Tonight, thousands of people will be roaming the streets of major cities and small towns looking for letters in windows of dark spaces just as I once did, in hopes of fulfilling a dream and finding that great location. Believing we can make a better burger, a fluffier omelet, and a tastier sun dried tomato meat loaf with spicy ketchup, we are all seeking the dysfunctional diversity that a restaurant offers. We all know these people-we are these people. Thinking a recipe for this and that is better than so-and-so´s is one of the major driving forces in the quest to own an eatery.You may have a relative, or possibly a friend, or possibly you can look into any mirror and see the person I am about to describe.
First, a small bowl of homemade salsa garners rave reviews at a party. Suddenly Ball Jars of the concoction, complete with a private label printed on a computer, are capped with a circle of plaid fabric with a pinking sheer edge.
A wonderful holiday gift morphs itself into a larger, spicier batch of Salsa, a 50 gallon drum´s worth, for the July 4th family reunion. The relative´s compliments take hold. The idea for the "Salsateria", a restaurant with a ten flavor salsa bar is beginning to form. A family member is brought into the deal. Soon a lease will have a name on it.
The rest is culinary history. Quickly expenses soar, out numbering sales. The realization that it may be easier climbing Everest without a backpack or a Sherpa begins to materialize. The complexities of figuring a way to make money at your new venture become a reality sooner than expected. The tensions mount. And as the place limps along, we finally decide we never want to see a dirty dish again. And, eventually we will realize we are seeing less and less dirty dishes each night. Then the dilemma of getting out sets in. Eventually, it is your turn to tape the letter to the window.
Today, the complexities facing restaurateurs are more difficult than ever before, making it tougher to survive in the crowded conglomerate of culinary concepts. The talent is more abundant, the competition more fierce, and the industry more crowded than it was just a decade ago. Watching the food network for an hour, learning the difference between mirepoix and Mirabeau, has casually educated the public in the art of food and beverage.
Nothing compares, however, to a successful restaurant. Its the closest a person can come to reaching Hollywood stardom without struggling for years in order to see their name in lights.
With a nice bankroll, a large amount of creativity, and a whim of foolishness, a restaurant owner can see their name in lights the first night the sign goes bright on the front of the building. After that, all that´s needed are busloads of pleased customers.
But to accomplish that, a task that seems relatively easy, a restaurateur must possess the financial wherewithal of a producer, the vision of a director, the imagination of an actor, the skills of a stagehand, the eye of a cameraman, the perfection of a makeup artist, and the talent possessed by each.
Restaurant owner´s must be multi task oriented, have the ability to handle crisis, criticism, rudeness, praise, adoration and humor all while walking from the front of the restaurant to the rear.
Owners must face the realization that no matter how hard you attempt to solve the problems a new unexpected situation will always arise.
One key to success is to not make a big deal out of a small problem. Often, when the stress mounts and the creditors are knocking, we often look towards others to place blame. The guy at the top, the owner, takes all the blame in the restaurant biz. But, you also get most of the praise.
And, if you can´t handle one, without the other, you can´t handle being in the business.
A true restaurateur must be able to stare adversity, aggravation and turmoil in the eye and not blink first, all the while ready to smile and ask "May I get you a table, or possibly share my pickles."