Thought No. 1: Sunday / by Jennifer Wisniewski

“It's like a jungle, sometimes it makes me wonder. How I keep from going under.”

Every morning I talk to three people, as soon as I get up.  Ryan (my publicist), Mary (my sister) and Lisa (my business partner).  The conversations are part therapy, part support and part problem-solving.  That’s how this idea came to be.  I’m not special and I don’t think what I do is special, I do think that it’s different, however.  Owning and operating a restaurant is different.  It’s physically and mentally grueling and requires a certain amount of stamina and passion that is necessary for survival. There is also another element that other professions don’t have to deal with–and that’s the general public’s critique.  Yes, I know it’s part of the job I signed up for, but some make me think: “Who in their right mind would sign up for this?”

Critic #1: “Great Chef-Too bad the owner is unfriendly. The food was excellent: very creative and tasty. We sat the chef's corner and he gave us great recommendations. Interacting with the chef was a great plus point. Unfortunately, our dinner experience was ruined by the restaurant owner and her arrogant behavior. Because they asked us to change seats in the middle of the dinner, they said they would give us free dessert. However, when we got the bill, not only did they make us pay for one dessert (if you say it's on you, it should be on you) but they had also increased the price for 2 of our courses! They corrected our bill but this all left a bad taste in our mouth... This is my second visit to Bread & Wine and I really think this place would be so much better off with another manager/owner!" (via Open Table)

Now, obviously my interpretation of their experience is different. I understand there is no wrong or right in this situation (and that fighting it is a losing battle, a waste of energy, and their perspective is their reality) but every day you evaluate and audit your actions and try to learn from them. I wondered what I could learn from this. 

Should I have told the other customer, who asked me to move the Open Table couple down one seat, that I can’t do that because the couple would think I was being arrogant? I guess I should have bought the two desserts–even though when I said I would buy them, they insisted that wasn’t necessary.  When they were leaving, I apologized about the mistake on their bill, but maybe another apology would have made the difference? It might have made them like me again–and they would still want me to own my restaurant.

I want to call them up and tell them they’re right. I would love to not work to the point of exhaustion and spend sleepless nights worrying about every little detail.  Ulcer … check! Insomnia … check! Was what happened to them that evening so egregious and offensive that the whole operation might just be better off without me?  Maybe. Maybe not. But, what makes us different in the hospitality industry is that you have to read something like that about yourself and greet the next customer with a smile–and mean it.  Vodka helps with that. Hairspray, lip gloss … and lots of vodka. 

Whether it’s a screwdriver or coffee, I hope you join me every Sunday for many more Tall Thoughts.