I grew up in the 1970s when family dinner was all about conveniences like microwaves, canned food, frozen entrees and instant mashed potatoes. Taste … not so much.
When I married an ardent foodie, my world expanded. Terms like locavore and sous vide entered my vocabulary. I started reading great food writers such as Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain. And with my husband's encouragement, I became a restaurant critic.
Moonlighting as a restaurant reviewer for my local newspaper is a somewhat surreal experience. I have fans and haters. I’m aware that what I write can hurt or help a business. Most of all, my job is to let readers know where they are most likely to have a good experience.
What qualifies me to review restaurants? Not much, actually. My husband helps me out with the technical aspects, such as why something might taste particularly good, bad or just plain weird. I can write entertaining copy, which is my main qualification. My opinion is just that, though, my opinion.
After four years of dining everywhere from food trucks to five-star restaurants, I’ve found that most successful restaurants share certain qualities. I believe these are qualities that the most successful businesses share as well.
Have passion for your product
The best chefs and restaurateurs all share this trait. They love what they produce and expect consistent excellence from themselves and others. This holds true at a white-tablecloth establishment as well as a greasy spoon. One of the most masterful cooks I have ever met is Scottie, an artist on the flat-top grill at a 16-stool diner. He makes the most amazing burgers and pancakes. Everything is created fresh on the spot. Fast he is not. Taste his food and you don’t care. He could easily fill a much larger restaurant every day but stays small. Which leads me to point number two.
Doing a handful of things exceptionally well can be more than enough to earn customer loyalty ... but that doesn’t give you a pass on innovating.
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