What does it take to run a restaurant?
Before we opened our own place six months ago, that’s a question that my husband Richard and I asked a lot of people.
It was a dream of ours, but we knew that we had no experience and that it’s a risky business. We soaked up everything we could get our hands on from industry gurus like Danny Meyer and David Chang. We went local, talking with restaurateurs, managers, chefs and bartenders.
Everyone we talked with was unfailingly generous with their time and advice, but they were also hesitant to give it. Why? Because they were afraid we would be insulted if their ideas didn’t match up with ours.
It is a delicate balance – taking advice but not losing your vision – but I think from this whole experience the biggest lesson I have learned is the value of being a sponge. Many things we heard were contradictory, but it helped us look at issues from multiple perspectives and reach informed decisions.
Once we opened, it became much more important to know our value proposition, to communicate our vision to our staff and guests, and keep those standards front and center. It makes it easier to say, “oh, well” when a troll says everything you do sucks on Yelp and to say, “we can do better” when the next person gushes that you’re perfect. It keeps us honest when we don’t live up to our brand promise of “creating a setting for the best night of your week.”
Our menu is a regularly evolving Minimum Viable Product (MVP). We change it seasonally and watch the numbers to see what sells and what doesn’t. Honestly, it doesn’t always make a lot of sense. Is there some hormone in the air that makes everyone want steak one week and salmon the next? But watching these trends lets us home in on our guests’ desires more accurately.
I think from this whole experience the biggest lesson I have learned is the value of being a sponge.
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