Personally, there’ve been only two real situations I’ve been involved in where there was an imminent threat of death by violence. In one, a gun was in my face. The other, a gun was in my hand.
The first incident was at a job and the individual was actually after a guy I carpooled with. He was dating a young lady whose ex didn’t get, or was confused by, the message that he was an ex. An empty parking lot underneath a noisy highway on a late Friday afternoon was the perfect setting for an old boyfriend to suddenly appear from behind a concrete pillar, stick a gun in a car window, and eliminate the new boyfriend and anybody there to witness it. The second was a burglary in my apartment and then it was my turn to decide who lived or died. Helpless in one situation, total control in the other. There is nothing admirable, macho or “street cred-ish” about any of this and in fact it’s quite sad. I was minding my own business in both cases and sparing you the details I’m happy to say there was no loss of life.
I shared this because in real life at your business there may not be calmer heads, mediators, or even the police around when the worst is about to happen and you’ll be on your own. Having a plan and a script for yourself and your team if a situation arises is critical. Restaurants are often seen as soft targets.
In the case of a robbery common sense says comply and make it easy for the perpetrator to get what he wants and leave as quickly as possible. As unpleasant as it sounds there should also be a plan if you need to fire someone on the spot and there are knives and blunt instruments within reach. These things aren’t talked about much but if it’s our aim to discuss all sides of this business then we will omit nothing.
Shortly after opening I was chatting with a cook we’d just hired. He was telling a story of another job where the manager constantly got in his face, yelling, cursing, and spewing personal insults. One day after what would be the last episode, he calmly walked to the fryer and filled a 1/3rd size steam pan with hot oil, approached the manager and threw it in his face. I didn’t know if he was making conversation on a slow day or giving me a warning but I wasn’t particularly worried. Everyone we work with is treated like an adult and with respect no matter how stressful it may get. And if a stunt like that was ever attempted let’s just say we’d both make the evening news.
We got a frantic text from our cashier one afternoon about a man who’d come in off the street acting bizarre and clutching a large backpack. I opened up the app on my phone for our security cameras (recommended) and watched as he harassed guests as they ate. He’d get in and out of line or sit at a table, jump up, and walk out the door. He’d then stand on the patio chairs and come back inside, repeating the whole thing all the while fiddling with this backpack. Clearly he was disturbed and who knew his intentions. I was about ten minutes away and there wasn’t much I could do other than tell her to hit he panic button for the police. I raced to the restaurant figuring if he did have a weapon as long as I got to the mystery bag before he did I was fairly confident I could disable him until they arrived. I pulled up behind three undercover police who were in the area. The crazy guy had just left minutes before everyone arrived and disappeared into the neighborhood. While we talked about happened the officers were concerned, courteous, and professional. After a short time they went on their way.
The situation ended without incident but we received a letter from the police a week later. It said the run was technically a false alarm and if they were called again for what they didn’t think was an emergency we’d be fined. I found this a little off-putting and called to argue about it saying that if we have a couple of frightened seventeen year olds who don’t know if someone is about to shoot or stab their way through our dining room they’re pushing that damn button. Every time. We didn’t have an issue handling our own problems but they are paid to get those phone calls.
We welcome the police and they eat at our restaurant several times a month. All firefighters, first responders, military and police get a discount whenever they come in and I’ve tried to introduce myself to as many as I can. The police are not Batman and have a difficult job to do. But it’s still a job they chose, applied, and interviewed for. They’re not divinely ordained and are imperfect like the rest of us. We have all seen they’re granted a wide latitude and sometimes get away with things you or I never could. It can be frustrating.
Looking at it from their perspective, for a civil society to function there must be, if for no other reason than psychological, an authority or force that has an absolute final say in life or death matters. There must be order. If not, it’s the wild-wild west. But that horse has long left the barn and it’s already the wild-wild west. Everyone can carry a gun and the police and criminals ultimately share the same problem: They’re both outnumbered.
The reason things aren’t in complete chaos isn’t because of fear of police, incarceration or even death. It’s level-headed people showing restraint, more people doing good than bad, and in some cases justice served by citizens based on what’s right, not necessarily legal. This is how human beings have lived for thousands of years.
Have action plans for emergencies. Strategically install your cameras and alarms. Adjust schedules and business hours with safety in mind. Protect yourself and be diligent. We wish you peace, calm, and success!
- 2lbs lean ground beef
- 4 medium onions chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4T chili powder
- 2 cans (16oz) tomato paste
- 1/2t sugar
- salt and pepper
Brown beef and onions, drain. Add rest of ingredients and simmer 1 hour. (Freezes well.)