What do you do when you realize the picture everyone paints about the restaurant business – the fun, enjoyment, camaraderie, and bountiful financial success is merely a vision through the eyes of an artist, say with Monet’s late-life vision.
I recently received an email outlining the problems facing one family in the restaurant business. The stress of financial struggles, the long hours, the multi tasking- having to perform the duties of prep cook, book keeper, accountant, and referee, along with being a great host, a qualified waiter, a mother, father, friend and parole officer when in the kitchen filled with either recovering or future addicts, frequently erodes the enjoyment of the business. A pastel colored adventure often becomes as murky as Monet’s later paintings.
In the email, the owner was concerned about a new establishment opening down the street from her family style restaurant. According to the email, a young pup from the town in the Heartland was given a few bucks from family members o renovate a closed bar and dive into the restaurant business. The proprietor of the soon-to-open eatery has no experience in the business, has never held a job, and is going to also be the bartender, chef, and manager. Very important roles to fill.
It sounds like his family has too much money and spends too many hours watching Cheers reruns. Although the episodes of Malone and company were enjoyable to watch, they were in many ways the first restaurant reality TV sitcom. Malone was broke most of the time, Cliff and Norm seldom paid for drinks, the landlord was constantly hounding the tenant, and aside from chasing Rebecca around the room, Malone had little drive except to speak about his past on the mound or his future in bed. Sounds like a few places I have frequented over the years.
The comparison between Cheers and the future competition down the street is probably less than accurate as Sam had a clear head- for the most part- and loved his apparent stress less position. Seldom do owners have the continual persona that the Red Sox pitcher portrayed on the tube. Plus, he never ducked a vendor or paid a bill. That must have been a fabrication of the studio.
One of the advantages of already being in the business- rather than being an inexperienced start up- is all of the obstacles have already appeared. There are few surprises lurking and the practices used to solve the problems you currently face have been rehearsed numerous times. The new guy has yet to experience any problems and from the sounds of it has little knowledge of solution.
Worrying about competition in this case is a waste of time. In most scenarios, new bars and restaurants, without a track record, mega capital, and an experienced management team slither away into the darkness of night because they cannot deal with the stress and multi-tasking that is vital for success in the business.
Although the initial picture painted is always rose colored and cheery, what lies beneath the paint is anything but bright. Yet, through a great support system, a qualified staff- whether family, friends, relatives or employees, long hours, hard work, a dash of passion and a large feeling of accomplishment, it is difficult to find a business whose painted picture offers so much enjoyment.
Remember, there are two types of competition. The large chain that opens and has an effect on your business and the flash-in-the-pan restaurant that will do a bit of damage for a little while.
In either case stay on course, train your servers to be more attentive, (even if they are experienced family memebrs), and add some creative specials to your menu to entice your customers to stay loyal.