August 13th, 2012 by ~ 1 Comment

So you think you want to open a restaurant?

People ask me if I could go back to the opening of bread&cup five years ago, would I do things differently?  I’m sure there were some things I would tweak here and there, but for the most part I feel like we hit the mark closely to where we were aiming.  I would, however, wished I had known a few things about the restaurant business that I didn’t know beforehand.  Here are some bits of advice I offer if you are thinking about opening your own place.

Stuff breaks.  You know this in theory.  Its advice your dad gave you along the way.  But until you hear the sound of glass shattering on a daily basis, you’ve not fully grasped this principle. Your restaurant is  a public space, meaning you are going to have lots of people handling your stuff, your breakable stuff, and you need to get your head around this fact.

One simple way to replicate it is to have someone in your family go to the cupboard ever two hours, reach for a glass, plate or other breakable item, and throw it on the floor. Get used to that sound, because you are going to hear it every day.  Beware of your Pavlovian responses.  You will condition yourself to wince in pain or remind yourself that is just a part of your business.

Where is the C clamp? I joke around with my staff that I could hire an assistant to just help me find stuff in the kitchen.  I am constantly saying, “where’s the ______?” Things get misplaced all the time. It comes from having new staff not knowing where everything goes.  Remember that little phrase from kindergarten, A place for everything and everything in its place?  It applies equally in the professional kitchen.  Preach it often and it will eventually sink in.

Reset the table.  You must never lose sight of the fact that you are in the service industry, empasis on serving.  Guests come in your front door, slide their feet under your table, eat your food and go on their way.  That’s their job as guests. Your job is to be ready for their visit and to make that visit as enjoyable as possible.  When they leave, you make it look as if no one had been there before. Its what Danny Meyer refers to as resetting the table.

Some folks are going to leave quite a mess.  The family with a toddler will drop crumbs all over your floor. Some guy  is going to spill his full drink across your bar.  You will eventually be informed that someone threw up in the bathroom sink in the women’s restroom.  It’s a little like home, but times twenty.

Service provides a unique reward. Where there are people, there will always be a mess to clean up. Accept it as a part of your job.  See it as part of the beauty of your profession.  How you choose to handle this will go a long way in deciding what kind of restaurant you will create.

One Response

  1. Demac says:

    I have a part-time extra job as a janitor for the Lutheran grade school that my congregation operates. The teachers sometimes feel a need to apologize for an extra messy day they may have had, and I usually answer that if I minded when kids made a mess I probably shouldn’t be a school janitor.