperative to schedule time for rest and good nutrition. There will be days that you aren’t at your best and you’ll know it. When you find yourself having one of those days, don’t skip meals! Actually, don’t ever skip meals! You don’t expect your car to run without gas, do you? A quick protein shake will fire up that machine and it’ll take less time to whip up than a pot of coffee. You can still have that pot of coffee, just put food in first. On days that you have meetings scheduled, it’s in your best interest to postpone signing contracts, even ones presented as minor. If someone ever insists on a signature on the spot you should consider it a red flag and promptly end the meeting. Always get a copy of anything you’ve been asked to sign.

It’s easy to put yourself by the wayside with a business, customers and staff depending on you. However, this is a sure-fire way to make major mistakes and put a strain on your health. Take care of yourself to take better care of your business.


Diana Coutu is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine chef of the year champion, an internationally recognized gourmet pizzaiolo, the co-owner of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria in Winnipeg, Man., and a member of the board of directors for the CRFA. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is also a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, along with marketing and positioning to help operators grow their businesses effectively and strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis; for more information contact her at Diana@dianasgourmetpizzeria.ca.


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