The other evening, while having dinner in a popular
I explained that once you are in the restaurant business, especially as an owner, you find it difficult to go to a restaurant and not notice everything happening around you. As we all know, one of the joys of the profession is honing the instinctive skill of panning a room and noticing one tablecloth – on house table 23 – crookedly hanging out of place, or catching a half-empty salt shaker on table 12.
The ketchup bottle that looks like it was pulled from the dumpster at the neighborhood barbecue was also bothersome over in the corner. How about the bartender, who constantly touches their face with the same hand they pick up the fruit with to garnish the Gin and tonic the person on he hook ordered? Annoying? You bet.
Yet for many, picking out the problems that other restaurateurs face or experience is an exercise allowing us to be thankful we no longer have to deal with the daily idiosyncrasies making the business so difficult to master. On the other hand, it often makes us long to get back into a space, to realize how good we are at out game.
It always seems easier to pik out the problems of someone else’s restaurant than it was to spot the problems of one’s own place. I think a lot of that has to do with the amount of enthusiasm, or the eventual lack of it, that occurs after constantly fighting the attle of training.
I hd a conversation with an old friend today who recently opened his latest venture. It turns out that the place is more difficult to run than he had expected. Plus, he has a reputation for running a very strict kitchen and letting it be known to his staff that if they do not perform, a flying pan or a possible stock pot cover could be airborn with a very short notice from the tower.
When I called him the other evening to find out how the opening had gone I was told that the commotion in the kitchen would not subsiding soon and it would be best if I called back. It seems that the airborne metals landed without human collision, yet the new owner claimed, in confidence that “his balloon had rn out of air- he ha enough.” Frequently that happens when you are so close to the problems you cannot pan the room.
When that happens, it is time to step back. Peering out into the crowd we all need to watch as a staff falters, stumbles, stutters and barely touchs the art of professionalism. We then have a tendency to wonder why so many want to enter the dining rooms of delicate service with so little talent.
But, restaurant owners seldom really stand back, as a guest, and pan the rooms they operate and own. It is a tremendous exercise to do regularly. It will make you realize that if the table cloth on house table 23 is crooked, it’s because nobody was trained to see it.
And once we realize that we will come to believe how important training really is.