No business plan survives the first customer.
No matter how much you plan, how hard you work, there is always something that you will not foresee when you open your doors for business.
Like grilled cheese sandwiches.
Such a simple item, right? Cheese and bread, toasted til gooey, just like mom made. Shouldn’t be that big of a deal. But when 60% of the lunch orders included grilled cheese, we found a flaw in the plan. We’re gonna need a bigger grill.
It’s been a full week since we opened our doors at Jack&June. We officially started last Sunday at lunch, our first real test with real customers. No turning back now. It was time to set sail and see if the hull leaked or not. We quickly found out that it did, and frantically took notes to address them. I am teaching my management to carry a Moleskine notebook to jot down every bit of customer feedback so we can review it and learn from it. Ask to see it.
I also told them during our pre-opening and training preparation that there will come a point that they will want that time back. The old proverb refers to it as “sleeping during harvest.” There is a season for plowing, planting, growing and reaping. And when it comes time to reaping, the season is so short and the opportunity so great, you can’t afford to close your eyes for a minute. Its why my team looks so stressed. If they look like they haven’t slept, its because they haven’t.
A restaurant is an incredibly complex web of intricately associated details. Each dish has several components and ingredients that need to be balanced perfectly before serving, especially temperature and seasoning. If a cook isn’t mindful of it all, you end up with a faulty plate. In the same way, every server has a series of steps to follow to execute quality service. Let any one of those slip, and your experience is diminished.
Critique is the hardest to hear, and the most difficult to elicit. Most folks are polite and don’t want to say anything harsh. When the server comes to the table and asks ”how is everything?”, the easiest answer is to say fine and carry on. I rarely say how I really feel when dining at an unfamiliar restaurant and I’m in the business. Unsolicited advice is always marked as criticism, and I’m not sure when to speak up.
But I am saying to you, my guest and reader; please speak up. I’m inviting your comments and feedback. We cringe when we know we failed a guest or when a customer walks out unsatisfied. The kitchen knows the sinking feeling when a plate comes back cold. We mull it over and over. We just can’t let it go. We want to bat 1.000, but we know full well it will never happen. But we yearn for that perfection because we take pride in our work and thankfully I have a team that is driven to keep on improving and never let you down.
One of the great aspects of our industry is immediately being able to know how we performed, good or bad, at the end of the day. If good, we hold our head high and hoist a toast afterward. If poor, we kick ourselves all the way home. I feel so fortunate to have the ability to help be a part of creating another original concept for the good people in Lincoln.