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 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.


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.

Holy Cow, I’m Buying a Restaurant!

Yup, you read that right. Along with Angela and a series of very close friends, probably an over abundance of bravado, certainly no small amount of fear and trembling, the enthusiastic support of my sons, a pocket full of recipes and all the energy and passion I can muster, I’m buying a restaurant.

Let’s back the tape up a little. During the last several years I had the great privilege of running a company that served professional photographers. I tried to teach them a thing or two and help them out while I was there, but in all honesty they were an inspiration to me.  In fact, for a long time I’ve been deeply inspired by people who establish and run small, community focused businesses, drawing on their passion and drive to forge a career that provides more than a paycheck. My sister quit a career in academia to start her own quilting store in her hometown of Berlin, Wisconsin. She has never looked back. In part, this decision is due to what I’ve learned from all of you.

I won’t yet say exactly which restaurant it is, but I will tell you it is in my own hometown (Montrose) and it is a place in which I have eaten many times. In fact, the current owner and I started the conversation about what is about to transpire one night when I was having dinner with Angela and the boys.  None of us thought seriously about the comment I made that if he ever decided to sell the place I’d love to buy it. Well, here we go.

I will also tell you the restaurant will be called Town. It’s a name that appeals to me. The full name is Montrose Town Kitchen and Grill, but we’re all hoping you’ll just call it town. The menu will feature Pastas, Pizzas and Grilled items and it has an intense focus on fresh, local sourcing and on serving the culinary needs of anyone who walks through the door. People make choices about the foods they eat and don’t eat for a lot of reasons and I strongly believe they should never feel those choices are a burden to their host. With dishes for Vegetarians and Vegans and those with the dietary restrictions of Paleo, Gluten Free, Dairy free, diets, etc., we’re pretty sure anyone who walks through the door will find something they want.

I’ve spent many more dinners than I care to count sitting at bars in restaurants around the country chatting with bartenders about the news of the day. Frankly, that’s become my preferred place to sit in nearly any restaurant, so it won’t be a shock to my friends that the bar at Town will become a gathering place where guests will be able to sit and chat or watch a game, enjoy a great, easy meal, laugh and feel welcome.

I need to thank my family and close friends for their support and encouragement. As the next weeks go buy you’ll be seeing more updates here and elsewhere as we make progress.

We take possession of the place on January 1st.

Happy New Year!