No Automatic Pilot

October 20, 2011

in Editor's Bite


Welcome to my Editor’s Bite section! Information on this new page will range from simple Dinner Reviews Internet Magazine© updates like How I Got Here, to more controversial subjects relating specifically to the hospitality business.

Letter from the Editor

Written by: Tom House

Dear Restaurant Owners and Servers Far and Wide:

I love the restaurant business… I must! I’ve done everything from dishwasher to owner over the last 45 years, and now I am a food crtiic. If I ever do get famous, the complete story will make a very good book. Servers in the biz for as long as I have been (I like to call us Dinosaurs), have tons of great stories to tell. I like to call them Fish Stories! From the many celebrities we have waited on to crazy stories about insane customer antics. Of course there are endless tales of over and under-tipping…many just as incredible as you can imagine!

When you are in the biz for a long time, and especially as a server, you become what I like to call a People Specialist. 95% of the time, you can qualify guests in a matter of seconds. Sometime we are wrong though, like when two gnarly old people order a $300.00 bottle of wine, and you were sure they would be asking for water, lemon and Sweet & Low! That’s the beauty of being a server…it is a lot like gambling! If you like playing roulette, this is the job for you! The wheel keeps on spinning round and round, and barring front door favoritism (which runs rampant in most restaurants), you may get that high roller at any time. Be ready, and treat every guest as if they are VIPs…that way when you actually get one…you won’t have to change anything you do.

Let me expound a little further if I may, since no one is here to stop me as I sit writing in my Calvin Klein underwear, perched on my $19.00 ergonomic chair. (Since I bought this chair on wheels with no back, I have never had a backache again)! In the four decades I have been working in the hospitality business here in South Florida, I have seen and experienced many changes. Let me just preface this by saying, “For every club or restaurant that closes, another two open right up.” It has always been a very competitive scene, and as I have said before, “There is no Automatic Pilot in the hospitality industry.” In essence, you have to stay on top of your game at all times, as a server, bartender, chef and / or an owner. This means always delivering the best service and finest products possible.  If you slip up as a server and blow it with a high roller, another server is always there to take your spot with pleasure. When you think you’ve seen the highest of high rollers, there’s always another one out there with deeper pockets. Treat everyone like a VIP…this way when you DO get a REAL VIP, you won’t have to do anything differently!

If you slip up as a restaurant or club owner, the stakes are much higher as you run the risk of going out of business real fast. Customers always love something new and exciting. People want to be where the crowd is…no crowd? No people…that’s it! It is a very fickle business, and success is not always determined by location and how good your food is…although those points are very important indeed. This is why the average life of a restaurant here in South Florida and probably in most other locales is about three years.

So Restaurant People out there…take heed of my words. Before you get into this business as an owner or even just a server, make sure you are a gambler at heart. Make sure you are not afraid of hard, stress-filled work, long hours and thankless customers who at times seem like they want to see you fail. When it is going well…there is nothing more rewarding than the hospitality business…but when it is going south, you’ll wish you never got started.

The answer is tons of planning prospective restaurant owners. Do your demographics thoroughly as far as location. As a new owner, get yourself surrounded by people who know more than you and listen to them! Every business has to have experts, and the restaurant biz is no different. Everyone (from owners to all employees) in the hospitality business should leave their EGOs at home…it is your enemy.

Owners must work day and night until you feel like things are as good as they can be…then remember these words…there is no Automatic Pilot! If you leave the pilot’s seat and let other’s run the place for you…chances are it will fail, no matter how good your intention, location, food and service is.

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