I enjoyed your November editorial, “Have a seat and see what's going on.” You are absolutely correct, we in the hospitality business can be “a pain in the ass” when visiting another restaurant. There's nothing we can do about this gene defect within ourselves, but I read an article years ago written by a respected restaurateur that helped me get a much better perspective regarding being critical of others. He mentioned how he had taken his family to dine at another restaurant and how everyone, especially he, sat there and analyzed everything that was done wrong, including how [poorly] they were greeted by the hostess to the lax attitude of the server. The lighting was too bright, the music too low, the floor was not clear of debris; you know, the stuff we see and are critical about when we dine out. Then he said it hit him: What's happening at my restaurant while I'm not there? I bet it's the same thing that I'm seeing right now.
So, there's nothing that can cure us of this “let me rip this place apart” genetic disorder, but if these observations can get us to self-reflect as to what might be happening in our operation, we'll learn a great deal about being better operators. Arrogance can be blinding; humility affords us the opportunity to be better educated.
Sam Diego's Mexican Cookery & Bar
You hit the nail on the head. My husband and I own a small restaurant (48 seats), and we make a point to sit down and eat once a week with our family in the restaurant. It's a time when we can stop and appreciate the dishes that our talented chef and kitchen staff prepare. This is how we discover that the portion control on certain items is not spot on, that the waitress we love is in fact absent-minded and mistake prone, that the bartender forgets to watch the door or assist the waitstaff if not busy or works on a crossword puzzle while we dine just a few feet away. We also realize some great things. Customers love to see you eating in your own place and it gives you a chance to observe and listen to those who don't know you. Very enlightening. Sitting down late at night after service does not count.
While it may seem unlikely, I also wait tables one shift a week. This gives me a clear idea of what is working and what is not. Many times customers do not know I am the owner, so they do not temper their comments. I learn a lot!
All restaurants, old and new, can constantly make improvements. We, the owners, need to stop, look and listen.
Kim and Mike Young
The Falls Landing
Another accurate editorial. You seem to pick topics that others ignore. Two of your examples deal with space planning. The first detailing the uncomfortable banquet-to-table position is really an amateur screw up. It also documents that the designer never sat in the arrangement and, worse, never took the time to review the seating plan. It appears the installation crew also was inexperienced.
The second detail regarding traffic flow for servers and guests is a bit more subtle and it's where an overview of the big plan for the room is critical. The seating arrangement can be changed easily, and probably has since your article ran. The traffic congestion is built into the floor plan and most operators won't recognize it and will live with it.
Active Plan Design & Consulting