Everyone happy … All of the time.

The old saying goes, “you can make some of the people happy some of the time, but you can’t make everyone happy all of the time.” There’s a lot of truth in that.

One of the things I tell the customer service teams in all of my companies – and this includes Town Kitchen and Grill -is that the customer is NOT always right. Whoever said they were was an idiot. Professional customer service people know this. If I stood in front of them and said the customer was always right they’d know I was a fool … I try to avoid that.

Here at Town, our philosophy is pretty simple. We do our best to make every guest happy every time. We succeed a lot of the time and we hear that back from the guests we work so hard to serve. Sometimes we don’t succeed. When we don’t we look closely at those cases to see what happened. We scratch our heads and think about it and then we try to fix it.

Usually, when we don’t make someone happy it’s because we didn’t communicate well. That’s something we’re working really hard to cure. As an example, one night we had a fire in the kitchen. It was short lived, but it was a real, certified, fire. (Chef put it out with some very quick thinking and no one was ever in any danger). The problem was that the fire destroyed all of the dishes that were on the hotline. That meant we had to start over in making all of them and that meant that food was delayed getting to the tables. That should have been communicated instantly to the guests in the restaurant, but there was reluctance to communicate the idea of a fire in the kitchen to the guests.

I get that, but I think it was the wrong decision. I’ve found that most organizations make a mistake by trying to think too much for their customers. In my experience, people are pretty smart. If you give them clear information, they understand it. I’ve also found they’re generally happy with more information than with less. So we’ve talked that through and now, even when there will be short delays (as an example, caused by large parties) we communicate that thoroughly with the guests.

Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we can’t please a guest. One mildly funny story relates to a woman who came in recently with her teenage son. She had no reservation but we had a table for her – a two-top in the middle of the restaurant. She noticed a round table in the corner and demanded that the hostess seat her there. The hostess explained that the round table was reserved for a party of five that was coming in shortly. The woman insisted to be seated there anyway and asked for the manager. As it turns out, at Town, the hostess is a manager. The woman and her son ate dinner at the table they were originally directed to. They finished all of their food. When the woman left, she made a beeline to the manager and told her that she was going to write a review and say the food was very good but the people are very rude. The manager discussed what had happened with me and I told her she’d done an excellent job.

You can’t make all of the people happy all of the time. When you fail – for whatever reason – you take a deep breath and move on and try to learn from the way you failed.

(and sometimes you have to take a deep breath and tell yourself that sometimes people are just a bit unreasonable).

Onward …

 

 

 

 

What I Love Most about the Restaurant Business

People who hear I have a restaurant usually have one or two reactions… They either say, “Wow, that’s so much work,” or they get all dreamy eyed and they say, “Oh, that is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

To the first reaction I merely comment that every company I’ve ever been involved in was a lot of work and while the restaurant business may have different hours and pressures, it is not more difficult – or less so – than any other business. Done right, any small business requires long hours and passion.

My passion is in serving my customers. I love seeing them come in and enjoy the company of a friend or family member, hear a laugh and see a smile. I love knowing when we’ve served them well. Here at Town, I love meeting them. Each story is unique in its own way, each person different. It’s fun to be getting to know them and more fun to see them enjoying being known.

I love it when they’re leaving and they say they’ll be back and I know they will. That makes it all worthwhile.

The Biggest Mistake Most Men Make when they Cook …

We make many .. And I’m a man, so please, men, don’t feel I’m singling you out. I mean .. I am. But that’s sort of the point of the blog. Right? So if you feel slighted in reading this, please go to http://www.jimdissesmeninhiscookingblog.com and rant there. I read it.  Really …

The biggest mistake we make in our cooking is pretty simple. We overcook almost everything. We do it for two reasons. We don’t pay close enough attention to what’s on the heat. We are afraid of poisoning the people we’re feeding.

Let’s talk about that second one first. It’s a very real concern. When you’re cooking, and food poisoning is not, as some seem to think, limited to chicken and shell fish, in fact, one of the most common sources of food poisoning is unwashed, uncooked produce. (Especially now that we’re all ‘organic’ and everything). So, let’s talk about not making people sick. Or how to not make people sick – or however you want to say that.

I own and operate a restaurant. As such, I had to take a food safety course and pass a test. In it, I learned the federal guidelines for safe cooking temperatures for all sorts of things. Here’s a great resource… Food Safety Minimum Temperature Guidelines. 

Now, here’s the problem. With most of the proteins you will cook if you cook the food all the way to the federal guideline – (and, ahem, you often cook it to internal temperatures that are even higher than these) – whatever flavor might originally have been in whatever you are cooking is long gone.

So, the best way to avoid poisoning your guests may surprise you.

  1. Know your source. (Where does the chicken you’re going to cook come from and is the source reputable, hopefully organic, and does your purveyor trust and speak highly of them?)
  2. Know your protein is fresh. (I’m not a person who is afraid of previously frozen products. Frankly, if something is coming from New Zealand I’d prefer it is frozen there and thawed – correctly – here). But the trick to fresh is when was it harvested and when did it go in the case?
  3. Wash your proteins, carefully, before preparing them. (And then dry them off, equally carefully, before cooking them).
  4. Wash your hands after handling anything raw – including produce – with actual soap (it doesn’t actually need to be labeled anti-bacterial – but it helps). Wash them for a minimum of 20 seconds and actually wash between your fingers.
  5. Be mindful of utensils used to handle raw proteins. (including tongs, cutting boards, service items, etc) and wash them before you use them to touch food you will serve.

Cook your foods to a temperature that comes within site of the federal food safety guidelines, but know that if you’ve followed the above steps, and especially step one and step two, you can actually cook most proteins to a much more flavorful medium rare, medium rare – plus, and you (and your guests) will enjoy your food much more.

And also remember that cooking your foods to a perfect internal temperature means you need to pay attention. (And yes, I understand, that’s something that is hard for almost any man).

Onward!

LUNCH is coming to TOWN KITCHEN AND GRILL

Updating this post with the new date … Take note you all .. Y’all?

March 25th (I moved this out from March 19th at the knowledgeable request from Chef Corey).

March 25th will be a big day for us at Town Kitchen and Grill. We’re going to be opening for lunch.  Fun, huh?  And yes, as in the evenings, we’ll be open 7 days a week… And for those who would ask, yes, seven days actually includes Mondays.

(I’m not sure why, but I’ll confide that I get asked all the time if we’re open 7 days. I say, ‘yes.’ Then people ask if we’re open Mondays. Perhaps there is a day of the week I don’t know about? If so, please enlighten me. I’d hate to think I’ve been missing out on an all important 8th day all these years!)

The menu will be quite different than the dinner menu. About half the menu will feature the protein rich choices health conscious people favor. Whether you are on a paleo, four hour body, or any number of other low or no carb diets, you’ll find dishes that work for you.

The other half will be for the fun folks. 🙂 We’re working on some decidedly unhealthy options for when people want to relax. These include a sandwich called a “next day pot roast panini” – which is a grilled sandwich, and a sandwich made of Salmon Cakes on a brioche roll… (Uhm – YUM!)

We’ll also have a few of the pastas and pizzas and some fun share options for those who have actual friends or at least co-workers. While it may be possible to share with one’s self, I’d recommend against it. (just for the record)

We get that it’s lunch. So, if you’re up for it, we’re up for it and we’ll get you in and out in 45 minutes or so. We won’t rush you, but we’ll be ready in case you’re on a tight schedule. Just let your server know and be ready to order as soon as you can.  (No fair waiting 40 minutes to order and then wanting to be out in five!)

One of these days, in the next day or so, the website will also go online and you’ll be able to start reading these updates at TownKitchenandGrill.com. I’m looking forward to that and to having more people find our number to make reservations. (818) 248 1881… Or use the online link through the site. (Just as a hint, if you get a blank white page when you try to bring it up, it’s not up yet… but it is coming … really. I promise).

“I Can’t Cook” And other dumb things guys say…

I once worked with a woman who grew up very very poor and ended up making a lot of money, supporting her family, and working in a business where she had a lot of authority. She was, in a word, formidable. She actually scared me and that’s not easy.

One day we were in court (the business had a lot of business in the courts) and the attorneys for the various parties didn’t show up. The judge was about to proceed on to other matters when she stood up and asked the judge if we couldn’t proceed with our matter. He looked a little amused – said, ‘without your attorney?’ and she said, ‘sure, why not, he’s pretty useless anyway.’

The matter was decided in our favor without argument from the duly notified, but absent, other side. She knew exactly what to say and how and the judge let her proceed without interruption.

On the way back to the office I asked her how she knew what to do.. She said, and I quote, “There’s nothing no one knows they didn’t learn from someone.”

I’ve always loved that.

There was a guy in the restaurant last night who’d read this blog, and who said he thought it would be fun to cook, but that he just couldn’t do it. I actually hear this a lot. Let’s be clear, okay fellas? It’s not that you can’t cook, it’s that you choose not to. You either choose not to try, or you choose not to pay attention when you’re actually cooking. After all, in the words of the inimitable Gloria, “there’s nothing no one knows they didn’t learn from someone.” So you can learn.

People ask me how I got started. It’s pretty simple. I was watching Emeril Lagasse one night on Food Network, an episode of Emeril Live, and it looked like fun. He made something that looked good. I went and found the recipes online, bought the ingredients, came home the next night and cooked. Back then I used and followed recipes and I still do sometimes, but not all the time.

Gloria was right, paraphrased she was basically saying anyone can learn to do pretty much anything. We don’t all have to be chefs. It’s really okay to just perfect one or two dishes. But don’t you think that every once in a while it would be really nice for your special someone to come home to a dinner cooked by you? Stop making excuses and try it.

Who knows, you might end up owning a restaurant.

What Makes a Success…

What Makes a Success …

“You must be so pleased with the success of Town.” I hear this all the time, and, if I am to be completely honest, (and why stop now), we are pleased with the reaction of the community to this project of our hearts, souls and sweat. (and no small amount of money!) 

But if I am also to be honest, I would say that I am uncomfortable with the word, success. See, I think you earn that over time. Something that has been around for 3 weeks – and yes, that’s as long as we’ve been here, isn’t really a “success” yet. It’s just a baby. A beginner. It shows promise, but it has a long way to go.

I would say it differently. I’d say, ‘we’ve had a good start.’ I’m really pleased with my staff. Alen has been amazing – the ever present – pseudo ambassador of Montrose and spreader of goodwill, with a sincere heart for all who come to Town. (And, frankly, knowing him as I do, all who just walk by on the street). Corey, Chef, has been patient with all of us, teaching us from his 15+ years of restaurant experience and sometimes laughing at (or quietly cursing about!) our mistakes. Paul. The CV, St Francis, local whose good natured response to problems belies deep experience and a helpfulness in problem solving that simply never stops.  All of these people, and I will write more about each of them and many others, have been instrumental in helping us get the restaurant out of the starting gates.

Many years from now, if we have become a fixture of the community as so many who have come before us have, then I would begin to consider the word, ‘success,’ and wonder if it applies to us. We have profound respect for the career restauranteurs who’ve built the long lasting establishments in our area and frankly, also, for the reckless dreamers like us who’ve made the leap to try and start something new with the hopes and dreams of clinking glasses and laughter and stories and occasional shouts from the kitchen and a community to grow and change with, and love, along the way.

Onward…

What It’s Really Like to be the Owner of a New Restaurant.

Honestly? Half petrifying, half exhilarating, half bewildering and half incredibly rewarding. And yes, this is a commentary on my math skills.

We’re doing great at Town Kitchen and Grill, coming up on another weekend of, I’m sure, busyness and triumphs and mistakes and lessons. The best part is the continual outpouring of happiness from our guests. Each smile, thank you, handshake or hug is reassurance and new energy. As a team, from the servers to the dishwashers and bussers, to the cooks, greeters and seaters and partners and owners and chef and me, we are constantly humbled and buoyed by the support of the community we serve.

With that said, there are some interesting lessons along the way.

  1. In spite of being surrounded by food, it is impossible not to lose weight. This is a good thing. Call it the, oh sh$$ I own a restaurant diet. It’s massively expensive, but it works.
  2. Murphy’s Law is spelled with all capital letters in a restaurant but with one change. IF ANYTHING CAN GO WRONG, IT ALREADY DID. I’ve become convinced that Murphy – who wrote the law – owned a pub someplace. People called him “Murph.” He was a distant descendent of Nostradamus.
  3. Anything that can leak, will.
  4. You’re only out of the thing you need in everything. So don’t worry. No big deal.
  5. The water temperature in sinks in the bathroom is too hot. (detail #1,762 to worry about on a nightly basis).
  6. Nothing, and I mean nothing, happens without the damned computer.
  7. The time between 6:30 and 9:00 lasts about 2.1 minutes.
  8. When you’re waiting on food for a table that has been waiting too long, the time between 6:35 and 6:36 takes 2.5 hours.
  9. Bad things only happen to the tables full of people you really like. (I will add a necessary note to say that we like everybody. Really. We do. I promise. 🙂
  10. Just when you think you have it figured out something pops up to remind you this really is your first restaurant, and you really still have volumes to learn.

I’m glad I’d lost my hair before we started.

Pepperoni Shrimp

Pepperoni Shrimp

This is a fun and easy appetizer and perfect for a superbowl party if you want to kick the usual fare up a notch or two.

The big thing with cooking any seafood is that you don’t want to overcook it.  For that reason, in almost all recipes, the seafood is added only when all of the other ingredients are ready to serve. That is definitely true with this dish which is quick and easy to prepare.

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb bag frozen shrimp. Any size, shape, shell on shell off. Whatever appeals to you. You can also use fresh if you have the extra dough.
  • 3 TBS Butter
  • 1 Shallot or small brown onion, minced.
  • 1/2 cup pizza pepperoni, diced.
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or beer

In a large saute’ (frying) pan melt the butter and add the shallots over medium low heat. Let them cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes (if your heat is low enough). Increase the heat to medium high and add the diced pepperoni and saute for 2 minutes or until the shallots start to brown and the pepperoni starts to give off some of its oil. Add the shrimp and the wine or beer and stir for two to three minutes or until the shrimp are just opaque.

Remove from stove. Serve to guests either with toothpicks or over crostini. Dip bread in sauce. Do not lick pan.

Bow to accolades.

Yum

Four Days of Town

Four Days …

When I think about it, it’s hard to believe that town has only been open for four days.  To be sure, they’ve been pretty long days. People who say starting a restaurant is hard work aren’t kidding. I’ve been here, pretty much since January first, from just past 6 in the morning, to very late in the evening, many nights, actually very early the next morning.

We planned on a soft opening. ‘We’ll take it slow,’ we thought, ‘just take the paper off the windows and open the doors for dinner and let anyone who wants to walk in, in.’

We didn’t publicize our opening. Not on Facebook or anywhere else. We didn’t take any reservations. 

So it would be easy and quiet and we could handle it with the entire staff here…

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

So much for nice and slow and easy and quiet.

We were packed Friday night and had a waiting list for a while on Saturday night. To make matters even more exciting, we were down one of our primary cooks who was home sick, so yours truly had to jump into the kitchen and help out. (Dreams really do come true!) Fortunately, Chef Corey and the folks in there were patient with the newbie and by the end of the evening I felt like I’d actually made a contribution, however minor.

We were slow in getting food out on the first night and I had to laugh at us as the evening ground ahead. To be sure, 45 minutes is WAY TOO LONG to get a table their dinner, but I in the midst of the stress I smiled in realizing it was our FIRST NIGHT and we had a TON of people here and the servers said they liked the food and I could hear the clinks of toasting glasses amidst the din of the kitchen.

Afterwards I felt like I’d been hit by a truck, but it was a good truck. The staff hung out and I made pizzas and we took a few minutes to breathe it all in.

It’s been four days. Last night, a Monday night, we were’t full but we were busy. Friends and passers-by have walked in and sat and hopefully felt warm and welcome. We’ve worked out most of the computer glitches and we’re running more smoothly but we’re still learning and I hope we are always learning.

I’m humbled by the support of so many friends and neighbors and grateful for the busyness of these days…