Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Little Things

Maureen says:
When you're starting any business, you'd think the big decisions would be the most difficult ones, the ones that result in long, drawn-out debate and endless discussion. That's what I thought because in my mind big decisions are, by default, equated with big money.

What I've discovered, though I suspect I always knew it on some level, is that the bigger the decision, the louder your gut speaks to you and its message is unmistakably clear. Things like choosing a logo or lighting or even the almighty point-of-service system were the cliche no-brainer decisions. Where we're getting caught up is in the little things.

Choosing staff shirts, for example. We don't have a large staff, so price per shirt isn't a huge consideration. Fit, however, is. So is color. Ditto sleeve-length. And we made a decision a long time ago that unisex isn't the way we want to go. Thus, locating a supplier with shirts that are the right style and weight, that offers compatible men's and women's versions with two sleeve-lengths per with a color palette that's in keeping with our decor and our brand? That's what results in the long, drawn-out debates and endless discussions. Add to that that staff will also wear bistro aprons, which come from a different supplier with its own rainbow of colors we'll need to match, and I've experienced my first hours of lost sleep since we started this venture.

Other things I've been working on behind the scenes include the Web site (choosing a design was easy, mostly because our designer is brilliant, but writing the content is another trial), coffee and tea selections (when everything you've tasted is great, paring down to your final offering is unexpectedly difficult), creating a mood music strategy (fortunately, I've got a friend who's aces at this and he's offered to put together a few custom mixes for your dining pleasure), and walking around the house with the menu folio to see how it looks next to the menu sheets in various levels of light (we may need to change our original color choice).

Then, there's that whole list of other little things that would, in our eyes, make Z nothing short of perfect but aren't necessarily in the opening budget. We can't do all of them, and the ones we'd most like to do are the ones that cost the most. There's time, we tell ourselves, to add these in after the opening. They are, we tell ourselves, touches that only we'll miss because we're the only ones aware of them. We need to redefine our idea of perfection, we tell ourselves, because as much as opening a restaurant is about realizing a dream, at the end of every shift it's really about the food, the experience and the relationship we have our customers. In those areas, there is no room for compromise.

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