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Restaurant lays off all employees via text message

Text message may be an effective method for telling someone you’re running late, but is it a fair tool to use when firing an entire staff? Let’s look at both sides of this story.

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Using text message to communicate with staff

It is increasingly common for people to text their boss that they’re running late, they’re sick, they need something, or they have a question, but you don’t hear all to often of mass layoffs done over text messaging, which is exactly what WFTV.com reports has taken place at Barducci’s Italian Bistro in Winter Park, Florida.

With what employees say was no notice, restaurant owner Gregory Kennedy texted all employees, “I unfortunately need to inform you that I have been forced to close Barducci’s effective immediately.” Staff members say they are all still owed final paychecks.

WFTV says they repeatedly attempted to call the owner who did not respond until they attempted to text him. His text response to the station was, “Unfortunately businesses are forced to close across Orlando every day especially in the restaurant sector. I am working to resolve issues including final paychecks as quickly as possible.”

Customers and employees are upset

While some customers are likely upset that their favorite local spot has closed it’s doors, others had actually purchased coupons through Groupon and have asserted through social networks that they don’t know what to do now that they’re out the money.

According to WFTV, Groupon has responded by offering a full refund to any person who had purchased a coupon in advance, which is typically what the company’s standard response is when companies go out of business.

One employee called the move immoral, saying it is cowardice. “I think we all deserve our compensation for money he’s already made from us,” she said.

Playing devil’s advocate

While it is easy to roll your eyes and feel anger at the restaurant owner, thinking you would never do that if you were a business owner, take pause for a moment. Imagine you’ve poured your life into this one restaurant and it is your everything – you wake up to it and go to sleep with it on your mind every night. You’ve sought ways to make each dish even better and reach new customers, living out your dream. But like many other businesses, sometimes that dream ends and it can be somewhat abrupt. That has to be painful. Wouldn’t you want to pull your limbs into your turtle shell and hide forever?

Most criticize the business owner for his chosen method of communication, and while there were clearly better alternatives, it appears to be missed that someone is clearly emotional about the loss of their business, their source of income, their dream. Perhaps he came to open his restaurant that morning and the bank had seized the property and there were locks on the door – text messaging could be the most effective way to quickly tell everyone there is no restaurant to go to, so don’t bother getting ready. It could have been in that emotional moment he texted his team.

While text messaging is insensitive, it is unclear whether or not this was the standard communication method for the entire team – if this is how they’ve all communicated for the past few years, why would anyone change the path now?

Analysis of this learning moment for all

This is, however, a learning moment for all. This business owner likely knew the house of cards was falling and could have offered warnings to team members, perhaps having a team meeting expressing that there are struggles and the owner could assert he is doing everything he can to keep the business afloat. When the doors were to close, it would have been less of a surprise, even if done by text.

Alternatively, if text is the only way the owner could muster to communicate, it could have been a series of texts that read more along the lines of, “You guys have done such amazing work and because of your dedication, we lasted longer than we ever would have. That’s why it pains me to inform you that effective immediately, Barducci’s is closed and we are all out of a job. I am working to resolve your final paycheck and will update you tomorrow regarding the status. I apologize that I wasn’t able to do more and this is with a heavy heart I am messaging you all. I also apologize for using text, but losing my business and my dream is crushing and I know you share in that feeling with me. Please let me know if you’d like me to write a letter of recommendation for you or call your next employer, because you are all like family.”

Setting expectations, emoting, relating, and apologizing are critical in this type of situation, even if text message is the chosen form of communication. Most other forms of communication are superior, and in this case, having a friend call all employees so a voice could explain and set expectations would have been better.

It is unfair to crucify this business owner, even though all in the situation are hurting. From every angle, a business closing is a bad scenario and one no one wants and many people fail to deal with perfectly as emotions rule their reactions.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. bobledrew

    July 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Great post, Marti. When I shared this on my company FB page, I said that a key to writing great stuff is going beyond the easy answers, and your post does that really well. Yes, this should not be anyone’s idea of a best practice. But there’s more to this than just shouting “FAIL!”

  2. LukeandMyriah Walker

    August 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Great post! I appreciate it when someone in the media can see both sides and report fairly. All around good reporting. -Luke “Sky” Walker – Keller Williams Elite

  3. Ro Reed

    August 17, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Talk about “fair and balanced”… nicely done, Martin. I couldn’t help but think your proposed text should be shared on Facebook (like all those recipes we’re asked to “Post to Timelines so they aren’t lost”) as it might serve one well at some point in the future.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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RIP office culture: How work from home is destroying the economy

(BUSINESS NEWS) It’s not just your empty office left behind: Work from home is drastically changing cities’ economies in more ways than you think.

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An empty meeting room, unfilled by work from home employees.

It’s been almost six months since the U.S. went into lockdown due to COVID-19 and the CDC’s subsequent safety guidelines were issued – it’s safe to say that it is not business as usual. Everyone from restaurant waitstaff to start-up executives have been affected by the shift to work-from-home. Even as restrictions slowly begin to lift, it seems as though the office workspace – regarded as the vital venue for the U.S. economy – will never truly be the same.

Though economists have been focusing largely on small businesses and start-ups, we are only just beginning to understand the impact that not going back into the white-collar office will have on the economy.

The industries that support white-collar office culture in major cities have become increasingly emaciated. The coffee shops, food trucks, and food delivery companies that catered to the white-collar workforce before, during, and after their workday, are no longer in high demand (Starbucks reported a loss of $2 billion this year, which they attribute to Zoomification). Airlines have also been affected as business travel typically accounts for 60%-70% of all air travel.

Also included are high-end hotels, which accommodate the traveling business class. Pharmacies, florists, and gyms located in business districts have become ghost towns. Office supplies companies, such as Xerox, have suffered. Workwear brands such as J. Crew and Brooks Brothers have filed for bankruptcy, as there is no longer a need to dress for the office.

In Manhattan – arguably the country’s most notorious white-collar business mecca – at least 1,200 restaurants have been permanently lost. It is also is predicted that the one-third of all small businesses will close.

Additionally, the borough is facing twice as many apartment vacancies as this time last year, due to the flight of workers no longer tied to midtown offices. Workers have realized their freedom to seek more affordable and spacious residence outside the city. As companies decentralize from cities and rent prices drop, it isn’t all bad news. There is promise that particular urban white-collar neighborhoods will start to become accessible to the working class once again.

Some companies, like Pinterest and REI, are reporting that their shift to work from home is in fact permanent. The long-term effects of deserted office buildings are yet to make themselves evident. What we do know is that the decline of the white-collar office will force us to reimagine the great American cities – with so much lost due to the coronavirus, what can now be gained?

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Business News

2020 Black Friday shopping may break the mold

(BUSINESS NEWS) Home Depot states their new plan for deals and discounts over two months, in place of a 1-day Black Friday event.

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Men shopping in an empty aisle, Black Friday to come?

Humans change and adapt – that’s just in our nature. Retail stores have struggled to maintain their sales goals for years as more and more people move to ordering online. Online prices still seem to be within customer expectations and often come with free shipping. Additionally, people that may have preferred to shop in an actual brick-and-mortar store have changed their shopping habits dramatically in 2020; it’s hard to social distance and be safe in crowded stores or in small aisles. Black Friday may be next to change.

Amazon and other big box store’s online ordering platforms have simplified getting what you need delivered right to your front door. According to Statista, “Amazon was responsible for 45% of US e-commerce spending in 2019 – a figure which is expected to rise to 47% in 2020.”

Retailers count on the holiday season, specifically Black Friday deals (the day after Thanksgiving), to bring in up to 20% of their annual revenue. It’s hard to just remove that option completely. But considering the times of social distancing, wearing masks in public, and especially avoiding large crowds, the tradition of Black Friday will need to look different this year.

It will also be interesting to see what supply chain disruptions from early 2020 will have the most effect this shopping season. We saw predictions in March that said the United States would see the biggest disruptions in about six months. Black Friday falls right on that timeline.

Home Depot has announced their plans to go ahead and give the deals over a two month span, starting in early November through December (both online and in stores with the possibility of adding some special deals around the actual Black Friday date) to help encourage a more steady stream of shoppers versus so many packing in on the same day.

The home improvement chain has actually seen a great sales year. This is likely due to people working from home and being interested in doing more home projects (and possibly having a bit more time to do them as well). As of May 2020, “The Home Depot®, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, today reported sales of $28.3 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2020, a 7.1 percent increase from the first quarter of fiscal 2019. Comparable sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2020 were positive 6.4 percent, and comparable sales in the U.S. were positive 7.5 percent.”

Home Depot, along with many other retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have confirmed that they will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, which may not be new for all of them but has always signaled the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

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