Last night’s episode of “Restaurant Stakeout” was titled “Three Strikes, And You’re Out.”
Willie Degel came to “Shiraz Persian Restaurant,” the owner’s third try at running a restaurant. Mohammad Ababafha is the owner who called on Willie to find out why this delicious food experience of Iran is failing. They had great reviews from the NY Times, and after that, business started falling off. Mohammad knows that it is not in the kitchen, so in came Willie to tell him the truth.
The online reviews show that the service is terrible and diners would never return. After previously owning two restaurants that failed, one blamed on September 11, 2001 for the loss of business and the other due to a failing economy, he is at it again. Could this be the knockout punch?
The cameras were in place, and Willie used his tried and true four-part strategy: identify the key staff, observe behavior, test the systems and finally, confront the staff. When Mohammad saw the setup of the cameras, he was amazed. He pointed out to Willie the employees: Adila, a waitress with him six years, who works the front and back of the house. As two men came in to eat, they stood at the front while Adila was in the back assisting in the kitchen. The rest of the wait staff was late. The waiter arrived 32-minutes late for his shift; while the diners were neglected because Adila was alone. Mustafa, only on staff for two months, was the late arrival. Ehsan, the owner’s son arrived 44-minutes late, dressed like he owned the place. He has been a waiter for six years. Scott, another waiter, on staff for two years arrived nearly an hour late. As customers were looking for service, Mustafa was on his cell phone. Ehsan had his laptop open at the hostess stand and was looking at pictures of women with another waiter, while ignoring anything else going on in the restaurant. Mohammad never fired anyone from his staff in all the years he operated restaurants; no wonder they failed!
Willie sees no accountability in this staff, and Mohammad is a softie. As customers were waiting for their check, Mustafa was outside smoking. Willie sent in his staff to ask if they could sample the food, Scott went to his manager Ehsan to have this done. When Ehsan went to the kitchen, the chef would not do this and gave Ehsan a hard time. He came back outside to tell the customers that the chef would not do this. Ehsan came to another table, and without any interaction with the customers took their order and walked away. When the check came, the customers were disappointed at the price, but he told them that they did not specify that they wanted the combo, so he gave them regular portions. He would not negotiate, and insisted on charging them the full price. Mohammad was livid as he watched this action from his own son. The second issue that Willie saw was the total lack of customer service in the restaurant. When he checked the tip, the customers left him eleven cents, probably too much for the way they were treated.
As they observed Scott, he was personable and professional to the customers, but there were no specials in the restaurant, and Willie wanted to know why in this economy, the restaurant offered no savings to the customers? Mohammad had no answer for him.
As Mustafa took the hummus that was designated for another table, he brought it to his table. The customers saw that another table got their hummus, and his customers were shocked that their order arrived immediately.
As Mustafa got a phone call while he was taking a table order, he went outside and stayed on the phone until they were about to leave. Scott took over and did a great job. Mustafa came into the kitchen to demand his tip from Scott, and when he gave it to him, Scott walked out of the restaurant. Willie told Muhammad, that Scott could come and work for him; he was the best person in the restaurant, and now he was leaving.
Fortunately, Muhammad grabbed Scott before he could leave the place and called an emergency meeting. As Muhammad started the meeting, Willie walked in and took over. Willie confronted some of the employees and gave Scott the highest marks. Mustafa was taken to task for his bullying and lack of interest in the job. Ehsan, who claimed to be the manager, was told that his heart and soul were not in the restaurant and he owned up that he wanted to pursue his own career in photography and was doing this to please his father.
Willie met with Scott first; he made him the head waiter responsible for training the service staff to get a better check average. When Willie met with Ehsan, he told him that he should pursue his dreams, and promised to talk to Muhammad about him. With Muhammad, he spoke about creating specials, keeping his staff in check, hiring a hostess and then about his son. Muhammad realized that he was being selfish keeping Ehsan at the restaurant.
Six weeks later when Willie returned, there was a large chalkboard outside with the daily specials. A beautiful hostess greeted the people; Scott was running the front of the house; Mustafa was doing his job with a smile upon his face and no cell phone in his pocket. The restaurant was filled with happy people, and Muhammad was smiling. Missing was Ehsan, who is now chasing his dream of being a photographer, but Muhammad will always have his son’s back. Another job well done, and a restaurant saved from extinction, thanks to Willie and his staff of “Restaurant Stakeout.”