Restauranting is hard. I knew this going into the new expansion. I was told this by my friends who own restaurants. I read about this in restaurant books. I listened to it on restaurant podcasts. Until you experience it, however, it doesn't sink in. Right now for me, I'm writing this at 4am because I'm not sure if the Italian beef I started yesterday will be ready for opening today and I'm thinking about the upcoming Saturday night hoping we will have enough staff to run a successful evening. Yes, restauranting is hard.
The first month of operation is now complete and I learned more than in my first year of college. It was an amazing roller coaster ride for sure of successes and failures. It was the "do our best in the storm" of opening something new. In the business plan, I called it the training wheel month. now that the first month is over, the training wheels have to come off.
There are some key components that I learned in the "training wheel" month:
1. This community truly is great. I've met a lot of great people in the first four year of the VENUE and now I'm getting to meet more. When you try your best to support the community, this community supports back and it is a special thing.
2. There are many more things that cannot be controlled in a daily operation that can be in the VENUE. It's killing me that I can't facilitate the overall experiences for the guests like I can at the VENUE.
3. Two businesses is twice the work. Duh, I should have realized that.
4. Staffing is hard. We have a great team, we just need more on the team to have proper coverage on the floor for our guests. I sometimes feel like I'm running around like a sketch on the old Benny Hill show where they speed the film up (if you don't get that reference, YouTube it. They're pretty funny).
5. I learned in business class that a "brand" is created by the customer, not the business. I created the identity of a "craft bar/bistro"; the community is creating the brand as a restaurant. Now I have to think more like a restaurant.
6. Training, training, training. Never enough.
We have had the great opportunity to serve a lot of people in this first month. For a small community like this, that's been beaten up this past year (college closing and subsuquently now losing our downtown friends at the pub, doggers, and more), this community knows how to rally and help one another. That's a special thing. Whenever I feel like an isolated island in Rensselaer, the community is here for us and that's what gives me the passion to develop new ideas.
The next steps are in our "queue" box. Once we learn how to stabilize our service component of the STATION experience, we will introduce the next step ideas to our community friends for our downtown. It's definitely not a secret that we were supposed to open as a microbrewery. That will still happen (to the dismay of our guests who like the lounge area inside where the beer is supposed to be made), just not until we figure out the best logistics and practices in efficiency for what we currently do.
Thank you to everyone who supported us in the "training wheels" month. you've helped us learn, adjust, scrap ideas, create new ideas, and try something brand new in this community. We will always evolve to better serve you and eventually, we hope, restauranting will be less hard.