Well, if you have been by on a Sunday in October, our incredible employees are there, serving you exceptional coffee, delicious crepes, and meaningful connections to go with it. Our closed on Sunday experiment didn’t work the way I hoped.
One thing was true, the employees loved it. One person told me the second week in she’s never taken a consistent break like that and she felt so much happier directly linking it to having Sundays off. Tips were up too. As employees, they collectively worked 100 less hours and yet they made $400 more in tips in a two week period.* ** I felt the joy of being uninterrupted and single focused and so in many ways it felt right.
But there wasn’t enough income, and if I couldn’t make payroll, then no employee would feel happier. So I hit the streets to find more customers. Standing on a main street corner, just a block from our shop, I handed out coupons to people who raved about loving us and then I watched them walk into a different establishment with their coupon. I felt defeated, but not quite. Especially when I ran into an old friend who was excited we’d ventured out into catering. After I forced myself to keep smiling and hand out that whole stack of coupons to remind people that our cozy and local cafe was worth the walk one block back, I returned to my desk in the basement of Neighborhoods. There on the computer, I already had an email from my old friend requesting one of our biggest catering orders yet with promises for future ones if it went well. I saw the muffins, croissants, and scones in terms of dollar signs. Maybe this was my big ticket that would make us busy enough six days a week to make up for closing on the seventh.
Her email was near a new one from Caviar- the exclusive delivery company that picks us, instead of us picking them. Think GrubHub marketed with beauty. They were reaching out to work with me and even to send out a professional photographer. They came. And their pictures were pretty. And then Grubhub came too, also sending an artsy photographer with a charming accent. She stood on chairs to take top-down shots, adjusted the lighting with her special blinds, and made our food look as good as it tastes. Now we had Caviar, GrubHub, Ritual and Postmates. Maybe with the catering, and all the online ordering, this was the way though?!
But each day, though it was close, the writing was on the wall that barring a true miracle, it wouldn’t be a viable business plan by the end of the month. So I prayed for a miracle, and I expected one. Since I started trusting God just over twenty years ago, I’ve never taken a step of faith and not watched the bridge materialize under my feet as I walked across a canyon. But not everyone gets a miracle every time. Have you ever had a good friend who struggled with infertility? As a grateful mother of four, I think about a wonderful friend, who would seem to make an even more wonderful mother, waiting each month and coming up short on her dream, and the sorrow runs through my heart. Needing money to keep a business open and wanting a child to join your family are two entirely different struggles, but both are something you think you can get if you just play your cards right and yet both are barely beyond our grasp of control. So as I thought about the let down of re-opening on Sundays, I had fresh compassion for all the people out there waiting on their one thing that would likely add value to their life- a new child, a clear from cancer, a not-guilty sentence when they were wrongly accused. My having to be open on Sundays seemed pretty small.
Ironically, I still got a miracle. Someone generously gifted my husband with money because they appreciated it that we were trying to honor a break each week with our business. They unknowingly chose to give him the same amount of money I usually pay myself per month. So personally, we lacked nothing. But as for the business, at the end of September, we didn’t have enough for every bill. Wisdom said, we had to reopen. I was curious if people would even come if we reopened. Amazingly, we sold more last Sunday than we had on any Sunday since a humming, sun-shining Sunday in April, and we did a good job serving people. It was busy, and it was well played.
That first Sunday back, I was there from open till 2 serving people coffee and making them tasty crepes and having a wonderful time. The Saturday after the reopen was busy enough that it would have kept us afloat if it would have only come a week sooner, and I would have wanted to hang in there and try another month of my experiment. Instead, it came too little too late. And I’m left with more questions than answers, though I do have more catering orders than we did last October. I waited to post this because I was trying to figure out how to tie up the conclusion with a nice bow. But I can’t figure out how, so instead I post as is. Because there are lots of people who have their own struggles, more significant than this one, and there aren’t always fairy tale endings to tie as a bow around their unfulfilled dream. So we wait, together. And you can come in and talk to me about it, even on a Sunday because I just might be there.
*Each employee still received the number of hours they usually had, but essentially we shrunk the number of people on the staff, not the number of hours each person worked. Since reopening, I’ve had to hire new people.
**Going forward, I did set up a Sunday team and a Saturday team and have the goal to let each individual have a consistent day off and not work back to back weekend days, but without being totally closed there’s no guarantee as people reuqest off and unexpected things happen.