As the pandemic rages on, leaving many a life and business dead or ravaged in its wake, and the superficial layers of our lives are stripped away, we are left in limbo struggling to come to terms with the subconscious versions of ourselves. In a society where being swamped, overbooked and frazzled is worn as a badge of honour, we never considered the possibility this was sheilding us from facing our weaknesses as parents, partners and entrepreneurs.
With our dining room closed to the public, ordered to stay home with only the members of my immediate household, my husband and our three beautiful children, I am in what seems like a constant quest for self- improvement. Up until a year ago and the seven years prior, since we had our eldest son and opened the doors to our first restaurant, I could never escape the feeling of complete overwhelm. I had become so used to feeling this way that I forgot that it was possible to feel calm, satisfied and accomplished. I was in constant fear that my ineptitude (or what I perceived as ineptitude) was causing irreparable harm to those who depend on me and to the business that sustains us.
After owning and operating the restaurant for nine years, the role of owner and entrepreneur had become an integral part of who I am…or so I thought. It had seemed to me that if I could keep it together enough to fulfil the bare minimum requirements of each of the roles that I occupy (wife, mother, leader, daughter etc.) that at least I wasn’t a detriment to others. Frazzled and frustrated, I soldiered on, unaware that there was any alternative. This break has left me questioning pretty much everything! Afterall, there must be a better way to balance it all, a way that could lead to feelings of fulfillment & peace..or is there?
The successful operation of our business has always depended on the hard work and talents of a small team of people who have become like a second family to us. I’ve always felt a sense of pride that we could offer them a reliable source of employment and a place of belonging. With many of our employees now on EI, this sense of pride has slowly slipped away and has been replaced by a feeling that we have failed them.
During this time of reprieve from our former lives I have come to realize that we were like hamsters caught in a wheel, racing to an unknown future that we didn’t even have time to conceptualize. Would we have enough money to put the kids through college and enough to offer them money for a down-payment for their first homes? Would we have enough for retirement in twenty years or so? What was our exit strategy? Did our original reasons for launching our business even matter anymore? We had become so consumed with the day to day of our crazy lives that we never stopped for a moment to consider these important questions.
All of the experts in our industry are saying that in order to survive this pandemic it is necessary to create multiple revenue streams so that our business has more potential for profit and is better positioned to face the uncertain future ahead. I find myself wishing I had a crystal ball that could tell me where our focus should lie. It is hard to fathom adding more work and responsibility to our already full plates!! Before all this mess we had just launched a catering branch of our company and then during the first lockdown as many others have done, we created an online store. We’ve also joined a platform that offers online ordering and facilitates pickup and delivery options. It is really tough to decide which direction to take!! Should we build out the store with “Chef Approved” products for the home kitchen? Should we focus on catering to micro-weddings and events though our Feast Boutique brand? Should we search for our own building to house our restaurant so that we can build equity for the future? Should we create a brick- and- mortar version of our online store? Should we try our hand at writing a cookbook? What will the future of the restaurant industry look like? It is hard to know if and when people will feel comfortable to venture out! Perhaps we should jump ship now!
It has occurred to me that in many ways we are very lucky. While this collective disaster we all face has put us in a precarious position, it is very nice to have options to consider! We still have our health and the privilege to imagine a redesigned life on the other side of this! All of the people we love are alive and well. We still have our home and have yet to be forced into bankruptcy as may others have been. I am so thankful to be Canadian! I’m thankful for family dinners, walks, wine by the fire, books and podcasts. We really do lead a charmed life! It is wonderful that this terrible time has helped me to realize this! With all of this occupying my thoughts I have come up with the following goals…
- To approach parenting with intention, with a plan and to set aside the constant guilt that has always plagued me.
- To build a business that is based on a solid plan for the future, one that supports our personal and financial goals and includes an exit strategy.
- To get organized, ditch the overwhelm and set priorities that make sense for my family
- To prioritize my mental health and self-care so that I am strong and can better give to others
I’ve also had time to consider the purpose of our business. Yes, we run it to make money to pay our bills, but why do we choose to make money in this way? I always thought of myself in a supportive role, helping my husband to realize his dreams of being chef owner, but I’ve realized that I too love the hospitality industry! I miss the hum and buzz of those busy Saturday nights when my talented team worked perfectly in sync! I take pride in the beauty of the space, the atmosphere and the joy that we are able to bring to our clients. Being able to connect with people when they are happy and relaxed helps me to stay positive and motivated. Helping people plan events to celebrate the best moments in their lives is a privilege I miss. We are able to offer an experience that takes people away from their everyday stresses, brings them together with the important people in their lives, and help them connect over the pleasures of food, kind service and live music. And so, it is with all of these positive thoughts in mind that I keep planning for the future, for the days ahead when we can once again dine in.