Saturday, February 16, 2008

Valentine's Day 2008: We're Getting There...

Finally. Time to relax. Time to consider the implications of the events of the last few days.

Thursday—Valentine’s Day—was a success beyond our wildest hopes.

Some things didn’t go as I would have liked. Our best entrees were not the most popular. We had a fantastic pecan-crusted salmon salad on the menu, and we sold maybe a dozen. Our "Old Town Mac & Cheese" is really wonderful…cheddar cheese sauce with a bite of hot dijon and our great honey ham… But it’s been on the menu for a couple of months, and I guess people were looking to try something different, or maybe less comfort-foody. The most popular entrée of the night—Pesto Chicken breast with provolone and fettuccini Alfredo on the side—looked a bit puny on the plate going out. I’m sure it tasted fine (I know our pesto is top notch and our homemade Alfredo is to die for) but the plate coverage wasn’t there. We ran WAY short of "vegetable du jour" (and it was, I’m ashamed to say, sort of a throw-away anyway…) But we didn’t run out of anything important, and we didn’t send out any wrong orders (which would have been inexcusable with four of us in the kitchen…)

Considering that we did more sales in three hours than we usually do in a good (entire) day…I’d say we did okay. We comped one glass of wine to a guest who didn’t feel the meal was coming up fast enough, and one glass of soda because we didn’t get it to the guest in a timely manner. But, on the whole, the restaurant looked great, people had a good time, and nobody died. And we had our all-time best sales day in our history of owning the restaurant. Which will ultimately translate to our best sales week in our history of owning the restaurant.

In February.

Which, last year, was our second-to-worst sales month in our history of owning the restaurant. I’m finding it really hard to assimilate that particular aspect…

We learned some things…about what modifications we will need to make to our systems, our menu, and our physical plant if we ever hope to do that kind of business on a consistent basis (and that is the ultimate goal, is it not?)

And about what we can do, even when we have no idea what the hell we are doing.

I think we can chalk this one in to the "wins" column.

Friday morning, after four crappy hours of can’t-make-the-adrenaline-go-away sleep, I dragged my butt back to the restaurant. But it was okay…I anticipated a peaceful day. Surely everyone in this itty-bitty town who had any intention of eating at our place in the foreseeable future had done so. I figured we would probably be pretty damned dead for the rest of the weekend.


Friday was a "conference" day for the local schools. Teachers were in residence. Students were not. And, in this small town, we are pretty much within walking distance of every school in the district.

Oh-so-many teachers chose the Old Town Café as their lunch destination on Friday. So many that we did the highest lunch sales hour in our history of owning the restaurant. Right on the heels of our busiest day ever. Let me just say, we were neither prepared nor particularly eager to welcome that gift from the gods…

And, yet…we did. With as much grace and skill as we had left in us. All went well.

Friday evening, my butt scraped the asphalt all the way home. After I left, my poor tired girls managed to rack up enough sales to make this our all-time highest Friday sales in our history of owning the restaurant.

Yikes. I hardly know what to do with this sudden success. Honestly.

Early this afternoon, as I scraped the residue of breakfast off the grill, I had a thought that made me giggle out loud (and caused the cook who was working with me today to shoot me a quizzical glance…)

I understood—for the first time, I think—that we just might make a go of this thing. We just might keep the doors open. And I realized that this could be the difference between me and most idiots who open restaurants with the idea that getting rich off this sort of venture will be like shooting fish in a barrel.

They all think that, within months, they will be raking in enough money to make them official residents of Easy Street.

I, on the other hand, consider it a victory that I’ll be able to keep the doors open.

Making money? That will come, eventually.

Making a fortune? Dream on.

But if I can create a place where people can come and eat and be part of the family; work for a boss I can actually get along with; keep a roof over my head and a car in the driveway; provide work for a few other souls, and maybe even make their lives a little easier…

Then I AM a rich woman indeed.


  1. Your aspirations are in the right place!  As a worker, it's more important who you work for than what you are working for!

    Your tasks and days are endless, monitary rewards will never compensate for all that effort!

    You are very astute to be catorgizing your customers. Keep a record, by age , by type (couples, business meetings, social gatherings) and you will know which items to have on aenu and whichto have a "daily special board"
    If you haven't checked out the National restaurant Association and the many shows they host, it is a great source of ideas.  Good luck and much sucess!
    Marc :)

  2. Congratulations on your well-earned success!  What a terrific week you had, and sound HAPPY writing about it, and that's the best success of all...


  3. Congratulations.  I'm just thinking of all the entries you've had here where you've been thrown another curve to struggle with.  You've worked damn hard for this....and you DESERVE to bask in the warm renewing glow of success.

  4. Oh Lisa, this is so wonderful -- the success, the repeats, the tone in your voice, your hopes for what you can provide.  All good.

  5. My heart go out to you- I've been there and know all the in and outs, highs and lows. It is a rollercoaster ride from somethere! But it is the greatest venture for a food and people person.  Restaurant Ownership is the ultimate high for serious food people. Keep the plates coming!

  6. Have you ever seen the quote attributed to Sandra Bullock?  

    "I've learned that success comes in a very prickly package. Whether you choose to accept it or not is up to you. "  

    An exerpt from her quote and I think the they underscore the ups and downs of getting to your own success -- but first we have to know what success (to us) is.  I think you do Lisa.  I think you do.

    Congrats on a great few days in the cafe!  

  7. YAY  Congrats on your success though I never doubted it would come.  Real business is all about attitude.  You have the right one.

    It's good to see you happy!

  8. You came, you saw, you hit one over the fence; into the next county. Way to go my friend.


  9. Yay, Lisa!  I'm so happy so read of your recent success.  I hope it continues for you.  

  10. I have a TERRIBLE time posting comments to your blog, but today it seems to have worked.  I want you to know that I'm still reading and still thinking about you and your restaurant -and wishing I could eat the pesto chicken!  (That's the one I would have chosen too, by the way!)