I wrote in my last post about our American food culture and how we tend to relate to food as a source of fuel rather than a source of pleasure and enjoyment. The vast majority of Americans think of eating as a means of filling the tank in order to move on to the next activity. Speed and efficiency overtake any concern for means and substance. Degree of quantity supersedes any measure of quality. We like our food big, and we want it right now.

Framing it this way helps me take inventory of comments I receive via email, or on some of the online food and travel sites, about our restaurant and the way we serve our food. We have deliberately gone “off code” when it comes to the mainstream appreciation for how it wants its food. You could even go so far and say that some of the complaints are my own fault for not giving people what they want. Imagine being invited to a potluck with some new friends and you show up with a juicy fat roasted chicken, only to find out everyone at the gathering is a vegan. You didn’t get the memo. You missed something about culture into which you wandered.

If your agenda is to serve chicken to your new friends, you’re likely not going to get invited back anytime soon. But if the plan is to make a connection with them, then you might still have a doorway open.

If I told you I wanted to sell sushi in Ashland, you’d think I was crazy. Serving raw fish in small town Nebraska? I’d probably have a better chance convincing those vegans to eat chicken. I might as well reply to the email from the lawyer of the Nigerian millionaire while I’m at it. But if I had the ability to personally convince everyone in the county the joys of eating sushi, and had a packed house every day to prove it, you’d call me a genius.

It’s easy to blame the market for not accepting your idea without understanding why you are not connecting with it in the first place. If no one is walking in my doors, do I know why? Do I know from their perspective what it is I am asking them to do? Change is difficult for most, and if I’m asking you to change how you eat, I’m walking to school, uphill, both ways, knee deep in snow.

It’s our own fault

5 thoughts on “It’s our own fault

  • May 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    But you ARE a priest Kevin, and the vast majority of us are glad.

    Cindy West

  • May 16, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    It is a delicate balancing act in a town like Lincoln, pushing the envelope and connecting with customers. But if you are doing something you love and putting your whole self into it, you will succeed. Keep it up!

  • May 17, 2011 at 1:12 am

    You attain to a difficult task. Andrew's comments are solid, although I fit somewhere in the middle of your post and his comments.

    I don't agree with every blogger I read, whether they are an author, pastor, or owner of a retail/food shop. I don't read them because I agree with them…

    I read them because they say important things.

    You say important things. I am challenged by your approach, and even as a dear friend of yours, I don't always "get it".

    But, you've earned a bit of latitude because your food friggin rocks. Your people are genuine, and while trying to make money…they choose a place where "what they bring to the equation", adds to the mystique of Bread and Cup.

    I do go to Texas Roadhouse on the rare occasion…mostly because I'm lazy, and it is easy. But, sometimes, easy wins.

    I know you take the comments you get seriously, so I hope Andrew knows that when taken to task on an intellectual level, he will be heard.

    I love what you do, and I love watching you do it.

    You are a food pastor, and I hope you still you hang your theology degree above the bar, so the cowardly "anonymous" poster gets the fact that you are indeed…a priest.


  • May 17, 2011 at 2:33 am

    I go to bread & cup because I like your philosophy. I want local and organic. Your portions are fine; don't be so insecure.

    But if you are getting a lot of complaints about portions or price maybe it's the setting. If the inside of a restaurant looks like a mcdonalds (see how I won't even grace that word with any propriety?) then you WOULD BE outraged to pay anything more than $7.25 for a sandwich. I'm not saying your place looks like a mcdonalds, but perhaps people are using their past experiences to help them decide what is expected. THEN, coupled with a quantity-focused mind, you have trouble. Your place has the charm of a bakery/deli/cafeteria/bar. Mixed signals!

    Also, you have a wobbly table outside…the eastern most one against the wall.

  • May 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Andrew, as a communicator, one of my basic fears about my writing is not being understood. I write to convey a point, not for my audience to agree with me. Based on your last sentence, you seemed to understand and summarized my intent, but from your other comments I see that I have not been exactly clear.

    I’m not trying to imply anything about anybody. I am only trying to be transparent about what it takes to run a business that is different from those that surround it. My metaphor about Ashland is not to mean that it is full of hicks, but rather asking, could I fill the house with customers while selling sushi? I would probably do better selling steak and potatoes, because I assume that’s what the market wants. And If I fail, it’s my fault for not understanding my market.

    The blame for failure rests on my shoulders, not on my customers. I had a choice about what kind of restaurant I wanted to open, and I knew full well it might be an uphill battle.

    Concerning the tip, 80% of our transactions are made on a credit/debit card, and that receipt needs to be signed and kept in our records in case of fraud. It has a line for a tip, that many folk ignore and later leave a tip on the table or in the jar after their service if they so choose. Since we do counter service by day, and table service by night, we can’t change the way the machine prints out the receipt to leave off the line for lunch and replace it for dinner.

    As for readers/customer comments, I take them very seriously, which is why I am responding openly to your words. You were forthcoming, and I appreciate that. There are times when I need to sort through what is given as constructive and judge between that and what is being given just to be hurtful. The latter are the ones I usually ignore because they tend to be anonymous and probably don't really want to engage the dialogue. I’ve also learned to consider that whenever I meet an angry customer, it’s quite likely that he or she was angry before walking in the door and that their experience at my place only acted as the last straw on the camel’s back. A kind word offered can turn away wrath, and I’ve seen that proven many times. I can assure you that dismissal is not my M.O.

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