I received an email from a restaurant owner who had recently closed her eatery after a long, stressful run serving guest in
With her eatery closed, her business for sale, and her days no longer filled with phone calls from vendors seeking payment, waiters taken ill, dishwashers turned landscapers, chefs turned carpenters, and bankers humming tunes of a sour note, her time to reflect on the past is plentiful.
This could be a time of mourning for a restaurant owner who has made the decision to alleviate stress, aggravation and turmoil from their lives. Or, it could be a time to rejoice and celebrate the simple opportunity to regain a normal life.
We are all held captive by our environment. Each of us develops a pattern of habitual motion that we come to rely on for the comfort and safety often confused with security. Yet, in hospitality’s world, security is merely in the hands of people who loved their last meal and have decided to enjoy another. Once that passion for the menu fades, the security that we thought we once had dissipates into thin air and we find ourselves struggling to exist in a somewhat normal world outside of the steam ridden kitchen that wafts with the aroma of garlic, sautéed onions, grilled burgers and dishwashing chemicals.
There is life after the last burger is flipped and the light in the walk-in box goes dark- for good. When looking at the past we should all give deep thought to what we gain from our time in kitchen captivity.
We have all learned to multi task, to think on our feet. We have developed a sense of urgency that can only be equaled by Mrs. Johnson loudly broadcasting as she sits on the last stool at the counter her life or death need for Orange Marmalade for her toast.
We learn how to juggle- finances, payroll, staff, and menu combinations. Paying the beef bill while the fish man waits is a commom practice until the following week when w appease Jimmy Fish and ignore Booby London. We often spent Tuesday scurrying to scrounge enough cash from the previous night’s receipts to get through until Friday when we know business will boom because the Chamber of Commerce has publicized the Annual Sidewalk Sale more efficiently than they had the year before- the ad salesperson told us that when she picked up the $300.00 check for our ad.
We gained knowledge in the art of advertising and marketing. Promotion and customer service became a forte’. On top of it all we learned to play every position on the team, while many on the team took the day off to play. We showed up no matter how bad the storm, how smooth the sea or how choppy the day ahead looked.
We managed to stare adversity in the face and all the while smile while asking, “How are those eggs, Mildred?”
Yes, we may have just come out of the doldrums of operating a restaurant with little financial gain, but the education we all receive is worth its weight in canola oil. And that is an asset that we can carry with us long after a restaurant becomes a Starbucks, for the true measure of a good restaurant is the knowledge the owner has gained from the adventure.