Friday, June 8, 2018

What I've Learned 2 Months Into the Restaurant Business



It’s been 2 months since Kitchen 330 opened it’s doors, a venture between me, Paul and his cousin Gus Zimmerman who is an Executive Chef. Not 100% knowing what I was getting into, I have to say the people in Stone Harbor have been so welcoming. If the people in Cape May were this welcoming, my transition would have been much easier.
Being someone who is in bed at 10pm every night, it’s been a lifestyle adjustment on the days we are open, as it’s midnight before I see my pillow. I think in time I will get use to the 6 hours or so of sleep, and during that time I don’t wake at 3am, so that’s a good thing.

The Reservation Process

Learning Open Table and all about reservations and table flipping has been an eye-opener. Now personally, when I go out to eat and make reservations, I know how important it is to be on time and also how far in advance you make that reservation.

  • People play Open Table reservations like a video game. It’s amazing without a credit card guarantee and cancellation policy, how many reservations get dropped an hour before their arrival time.
  • You make your reservation. If you make it well in advance you get assigned a good table. As more people make their reservations, they get assigned to tables. If you make your reservation perhaps 30 minutes before you arrive, the table choice might not be the best. Even though the restaurant might seem empty, those tables are assigned to people who will be arriving within 15 minutes to 1 hour after you.
  • It’s important for a restaurant to be able to flip tables. By that I mean, 2 people come in to eat at 5:30pm. They are alloted 1.5 hours to enjoy their meal. If they are running late, the 7pm reservation has to wait to be seated. A chain reaction. Personally as working the front of the house, this is something I stress about on very busy evenings.

Review Process

As a reviewer myself, I always look for the positive in something. When I dine out, if it’s really bad, I will say something at the restaurant if approached. Knowing you can’t please everyone, people pick the strangest things to focus on in a review. But that is okay, to each their own. Sometimes a wine isn’t what you would expect based on your palate and the same goes with food. It’s all open to  interpretation. Why a wine judge will give one wine a score of 18 out of 20 and another will give a score of 9 out of 20, it's about interpretation.
What I found interesting is one Sunday at Brunch a customer told me and I quote “ You should get Scott XXXX down here to review the restaurant. If you comp him a meal he’ll give you a great review.”She said she works for a local PR firm. Don’t know if she was trying to impress me, but I walked away bewildered. As a reviewer myself, I will not be bought. If I don’t like a wine, I will say so, but someone else might like that type of wine. If I am in a tasting room or wine tour I will write about the experience from my perspective. Everyone has a price point, and all price points are different when it comes to food and wine. This particular food critic who I found out use to do the music beat, did come in and dine at the restaurant. Did I comp him his meal. NO. Did he write a good review. Not really. Makes me wonder on the integrity of food critics following the PR woman’s comment.

The Restaurant Industry

I didn’t know much about the working parts in the world of restaurants. One thing, if the kitchen doesn’t produce quality, people aren’t going to walk in the door. People leave gratuity on the experience. Food and service. Behind the scenes, you have many people involved in making sure what is presented to you looks good and taste good. There is such a disparity in wages. I don’t think the servers understand the value of others like the Expo/Runner (The one telling the chef/line cooks what dishes to cook for each table and when, any alterations of the dish, any table allergies, then assisting delivering the food to the table so you are served promptly and your food is at the right temperature) in the restaurant. Not to mention the wage of the line cooks. Well not sure I agree. I guess this is my first experience in the restaurant industry, had I worked it in my younger years, perhaps it would be different. Maybe it’s because I live in a shore / seasonal town? Perhaps it’s different in the big city.
Do I think there should be more tip sharing among all co-workers involved, I think so. Especially in a small venue where everyone works together to achieve success. I don’t think there is enough value placed on the kitchen staff. The way in which the economy drives things, it’s a shame that someone going to culinary school and is looking for a position to start at, is offered such a low wage. I see in other establishments, those positions going to less qualified people because they are the only people who will work for that wage because they aren’t educated and can do the job just as well as an educated person. (I’m trying to say this as politically correct as I can). I still have a lot to learn about the industry.

Overall

It’s been a little bit more of a time commitment than I thought. I miss my evenings drinking wine with my husband and cooking dinner. (We still do it 5 nights a week when he’s in town) Once we go 7 days in 3 weeks, it will be 10 weeks of craziness. I am looking forward to meeting new people and the conversations that will be had.
Right now feel like I’m hosting a dinner party Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and serving everyone Brunch on Sunday after the party. I’m staying up way past my bedtime, but the best part is I’m not cooking. I’m just making sure everyone is taken care of and I am meeting some wonderful people, and having great discussions on wine. Ask me at the end of the summer if I still feel this way
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