Ok, here’s a nightmare. The place is ready to open. The staff is hired and in training mode, then late one night you take a close look at the work you’ve done, and you realize…this is not what I thought I was building. This doesn’t happen that often, at least I hope it doesn’t. And if it is more prevalent than I thought, at least most of the owners I’ve worked with in the past hid their anxiety well. That is, all except Chip Isaacson who let me in on this feeling of dread one night as we were getting Ike’s ready to launch. His worry was that Ike’s was too “nice”. It wasn’t the simple neighborhood bar he enjoyed and was trying to emulate here. Or to put it simply, he missed the mark.
This got me thinking, the concern from something like this so close to opening may explain certain odd behaviors I’ve witnessed in others over the years. An abnormal demeanor in the owner of the soon to open business was usually chalked up to just being a “quirky personality trait”. What with all this money (and reputation) on the line, the sudden realization of I’m not sure I’m getting it right can be disturbing enough to halt some people in their tracks. I’ve seen several examples ranging from a devil may care, of well to a real decision paralysis. But, so what if suddenly it feels wrong?
Without getting too analytical, first thing to consider is the validity of the feeling. Is this joint I’ve spent nearly a year working on and have spent a lot of money to create (mostly not mine) in fact, wrong? If so, what is it that makes it so? And then if it is wrong, how wrong is it and will I be able to fix it in time?
The answer to all these questions is YES. If, after studying the competition for the elements you wanted to rival and corrected the errors you saw in them, your restaurant isn’t giving you the vibe you expected…then its wrong. Until you let guests through the door, you’re the judge and jury. You built this restaurant for yourself. And if you didn’t, you should have.
- Ike’s Food and Cocktails
- Runyon’s (no website)
- 112 Eatery
- P.J. Clarke's NYC (Chicago closed)
- CoV Edina
- Flash of Genius