Ah, Friday. Probably the best day of the week in the restaurant business. Every restaurant, without exception, will be busier over the next three days than they had been over the past four. And, every owner has a tendency to mentally relax a bit knowing there will be more cash on hand on Monday morning than there will be on Monday night. Plus, it could be what I have always referred to as “The Bail Out” weekend. That one, astronomically busy weekend that I had been praying for to bring in enough cash to get me out of the crimp I was in.
Eventually, they always came. Often weeks later than I expected or needed. But, that is the business.
And since Friday is a casual day in the Blogosphere, and I am sure most owners are too busy with vendors, payroll, and other tasks getting ready for the weekend, I thought I would post an excerpt from a book I am currently writing about the restaurant business. It may be fun reading and it will certainly make you realize that everyone in the business faces the same challenges on a daily basis.
Have a great weekend.
When Thursday’s mail arrived at the Crocus Hill Market, the seal on the letter addressed to “The Dumbbells" was rapidly ripped open. As a newspaper editor in an earlier life, before becoming a partner in a gourmet grocery store, I was familiar with letters similarly addressed and I immediately assumed it was meant for me. The handwritten content, although derogatory and demoralizing, was penned in an articulate hand, and encouraged a curious smile, while provoking serious thought to the apparent distaste expressed.
The authors, an influential couple from the small Lake Minnetonka community of Deephaven, part of Minnesota´s Gold Coast, 25 miles west of St. Paul, conveyed their hope that our newest venture, The Cottagewood General Store, would fail – and that we would lose our perceptible fortune. Reading the letter aloud, I watched as tears flowed from my partner, Kranston´s eyes. She had just left a six figure executive position to join me in this adventure of cutting meat and packing groceries. Things neither of us had any prior experience in.
It may have been the wrong decision, since something as simple as serving sandwiches had already spurned hate mail.
Four short years later, with the help of a cover story in Time Magazine, we turned a fledgling urban grocery store, and a quaint, lakeside, country store into a seemingly thriving culinary conglomerate. We opened a small Faux French Bistro in Wayzata, leased a closed 350 seat lakeside restaurant in Excelsior, complete with enough docks for our newly acquired 60 foot antique catering Yacht and numerous customers and friends´ boats. We expanded to Carmel, California. And, as the culinary adventure continued, the problems of multi-unit restaurant ownership multiplied. Almost as fast as rabbits.
We never dreamt that cooking chicken, stuffing pork loin, roasting butternut squash for soup, and chopping peppers, with a self invented coutry style chop, in order to keep our fingers in tact, could cause so much strain. Of course, dreaming had become part of our past lives thanks to the abundant sleepless nights spent tossing and turning while trying to construct a plan to pay payroll, SYSCO, or numerous other vendors.
But all nights weren´t sleepless. On occasion, after two or three eighteen hour days, usually over a busy, sun filled summer weekend, the comatose sleep we would experience due to culinary exhaustion was peacefully cherished without interruption. The experience was constantly exhuberatingly exhausting.
While flying back to Minneapolis, alone, leaving Kranston in Carmel to run our West Coast property, I suddenly realized our constant expansion was running out of control. Even though it appeared profitable on paper, as most restaurant ventures do, this deal was not a good one. I had created insurmountable challenge with the decision to open a restaurant in California. And, I was about to get my culinary butt kicked leaving an indelible scar on my ego.