Saturday, December 6, 2008

50 of the 533,000

533,000 U.S. jobs were lost in November. This is the story of 50 of those jobs...

Employees Shocked to See Famous Dave's Closed November 23rd:

The local Famous Dave's Legendary Pit BBQ restaurant closed its doors Sunday, with management citing sluggish sales figures. The news came as a shock to restaurant employees when they arrived Sunday to begin their work shifts. None of the employees were notified of the impending close, including those working the late shift Saturday night. After the Saturday night shift ended, moving trailers arrived to remove the interior furnishings and equipment.

"I came into work as usual, but everything was getting packed up and moved onto trailers," said Dan B, a former server at the restaurant. "Nobody knew what was going on. They could have at least told us." Dan's fiancee, Ashlee, who waited tables at the restaurant, said she was devastated to see her job vanish overnight. "I would've appreciated any type of notice," she said, "in order to have time to find another job". Dan and Ashlee now face the grim reality of unemployment as they struggle to provide for their 3 children in the midst of a nationwide economic crisis.

Scott Morton, the area director for Famous Dave's franchise locations in Utah, said he was notified last Friday of the decision to close this location by the parent company, William Tell, Inc. He said the employees were not given prior notice in order to prevent them from skipping the last few days of work and/or from stealing valuable items during the final days.

Some employees, including Dan, were offered compensation for Sunday if they helped load the moving trucks. "Some work is better than no work," Dan said of his decision to spend the day hollowing out the contents of his former employer.

Famous Dave's is a franchise operation. While the local restaurant originally employed 100 people when it opened here in 2004, it had reduced employees down to 50 over the last year as revenue dropped due to poor sales. Famous Dave's has over 100 franchise locations in 40 states. The local Famous Dave's is part of the William Tell Inc regional group of franchises, which includes Applebee's Restaurants. The owner/president of William Tell Inc is John Prince who has, to date, expressed no regret over the way the employees were treated.


DK's remarks: The people who live in my isolated smallish town are generally courteous and quite mannerly. Rudeness is not normal behavior. That's why I find this story particularly egregious. It was like an early bird combo Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas eff-yew to Famous Dave's local employees and their families! I can't help but wonder if the woman with the carload of kids who withdrew her last $2 from the bank just prior to Thanksgiving was one of their employees (see post below).

If the store manager or franchise management were so afraid of employee theft, why not just have laid them off Friday morning and given them 3-days pay (Fri-Sat-Sun) while they moved out? It's not like they were making any money by having them work those days. From what I understand, the local Famous Dave's was losing money every day it stayed open. I bet it would've cost them less to pay those employees for 3-days of hourly wages than it did to keep the doors open and attempt to sneak out in the middle of the night.

It is quite a personal slap in the face for employees to show up for their work shift and find that their job is no longer there. It's also a slap in the community's face to brazenly betray so many workers and leave them with nothing. They will now have to start from scratch in a tough job market. I understand the labor laws here did not require any notice to hourly workers, but what about the employer's personal code of conduct or sense of fair play?

Yes, the employees will be able to claim unemployment compensation, but that is cold comfort when what they really need are jobs. No doubt some of them will end up enlisting in the military as an employer of last resort. Ashlee and her 3 kids may reside in some ramshackle base housing unit while Dan goes abroad to explain democracy to Afghanistan or Pakistan!

I will no longer be eating at any Famous Dave's. I'm also boycotting Applebee's since they are part of the William Tell regional group of franchises that owns Famous Dave's. In fact, the other night we ate at a locally owned restaurant, Scaldoni's. The prices were higher than a franchise, but it was worth the splurge for our anniversary (33-yrs!). Besides, I was happy to realize that the money spent in a local business stays here, rather going to line the pockets of a slimeball like John Prince.

To paraphrase an old TV series, "There are 533,000 stories in The Naked City, and this has been 50 of them"!


enigma4ever said...

wow....amazing .....

thank you for blogging this...we all need to blog the Depression....all facets of it- but especically the stories that Mainstream Media would never touch...

thank you...

D.K. Raed said...

I'm pretty steamed about the way those employees were terminated without notice. These are people who for the most part are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The loss of even a few day's pay can be devastating. It was a real shitty & cowardly act.

I heard the Famous Dave's emp'ees were encouraged to apply at the local Applebee's (since they have the same parent owner), but A'bee's told them to basically piss off. Nothing like smashing their hopes so John Prince can continue making $80million/yr!

Jeff Fargo said...

Thanks for the kind words, and for supporting local restaurants...!!!

Warm Regards,

Jeff Fargo
General Manager

Fran said...

Hey DK ~ Congratulations on the 33rd Anniversary!!
(good news first!).

A local restaurant did the same here. First shift employees arrived to locked doors & a sign saying we've gone out of business.

This was not a part of any chain....

But to me it seems a really low way of treating employees. At least give them a heads up so they can plan their finances.

Or as you said, a few days pay after they shut the doors. Losing your job just before the holidays when utility/heating bills are high, and in this case 3 kids to feed, was inhumane.

I suspect there will be a whole lot more of this going on after the holidays, Lots of businesses hangin in there to see if they can recover from the slump w holiday sales.

United Airlines has already said they are doing layoffs after the busy holiday season.

Damned shame. When do we start calling it a depression?

Utah Savage said...

John Prince was once at a party at my house. Shudder. He was my best friends husband's best client (the siad hubby was/is a senior vice president at Dean Whitter or Morgan Stanley or one of those financial services make nothing but money companies. The husband in question had to spend the evening sitting at the kitchen table alone with John Prince as if he needed baby sitting. We drunk and stoned women would occasionally sneak peeks at the to men and giggle uncontrollably. What an idiot.

D.K. Raed said...

Jeff Fargo:
Scaldoni's is the finest restaurant in town. Love your new bldg & decor, too. Anyone who finds themselves wishing for a gourmet experience along I-15 between SLC and Vegas should take Exit 8!

D.K. Raed said...

trust you to find the good news in an otherwise depressing post! Wonder what the next 33 will bring. Of course you know I was a child bride (heheheh, not at all).

And yes, I do NOT understand how they could treat employees so callously. Bad enough to lose their jobs, worse to have it happen in such a way as to make them feel like 50 pieces of dirt. (read on...)

Border Explorer said...

Congratulations on the anniversary!

I, too, would much much rather eat at a locally owned restaurant than a franchise. I suspect this style of closing of a franchise restaurant is common. It happened years ago at a local Chi-Chi's in my town. To me it is the height of rudeness and bad ethics.

D.K. Raed said...

B Explorer:
thanks for the congrats! it's amazing how fast 33-yrs can whiz by.

You may be right, that this method of closing a biz could be common. I just think it stinks to treat people like that. Due to the nature of their work, I've always heard that a lot of restaurant emp'ees think of themselves as family. What kind of family would treat each other this way?

D.K. Raed said...

UT Savage:
you have my sincerest sympathies to have ever had to endure John Prince in your house. Did he bring his NYT to read (apparently that's a disarming trademark of his)? I didn't even know who he was until a couple weeks ago.

Dada said...

Too bad employers such as DAVE (I once owned stock in this company) doesn't practice the same ethics and loyalty it expects of its employees.

Thanks for this local view of how the next big depression is birthing in your home town.

And a very, very happy anniversary to you and Mr. D.K. (belatedly). May your 66th anniversary be celebrated in (once again) prosperous times, 33 years hence!

D.K. Raed said...

You're right, they were so worried that their emp'ees might steal something that they stole their ability to make informed plans or be seeking employment while they still had some income.

DAVE's ethics = pooping on emp'ees! The last time we ate there, the Wilbur beans were dry & the corn was soggy, so maybe the cooks at least had gleaned some advance notice.

thanks for the anniv wishes! we're still fine for this one, even in an unprosperous time, love still prospers and is hungry for & able to afford a special gourmet meal. I'm afraid that will not be the case 33 yrs hence (ie, one or both of us will be in a grave state, to paraphrase Mercutio, R&J).

Ingrid said...

that is why local ownership means so much more. I think a local owner would've had a good relationship with his employees plus would've been honest with them. To be a faraway employer you cannot but distrust..holy cow..what a crappy timing indeed..


Fran said...

Still the flames of their logo are creeping me out.... I'm afraid the employees got grilled.

D.K. Raed said...

Since Dave's closed, I've been making a more concerted effort to patronize locally owned businesses. The service industry is so full of franchises, it's not easy.

Yup, they got fileted, rotisseried, smothered in tangy BBQ sauce & mesquite coal grilled for their unemployment claims.

You and Ingrid might more enjoy the story of St Nick post I'm putting up now. No flames, I promise.

Spadoman said...

I know Dave Anderson, originator of Famous Daves. He is Ojibway and African American. He made it big and was bought out. I know he would never agree with this kind of treatment of employees.

But the larger problem lies with the corporations taking over. Small family owned small businesses, especially restaurants, are going the way of the dinosaur. There are less and less of them. Freeway exits are cluttered with franchises. Many of the franchises are owned by local business people, but run under the rules, for consistency of the product, of the parent corporation. Real estate is so high priced that no private small business owner has enough money to pay the rent/lease of space to open a diner in most cities. Health department laws and regulations change and carry hefty price tags to comply.

This is a shame as we, as consumers, don't have much choice, especially when traveling the Interstate Highway System. Even the truck stops have changed to franchised "fast food" dining instead of the diner type sit down restaurant.

I once thought of publishing a directory of Mom and Pop diners in towns as I seek these out when on the road. But now, I don't even travel the Interstates. There are even less choices on the two-lane byways. I do grocery stores a lot.

Congrats on the anniversary.

D.K. Raed said...

I'm sure the original Dave wouldn't have terminated emp'ees without notice. Especially to have them show up for work only to find the doors closed & them facing T-Giving & Xmas with no job. To my mind, the emp'er at least owed the hourly workers for that day's pay. Even when hourly emp'ees are fired for cause & asked to leave the premises on the spot, they are usually paid for a full day. And these emp'ees were not fired for cause.

Of course you are correct that the local restaurant of a franchise is usually locally owned but dictated to on just about every aspect of their operation by the franchise. In the case of our local Dave's, there is a local manager/director, but the regional owner (the John Prince of a fellow) is who I think effed up. He had the power to dictate how the termination would be handled. Somewhere along the line of even the largest corporation stands a person of conscience who does what is right, at least I would like to think so. Not in this case, apparently.

Oh, I like your idea of a directory of mom & pop diners! Sadly, the landscape is changing so fast, that what is one day a M&P becomes a McD by your next drive-by. We have some excellent local eateries, but the interstate crowd ignores them & goes for the brand names. Their loss!