Re: what ever happened to Fritzbee's
Date: October 11, 2012 03:59PM
Yeah . . . Fritzbee's! Now there's a company that knew how to boost employee morale AND keep it there! There was the annual Beach Party; the Halloween party; the Christmas and New Year's Eve parties. And what about the free employee meal, every day. The “french dip” was my favorite. I still savor the thought. I was a just kid. Worked at the Annandale location for one year, right out of high-school (Annandale High, class of 82). Started in the kitchen on salad prep and desserts, moved to line cook, then ended with making and serving the happy-hour spread (spiced shrimp, oysters on the half shell, buffalo wings and other things). I'd make silly sculptures out of the cheese ball on special occasions. On Easter, I made a large rabbit figure, carrot sticks for whiskers, black olives for eyes and nose, etc. The first patron (seems she was already pretty sauced) came up with her friends and handily lopped the head off, which then readily rolled onto the floor. They were just having a good time. Somewhere I once read it was voted the best happy-hour spread in the DC area. Who knows?
Anyway, I still have fond memories of THAT time in my life. Of course the highlights center on those special employee parties with all that free booze. No “kitchen nightmares” there. If there were any, I didn't see them. Gordon Ramsey would likely hear about how fun the atmosphere was for both employees and patrons. New Year's eve, 1983, Mike R had us-cooks magically turn into limo drivers. He locked the front doors (VIP only) and sold a $50 a plate special package to romantic sweethearts, where you would be picked up at your home, driven to the restaurant with the driver (me) serving you Champagne along the way. As a recent High School graduate, I loved it.
Of course, these days, from a prudent business perspective, I don't think I'd have taken those risks. Someone above wrote they ran a pretty tight ship. But, looking back on it, I don't think those drinking parties were such a good idea, especially for those employees who had to drive afterward. My roommate and I volunteered to cook for the 10K run Sat morning at the Reston location. That was cool, not because of the free food, but there was (free) open bar for those who volunteered. Whoohooo! I was not an experienced drinker though and I certainly learned something called “Know your limitations” THAT day. After several melon shooters, things were really looking up. We stumbled out of there and onto an adventure at the food store nearby (Safeway, I think). Long story short, after having a slap-happy time there, trying to help people carry their bags to their cars and falling about, we were arrested! Thank God! We were on our way to the my car to drive those twisting roads back to Annandale. I had never, ever, even been close to being arrested before (I was a pretty low profile, law abiding kid), but that night was spent in the tank at the Fairfax City jail.
Mike hired a lawyer for us (and for his company I'm sure). We went to a hearing the very next day and we were out. Thank God again! I worked there for serveral more months, but avoided getting into trouble like that again.
In the end, the drunken stunt aside, I walked away from Fritzbee's with a good dose of respect for the concepts of Customer Service and Employee Morale. Both concepts have served me well in business, I just wish I could do it as well as Mike and his team did. Thanks Mike!