Thursday, March 26, 2009

What are we doing here?

I've been on the radio talking about the restaurant business in Denver for over thirty years, from the viewpoint of both the restaurateur and the diner. The one thing I've taken away from all this is that I would never want to own a restaurant. It is the nastiest, most unforgiving business ever devised.

Restaurateurs work long hours. They work holidays when the rest of us are home with family and friends. I've seen owners lose their wives, their families, their health, their homes and even their lives. I've seen them surrender to the siren lure of drugs and alcohol. For every one that succeeds there are dozens who fail. And yet, ask any one of them if there's something they'd rather be doing with their lives, and they'll answer no. For, when everything is going right in the restaurant business, it is one of the most gratifying professions there is.

On the flip side of this are the people who go out to eat. People who, this year, will spend half of their entire food budget on meals eaten at restaurants. Some are diners who seek out new culinary adventures. Some consider spaghetti and meatballs exotic. Some will blow $200 on dinner, while some can't understand how a restaurant meal can cost $20. Put the wrong type person in the wrong type restaurant, and they're sure to be displeased.

And there are the uncontrollable situations. Take a man and woman on a first date at a restaurant, and they won't even notice that the waiter ignored them for forty five minutes. A couple who's just had a blazing fight in the car on the way over can be in such a bad mood that nothing the restaurateur can do will be acceptable.

So the restaurant business is a dance. A lunge and parry. An interface among personalities that, when it goes well, is a win-win situation and, when it doesn't, can be a total disaster.

For nearly thirty one years, I've listened to both sides. I've talked to restaurateurs who haven't got a clue what customer service is, and I've talked to diners who have no idea what goes on in a restaurant kitchen when the place is packed and two waitresses and a line cook failed to show up.

In future entries in this blog, I hope to share some of this with you. Also, in this tough economic time, I hope to help restaurateur understand that they are not powerless. There are restaurants that are doing quite well in spite of the economy. And they will emerge stronger than ever when the good times return, and I hope to share thoughts on how to make this happen.

Please feel free to contribute to what I'm doing here. As with the past three decades on the air, I intend this site to be a place where you can air your frustrations as well as your satisfactions.

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