Monday, January 15, 2007

Going Once, Going Twice

Tom says:
All things considered, the weekend was fairly quiet as far as the restaurant was concerned. Maureen and I researched regional and local produce suppliers, finalized and placed the table top orders, and talked shop between movies playing on the DVR. The cold that's been plaguing me for the last 10 days settled in my ears, warranting a visit to the doctor today. A hundred and twenty bucks and one prescription for antibiotics later, I'm actually starting to feel better. Unfortunately, Maureen woke up this morning with what she calls a thick throat. She's been achy and cranky all day and the return (arrival?) of winter weather isn't helping.

Health matters aside, though we don't yet have our permits for electrical or plumbing, I did learn from the buildings department on Friday that we can go ahead and start in on the demo and the painting. I've scheduled the crew to begin on Wednesday (note to self: take more 'before' photos). Meantime, our interior designer, Ariel, continues to take my vision and run with it, all the while managing the various projects I've thrown at her with such finesse that I've nothing but confidence that my vision will become reality. And a fantastically beautiful reality at that.

Tomorrow, I'm headed to Massachusetts for an auction that's being held at a failed Italian restaurant. The timing is right, not just because of where we're at with our own re-fit, but because the equipment being auctioned is, by commercial kitchen standards, still new (the restaurant was in operation for only 14 months and the lifespan of commercial equipment is approximately 10 years).

We may get some good deals, we may not. It's not how much we have to spend, but how much we're willing to spend and, in this case, there's equipment removal, hauling and installation to factor into the price. Even though this auction may be good for us, it's a hardcore reminder that the restaurant business carries a high risk. I can't imagine the owners of this place ever thought they'd be in this position a little over a year after opening.

Actually, I'm pretty sure they were excited, optimistic and convinced they'd take their town by storm. Especially when you consider that it probably took them more than a year and $500K to execute the initial build out of the space. It's too easy to Monday-morning quarterback their failure and insist the reasons they failed are the same traps I'll actively avoid: my offerings will be superior, my service standards higher, my location better, my marketing slicker. The hard, cold truth is that the reasons a restaurant fails aren't always that clear. Sometimes, the root cause of the failure is forever ambiguous. And if it's happened to you, you have to find a way to live with that. If it could happen to you, you have to be prepared to find a way to be able to live with that.

Looking back over my career, it seems I've always worked for successful operations and with some of the finest independent restaurateurs in the country. And yet, when I look at my resume--just the facts, ma'am--there's only one restaurant I've worked in over the last 10 years that's still in business.

If you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go throw up now.

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