Friday, July 13, 2007

"Life is neither a spectacle nor a feast, it is predicament"--Santayana

"Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it"--Salvador Dali

"I have not failed, I've found 10,000 ways that won't work"--Thomas Edison

If you should ask my staff what my greatest flaw is, the answers you receive would surely be myriad, detailed, and colorful. Ask me the same question, however, and even though I am famously hard on myself, the answer is much more banal. I work so much and have spent so long in one place that my objectivity and sense of perspective is failing me.

My mighty restaurant has just made what we call "the turn", the end of the first half of our fiscal year. For the first time in seven years, we reached this benchmark with lower total sales than those accrued during the same period last year--yes, we are down a whopping 1.8%.

Our local hospitality industry has been in a freefall over the last nine months, and the recent biblical rains aren't doing us any good now. Most of our contemporaries, corporate and independent alike, are down anywhere from 8% to over 30%. As I wring my hands and pace grooves in the floor pining over my lost 1.8%, guests pour through our front doors every night to tell us we are the only place in town that looks full. still, I can't help but wonder if our nearly imperceptible sign of weakness is the start of a larger failure.

Half-formed thoughts of doom and collapse have danced around the back of my mind for the last two weeks and they have been troubling. However, they were not troubling enough to stop me from making my annual six day escape from the restaurant, this time to the Caribbean--where it is supposed to be 100 degrees every day.

Who would have guessed that I would find my long lost perspective in the Bahamas? It is no secret among my close friends that I have had a three-year-long love affair with the Atlantis Resort and Casino. I originally traveled there in 2004 for a job interview--the people were great, the owner of the resort is one of the most remarkable and amazing men I have ever met, and the opportunity was intriguing to say the least. Unfortunately, as the interviews wore on it became clear that my management style would probably not be compatible with their Human Resources department, [especially since my not being Bahamian would have kept me on an unusually short leash] but my fondness for the place never diminished.

With the opening of the new Cove Atlantis facility, I was invited by my enabler I mean casino host to return to the resort as their guest. After searching the calendar I found my days, the annual fiscal black hole that is the week after Independence Day [when our entire city is apparently evacuated via some secret signal], and made my arrangements.

Without going into some self-indulgent blow-by-blow of this fantastic trip, lets just suffice to say that I returned home feeling almost like a regular human being--a near impossible feat in and of itself.

In addition to restored peace of mind, body, and spirit however was the equally valuable resource of perspective, as I mentioned. I spent nearly a full week as a guest at a great hotel that is also a gigantic resort, casino, waterpark, and shopping destination. We ate in twelve different restaurants covering the entire dining spectrum and drank at an equal number of different bars. I was able to anonymously observe guests, staff, management, physical plant, and product.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything, but noticed that in some ways 1,000 miles is a world away and in other ways it is just next store. I noticed that the brass in their steakhouse is shinier than the brass in mine, but that we tend to open our doors for guests more often than they do. I was called "mon" much more often than "sir" and I observed way too much personal interaction between members of the staff, but I was also treated to far more genuine smiles and a great deal more real concern for my welfare than our guests may see in a typical evening. One bartender showed my guest to the rest room personally one day and then stood, unconcerned, three feet away from our thirsty, hopeful faces on the next without so much as an acknowledging glance [and yes, we tipped him very well the day before]. Dinner service was perfect a great deal of the time, but sometimes we were on a rail and other times I half-thought the restaurant had closed with us in it. The room was larger than my first house and beautifully, richly decorated, but the air conditioner leaked into the closet the whole time. The limo drivers to and from the airport were courteous to a fault, but the resort's people at the airport itself were dismissive and rude. Most of our fellow guests were just as satisfied and satiated as we were, but a handful were vocal and unhappy--just as determined to make themselves miserable in paradise as they would be during dinner at a big city steakhouse.

I'm heading back tomorrow to polish our brass, add a few excellent new drinks to our cocktail list, make appointments to talk attitude with a few of our more abrupt team members, and tack some very soothing, inspirational pictures up to the bulletin board.

I have seen how good and bad can go hand and hand, how little things can frame one's view of a much larger experience, and how personal attitude can rule the day. I am re-energized and re-focused toward our success, and I am looking forward to getting back to work.

Now, I just wish I could stop peeling.


Blogger Ex-restaurant manager said...

Welcome back LOH. I've missed reading your missives. Sounds like you had the "re-boot" your system needed.

8:52 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home