I like snow. Really. I think it's fun, and I love the buzz it generates. I especially love cooking for people when it snows. When you're a kid, you can't wait for school to be called off and get out and romp around. As an adult, you can't wait for WORK to be called off, so you can- well, you get the idea. But, there's a certain amount of anxiety that develops when your job is chef and it snows in biblical proportions (not that there was ever a blizzard in Israel, but...nevermind).
You see, 90% of you are thinking about work on Wednesday, school and any events going on. You might even be concerned about Thursday since this mess is supposed to carry over. But, while all this snow business is going on, we chefs are wringing our hands and cracking our knuckles over some details that we have only minimal control over. What am I babbling about? This weekend. Are you there yet? No? Valentines' weekend and President's day weekend? "Ooooohh- THAT!" Yeah-that.
Many people think that Mother's Day or some of the other biggies hold title to "The Busiest Restaurant Day of the Year", but you would be wrong. Saint Valentine's Day and restaurants are intimately and perversely intertwined. And, if you must know, when the 7-year cycle rolls around placing February 14th on a Sunday, that's not ONE, not TWO, but THREE opportunities to capitalize on famished lovers and canoodling couples. "But, " you say, "it's supposed to be a beautiful weekend? What's the deal?"
Well, here's a little inside look at some things you might not think about.
In order for a restaurant to promote a big weekend, it needs to settle on a menu well in advance that it can hoist up the flag pole. It needs to get the word out. Ads are placed, emails sent, literature printed. Then, food needs to be ordered. Now in a market of perishable goods, some items can be ordered in advance, some cannot. We are not necessarily in command of, no matter how technologically advanced our society, the days which purveyors deliver and the availability of product (especially fresh) when it snows. (Interesting aside: fresh fish and seafood ALWAYS gets bumped on continental flights for two priorities: fresh flowers and dead bodies. True story. Apparently, despite the TRILLION dollar world-wide industry of food service, the burial business trumps all.) So, if you're following, we have an in-progress secondary blizzard falling in the middle of the week, an impending monumental and crucial restaurant weekend on tap, and the threat of power loss, mass-cancellations, and nowhere to park. Pass the Tums.
Yes- it can be a little slice of hell if you're not in control of your wits. As an owner, I remember following the weather in winter like a bookie follows the ponies. When I lived at the shore, it was the same: rain, or even worse, hurricanes, can trash your anticipated revenue, and most often, on misguided meteorological reports. I remember one Labor Day weekend in Cape May, I went online to see the forecast. It was- how shall we say- too "glass half empty". So I wrote a forecast that was "glass half full", printed it up and directed the front desk clerks to read this, "the latest forecast" to nervous travelers.
So, this wasn't really so much about venting a neurosis as much as just offering a little insider info on what it takes to pull off a successful (i.e. profitable) restaurant venture in a lousy economy with nefarious competition and increasing operating costs. Most logical human beings, upon being presented with all this information, along with overhead costs, skyrocketing utilities, high-turnover and low profit margin, would ask- WHY?? Well, nobody said we were logical.
But, when the dining room fills up and guests stare eye-to-eye at each other and order the chef's specials and a luscious bottle of wine while enjoying the music, lighting and atmosphere of a full, humming restaurant, somehow, just somehow- it makes it all worth it.