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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.

fired by text

fired by text

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.

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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?

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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.

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Written By

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.

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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