And we will probably do it again.
When we bought the waterfront property in need of a whole lot of love we spent months imagining life as restaurateurs. Friday nights filled with happy local friends, meeting and greeting and eating – and laughing. We imagined wonderful smells and flavors and presentations of interesting and unique creations served by jovial, sharply dressed kitchen staff. And we imagined working a few nights a week and stopping in for the occasional busy lunch during parent’s weekends.
And then we opened.
While we look back fondly on our first two plus years, and most of what we imagined has been our lucky reality, we have certainly learned a lot and the biggest lesson of all is that you need to go into this business with dinosaur thick skin. I remember many people not so secretly sharing their opinions about our decision to invest so much in the property, “not sure what they are thinking, no way to make that location work.” Ironically it was those same skeptics that wandered in on a busy Friday night and were quick to let us know that they “always knew this place would work.” Those critics are the easy ones.
While each and every one of our 45 employees comes to work intending to give perfection for the entirety of their shift we certainly don’t accomplish that. We seat too many people and the kitchen gets backed up, we pull the wrong salmon out of the oven and serve the one that needed another two minutes rather than the one that was cooked perfectly. We grab the box of beautiful dino kale that arrived from a local vendor an hour ago and while it has been washed multiple times, it hasn’t been inspected yet, part of our routine that might get missed on a wild Saturday night. It happens, and it will happen again.
And when we make a mistake we hear about it, as we should. Social media is a wonderful tool for keeping up with friends and family and sharing photos of your kids on the first day of school. We have access to information that helps us find the best hotels and restaurants and we certainly benefit from those tools. We also get punched in the gut from time to time, and often we deserve it; that is simply part of the business. When we do receive criticism we sulk around avoiding each other and try not to let the bad reviews affect us but they do. And then we dissect them and share them with everyone as a way to learn and improve and we work hard together to toughen up.
I admire Seth Godin, a talented marketing guru and I read his blog daily. This week he made me think when he said “If your goal is to be universally liked and respected and understood, then, it must mean your goal is to not do something that matters.”
Since opening my best calculation is that we have served 153,600 meals and we have made some mistakes, and we will again. Fire away critics because we are doing something that matters and that means we might not get it perfect every time, but we will listen and learn and improve and try again the next day to get it just exactly right.
That's how good things happen.