5:20… The El __________ Restaurant… Sonoma, California. Four hungry people on Eastern Standard Time enter, are led to the patio, and told that they can’t sit down. It’s not 5:30, the opening time. Four hungry people stood from moment, thought about it, said, “We can come back in ten minutes”, walked out, thought about the general rudeness and lack of common courtesy and decided to eat at The Girl and The Fig. One of the four, (Not moi!), spent the entire trip telling everyone who would listen, including all of the desk folk at the Sonoma Inn, about the incident. There was much tut, tutting over the poor customer service. Because that’s what we were—customers, with a need, in this case to be fed—customers with money. They didn’t meet the need and they didn’t get the money. But they did get a lot of bad press from my friend. (You will note that I omitted the name of the restaurant but if you’re out there it’s the only one that begins with “El” that isn’t a Mexican restaurant.)
You may be thinking, “But I don’t own a restaurant” so this doesn’t apply to me. Au contraire ma frere!” (Going to wine country awakens the French idioms in me. We beat them in the Paris Tasting and every tasting since according to Bob of “Two Amigos.”) Everyone meets a need and has at least one customer. That is—everyone that has a job, a business, or creates wealth.
We walked over to The Girl and The Fig. We ate there many years ago on one of our first trips to the Sonoma Valley. We had expectations. The hostess sat us on the patio as requested. (Never eat inside if the weather is nice and the ambiance inviting—eating alfresco adds to the meal.) The complimentary olives presented a few moments later told us that we were in a hospitable place. I don’t even remember what I had but I do remember that it was wonderful. The Beautiful Lady had perfectly prepared duck confit. The meal was convivial, the waiter attentive, the need was met, and they got our money. And we were happy to part with our money knowing that it was well spent.
I share the story because there are a lot of things that you can learn from observing endeavors that are not like your own. And if you happen to be in food service, (the technical name for restauranting), or ministry, (they’re both about feeding people), observing the things that have made others succeed or fail will often determine whether you succeed or fail. Wise people learn from their own observations or the observations of a sharp-eyed observer with the ability to connect the dots. (In this case, Moi.)
I’ve eaten in a lot of restaurants and seen them come and go. In fact, the restaurant business is brutal and more fail than succeed. And like any other business, service, or endeavor, even working a job, there are things that hasten both. I’ve written about one of them. Because the restaurant business isn’t just about food—it’s about hospitality, creating an environment, and making a place for people. Kind of like church.
When you join me “Behind The Door” I’m going to share some more observations and experiences from my epicurean adventures. Some come from “greasy spoons.” (Perhaps the
best Mexican food that I have ever eaten was on this trip at a restaurant that was described by the man who recommended it as “funky.” It was funky indeed—to get to the only bathroom you had to go past the dishwash area and vats of freshly cooked refried beans. The Tamales were Out-Of-This-World!! I’ll tell you more “Behind The Door”.