(Click here to read Part 1!)
By Catherine Austin Fitts
In the 1970’s I had the honor of being promoted from the only female bartender to bar manager at a lovely French restaurant near the University of Pennsylvania campus, La Terrasse. The entire bartending staff announced a strike, saying they would not work for a woman. The very prescient owner, Elliot Cooke, explained when approached by the strike leaders, that he was not the bar manager, that they should see me as I was the bar manager.
So my first act was to meet with the striking bartenders. I asked them what their objection was to me being the bar manager. They said that I was going to “feminize” the bar. I would require they put out candles, play romantic music and would put a woman on each two-person team on the important shifts.
I explained that they were correct – I was going to do all of those things. However, I was attracting the largest bar gross and tips of all the bartenders – the basis for my promotion. My goal was to help them do the same. If they were not willing to try, I was prepared to teach 10 waiters and waitresses how to replace them at high speed. These were the best jobs in the “house.”
The strike leader quit, his number two – let’s call him Harry – went back to work with a sour face, and the rest did with a smile, adapting to the changes at high speed.
Two months later, a female bartender got sick at the last minute on a Thursday evening (the best nightly gross of the week) and I had to replace her with a man as the second bartender working with Harry.
In short order, Harry came screaming to see me in the wine cellar where I was preparing an order, loudly complaining that having two men on the bar would significantly reduce his tips. Why could I not find a woman? While I found this amusing, he failed to see the humor in the situation.
Indeed, he was right to be upset. What we had discovered with a careful tracking of sexual pairings on the bar was as follows.
- With two male bartenders, the house made $1Xand the bartenders made 10% of that.
- With two female bartenders, the house made $1.5X and the bartenders made 10% of that.
- With a male and female bartender, the house made $2X and the bartenders made 10% of that.
Which is to say that my putting Harry on the bar with another man was going to cut his tips for the evening in half.
The extraordinary importance of sexual pairing to bar restaurant profits got me to thinking a great deal about men and women and the magic between them. I then went to business school, and then to Wall Street, rising up to be the first woman partner at an investment bank. I walked into my first board meeting. There were 45 men in dark suits and me – wearing red silk. One of my first thoughts was my first day as bar manager speaking with the striking bartenders and appealing to their profit motives.
It was, not, however, until I started my own investment bank that I was to price out the relationship between boy and girl bankers and financial transactions.
Stay tuned for Part 3!