Friday, February 23, 2007

The Devil is in the Details

Tom says:
I've long championed the idea that the difference you make when undertaking a task, providing a service or delivering product is found in the details. I still believe that, but what I'm learning as a first-time restaurant owner in the startup phase is that the devil is in those same details. At least with respect to material goods.

You'd think it would have been the big decisions that overwhelmed and exhausted me. Things like hiring a chef, renovating the dining room and choosing a point-of-service system that meets our opening needs but can accommodate growth. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong.

Big decisions often center on products or services that are time-sensitive and mission critical. You don't over-think them because you can't. The clock's ticking, so you go with your gut and 10 times out of 10, your gut doesn't let you down. With those decisions out of the way, you can focus on those little things that mean a lot.

We're in search of the perfect candle lamp for the tabletops; a menu cover that aligns with our concept and is sized for our menu sheets; a treatment for the front window that's functional and eye catching; bread baskets and salt-and-pepper shakers; staff uniforms. The list goes on, the possibilities seem endless, and if we're not careful the devil's going to catch us in a weak moment and bust the budget.

It's common for financial planners to have clients take a week and document every purchase they make so they can see what spending habits have a negative impact on their savings power. What that practice reveals has more to do with purchases made out of habit (daily latte), on impulse (the four-dollar magazine at the grocery check-out), or without thought (single-use bottles of water) than major living expenses. It's the details of your life where money seems to disappear most.

Similarly, multipy a menu cover that's reasonably-priced at $3.50ea by the 100 pieces you need, but oh--wait. A hundred pieces only takes care of dinner. What about lunch? Dessert? The wine list?

I was talking this over with my friends at CS Fishery and we all agreed that it's right about now that you finally start to compromise. It's right about now that you let go of a little bit of your vision and do the best you can with the (little) resources you have. It's right about now that your finite cash and your infinite details make friends. You can always go back and upgrade later once your revenue is coming in.

Not sweating the small stuff is counter to my personality, but you know what? It actually feels okay to say, "Once some revenue is coming in, we can go back and upgrade A, B or C." It feels okay because there are dozens of other details that comprise superior service that don't cost you a thing and those will be with us from the minute we open the doors. The question is, will YOU be with us that minute too?

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