Hoping for Excellence, Living with Mediocrity

ImageWhat is so fascinating about the surge in interest for careers in culinary arts is the desire that every serious young cook has for making their mark in the food world.  As is the case with most things in life, I believe that everyone wants to achieve a high level of success, but only a few are willing to make the commitment to that end.  Real success in the restaurant industry requires a super-human commitment to excellence from all who seek it.

Excellence in the restaurant business is all about the details.  It is a systemic outcome that is based on paying very close attention to everything.  To this end, it all becomes important, it all becomes a priority.  Allow me to take a few moments to outline just a cursory list of those details:

* Develop a Concept that reflects who you are, a concept that attracts like-minded employees, a concept that guest will be excited about and feel good about spending their money on

* Research and Test all of the recipes, plate presentations and wines that pair well with the food

* Identify the Best, Reliable Resources, who have a commitment to the quality of raw materials and will deliver that quality to you EVERY time

* Find a Location that truly fits the concept and portrays your food and your commitment to excellence

* Negotiate a fair real-estate relationship with your landlord

* Develop a Decor that allows the guest to feel comfortable and complements the food and beverage experience that you have designed

* Search for, interview, test, hire and train the RIGHT staff who are guest oriented, quality driven, self-motivated, and knowledgeable TEAM members

* Constantly INVEST in those team members and push them to greatness

* Always Remember that you are in the SERVICE business and your job is to EXCEED the expectations of the guest

* CONSISTENTLY Produce the same high quality food and service no mater what time of the day, day of the week, weather conditions, staffing dilemma, or unforeseen disaster comes your way

* Insure that your from-of-the-house staff is as KNOWLEDGEABLE about your product as the culinary staff

* Be Obsessive about CLEANLINESS

* Control WASTE

* Treat Everyone with RESPECT

* Be VISIBLE to your staff and your guest

* Be your own worst CRITIC

and I could go on and on.

To sum it up…running an EXCELLENT restaurant is extremely difficult and the process is relentless.  It is no wonder that so many restaurants, chefs, cooks and owners succumb to mediocrity.  The real source of this problem is the guest who continues to support mediocrity because they either lost the energy to insist on excellence, or have yet to experience excellence as a benchmark.

Back to that systemic outcome, if we all became advocates for excellence as consumers, then restaurants would either need to step up their game or bail out.

Now, don’t get me wrong..there are numerous restaurants and restaurant chefs that get it right, all of the time.  Thomas Keller, Gary Danko, Charlie Trotter, Charlie Palmer, Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich, Drew Nieporent, Danny Meyer, Charles Carroll, Jamie Keating, Alfred Portale, Wally Ganzi, Alain Ducasse, Marc Meneau, Marcus Samuelsson, Alice Waters, and dozens of others are totally committed to excellence, but keep in mind there are 975,000 restaurants in the United States.  We have ample room for improvement.

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