Well, it’s been a few months since my last post. Okay, who am I kidding? It’s been almost a year since my last post.
So much has changed for me in the last year. In September 2013 I closed my restaurant on Orcas Island. That was a hard thing to do. For all the stress, heartaches and aggravation that it brought me, that restaurant was my Declaration of Independence. By opening Allium, I was telling the world, if anyone was listening, and more importantly, myself that I was confident enough to strike out on my own, to work for ME, to be beholden to no one else. It was my graduation into the world of Being Your Own Boss, and all the thrills and glories that come with it. It was a roller coaster ride of the grandest design, and when I walked away, I found myself hooked on the adrenaline of being a restaurateur.
About a year ago, I decided that if I was going to open a new restaurant, it would be casual, with a focus on high-quality homemade food. Okay, who am I kidding. not IF, but WHEN.
When is now. The concept of the idea has percolated and distilled itself into Gnocchi Bar. “What,” you say. “A restaurant based on gnocchi? Impossible!”
To which I reply that gnocchi was the biggest seller at Allium, the thing that people HAD to order, and if I were a smart business person, I would forged ahead with this idea. To those who asked if having a restaurant based on one item would work, I say look at how cupcakes, burger, ramen, pizza, pho and donuts each have merited a home of their own.
So, how does this all relate to dating?
I think that dating requires a certain amount of thought. You have to decide at some point and time that you are indeed ready to share your life with someone else, or at least explore the options of sharing your life with someone else.
You have to TRUST that you are able to do this. Don’t discount this. Exposing your emotional self and all your little quirks is scary than some of us may be willing to admit.
You have to date, a LOT. You have to see what’s out there, what works for you, what you would avoid like the plague, what foibles and eccentricities you are willing to tolerate, and may even find adorable and funny. You have decide what’s right for you. Every date helps you finetune what works for you, and also makes you a better partner for someone else.
You have to be brave enough to jump off that bridge, knowing that somehow, if everything goes kaput, you have the wherewithal to pull yourself out of freefall and arc out of it even stronger than before.
So it goes with opening a restaurant.
You decide that you are mature enough and wise enough to do it. You’re wrong, of course, and half of what you SHOULD know you WON’T know until you have your trial-by-fire, but that’s okay. The important thing is TO know that you will go through this, and to make sure you have the right support around you to survive the pants-kicking you’re about to get.
You have to look at LOTS of restaurants, dishes, ideas and locations. Allium was my first crush, and I married it. While it turned out okay, I sure am approaching this next business spouse with much more caution and wisdom. Don’t marry the first person you date, don’t marry the first restaurant you see.
I’ve spent that last six months looking, cautiously at first, but now with more intensity, at locations for lease. As my search progressed, I started learning what the right questions to ask were. I started making checklists in my head, and becoming ruthless in figuring out what the deal breakers were. Too small of a spot? No go. Too isolated a location? Um, not for me. Too expensive to open? I’m not the sugar momma you’re looking for.
Cold? Cruel? Calculating? Some may say yes, but I don’t think so. I see nothing wrong with taking the time to find the right fit. Don’t let anyone pigeonhole you into something that is not the right fit. It’s better to walk away before any real investment in time, money and emotional currency is spent.
If you are seriously planning to spend the rest of your life with someone, if you are seriously planning to invest your blood, sweat and tears into a business, then don’t you owe it to yourself to make sure you’re happy with it?
No, you can’t foresee all the bumps in the road and nothing, I repeat, NOTHING ever goes as planned. You adapt the restaurant into the space that it occupies. On paper the words may dictate one thing, but each space has a personality of its own, and it will tell you what works and doesn’t. But you have to be willing to listen.
The romance novels may say it’s all hearts and roses, but the reality is, everyone farts in bed. As reality sets in, you adapt and adjust. You can compromise on the little stuff, like milk brands, how you like the towels folded. But not on the big stuff, like being honest, faithful and true.
You can alter the menu, the hours and the service to adapt, but you don’t compromise on your commitment to quality, ethics and fairness.
The hardest part is to admit that you don’t know.
The best lesson I learned was that I didn’t know everything, and more importantly, that was okay! I didn’t need to know everything. I needed to be aware of everything, but more importantly, I needed to hire the right people and TRUST them to do their jobs. I needed to let go of the reigns enough to let others have the space to do what they do best, what I hired them for.
And so my Search of the Perfect Restaurant Space continues. I’ve spent months planning on paper the financials of this place, how it will work, the principles that will drive our decisions. When I find the right spot, I will know it. I feel like what were once parallel tracks (idea vs reality) are now converging and I can almost see at what point they will intersect.