Seeing Your Restaurant Again For The First Time

(Author’s Note: The video above was shot in the Jazz Club of the restaurant where I work.  I think it will prove relevant to the post as you read on and also serves as a nice soundtrack provided by the incredibly talented Bram Wijnands)

When I went in to interview at the restaurant where I work, I made a conscious effort to make notes of my first impressions.  As I approached the door, I wanted to experience what someone walking in for the first time would.  I remember how comfortable the lobby looked.  How ornate all the molding and the ceiling was.  How the 100 year old bar looked like it came directly out of central casting.  It reminded me of the restaurant from the original Godfather movie.  If there was an old fashioned chain toilet in the bathroom, I would have looked behind it for a gun.

I did this, because as I drove to the interview I was thinking about my last interview.  I walked into my previous restaurant and was blown away.  Rich mahogany wood lined all the walls.  A stained glass dome enveloped the restaurant and dwarfed the 20 foot tall bar.  As the manager greeted me, I told him that he had an incredible looking restaurant.  He looked up and said, “yeah I guess so.”  It was apparent that he hadn’t looked at it that way in a while.  By the time I left, I hadn’t either.

Last night, I was opening the restaurant when a guy wondered in.  I asked him if he was joining us for dinner and he replied, “I’m sorry, I should have checked to see if you had a dress code.”  I told him our only code was that he had to be dressed and if he promised not to strip, I would show him to a table.  He was the only guest in the restaurant and was in town with a convention.  I poured him a couple samples of local beers and explained that our steaks come from cows raised less than an hour away.  He asked about the restaurant, and I explained that it was 100 years old.  How the basement was a speakeasy during prohibition and the second floor had been a house of ill repute.  We talked about how the great political boss of Kansas City had an office upstairs and that we recently learned a couple of mobsters had been murdered up there.  He asked about ghosts and a co-worker jumped in to tell him some stories as I started his order.

About this time, our house musician came in and sat down to the piano.  When he started playing, the guest was blown away.  I explained that he plays upstairs twice a week, but it really gets hopping when his trio plays the jazz club downstairs.  His phone rang and he immediately says, “Can you hear that piano in the background?  That guy is playing at some restaurant I wandered into.”  I guess I had become a bit accustomed to having a world class jazz pianist to entertain me a few nights a week.  To me he is just Bram.  We talk foreign politics on the back dock while taking a break.  The guest asked when he would be back, I told him Thursday night and the guest said he would return.  I gave him a great local barbecue place to eat at in the interim.  He left a 30% tip when he paid the check.


After just a few months, the 100 year old tiles on the floor had just become a pain to mop.  The 100 year old bar meant that we had to be careful where we set pitchers.  The former speakeasy in the basement was a flight of stairs I had to climb anytime I needed something from the kitchen.  The political boss’ office was just something that people only asked to see when I was in the weeds.  It only took a few months to forget that first impression.  It only took one guest to remind me of what it was.

I am not writing this to brag about the restaurant where I work.  It is pretty cool though.  I am not trying to show off the tremendous Jazz we have downstairs.  You should check out the video above though.  I am instead trying to provide a challenge.  The next time you walk in your restaurant, look at it as a first time diner would.  Take a step away from it being the place you work and appreciate what sets it apart.  Be impressed with the place you work and you will find an additional level of pride in your work.  Know what sets you apart and never be afraid to brag to your guests about it.  Take some time to see your restaurant the way your guests do and you might find your perspective changing for the positive.

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