Suzy Crofton, 52, Chicago
This is the first [recession in which] I think that people just don't really know exactly what to expect. We started to see some changes in how people are ordering. They are ordering appetizers as the entrée. People are just a lot more conscious of what they're spending their money on. Instead of having a $100 bottle of wine, they're having a $50 bottle. And skipping dessert. Or they skip appetizers and go straight to the entrée. Tips have dropped far from the usual 18% to 20%. The private dining room is no longer booked three nights a week, because corporate expense accounts are down. I cut the staff from 18 to 14. We've eliminated the dining-room manager, the second highest position. I've taken that position. You have fixed costs and your payroll, and the payroll is the one you can adjust the most. I'm now serving as pastry chef too. We're going to have morels, but we're just waiting until the price comes down they're $50 a pound.
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