Monday, February 27, 2012

New Dance Steps

Well, we're a month in. Bistro 2.0 has been in full-swing for about a month now. It's been a spectacular ride. Not seamless, yet not as perplexing as the first time we opened a place.

There have been a few bumpy parts: we're still waiting on lots of equipment, including all the feet to our tables which means we have to be creative with making them sit right! Our second hood,
deep fryer, oven, and second walk-in cooler are all yet to arrive. I look forward to that day! One of the little challenges that I didn't anticipate is that when we gutted the old restaurant, we had to put everything in storage, and now that we've rebuilt the restaurant, everything seems to have a new home and we're not always sure where that is. Where do we keep the toothpicks? Has anyone seen anymore water glasses? Do we have short straws? Does anyone know where my shoes got put? There are a lot of conversations like that. Construction is still on-going: we are having offices built and the catering kitchen is about half-done so we continue to shuffle stuff around. It's a bit of a fancy dance we have going on right now!

Learning new systems for everything has also challenged our brains. The boys on the line have so much more space (which is a good thing), and there are now three of them (which is also a good thing) and they have all new equipment to work with (another good thing) but the dance steps have changed. Holy Moly, this charbroiler is hot (resulting in a few misfired steaks!) Who does which part? Moving in the space is different. So many more burns! Look at their arms next time you're in, Alex and Quin look battered.

From the front end, we have installed a computer system. Gone are our lovely handwritten bills in favour of a machine that can split checks anyway anyone wants. The process of switching has been quite funny. SImultaneously none of us wanted to give up the handwritten bill yet we
feared the table of 8 that wanted to split the wine 3 ways and 2 different people would share the appetizer and oh, by the way, can I get my friend's first two cocktails? Learning the new machine has been relatively straight forward but we all felt anxious. At one point during the training, our server and poet-in-residence, Andrew, curled up on the banquette with his hood pulled up over his head, hugging the stuffed penguin. Poor one! Now he's a pro.

The other, more noticeable change is we've grown! Whereas we were once able to seat 44 people (okay, a few more if we REALLY needed to), we can now seat 100. That's a lot of people! At first, I felt unsure of where I was supposed to be, my dance had changed, too. The space was so big! Sometimes I felt like I was chasing after staff trying to connect with them. A funny little British-style sketch routine with us running in circles, always missing each other. I also was constantly worried that I wasn't connecting with customers, that somehow I would miss them.

A month in, we're getting in the groove. You can feel all of us relaxing into this new loveliness. Remembering that we are really good at dancing together. Realizing how fabulous this new
situation is! Table isn't ready? No problem, come sit here in the lounge, have a drink and order your apps. No reso? No problem, come sit here in the lounge and have dinner. Want to have a party of 24? No problem, come sit here in our room and close the doors if you want privacy or leave them wide open to be part of the bistro life! The kitchen has figured out the dance. Food is going out at record speed (45 minutes for main courses on Saturday in the middle of the craziness on bills that included really large pieces of meat!), the food is great - I feel Alex is reinvigorated and has some great cooks supporting him, the servers are happy to have space and equipment and systems that work. And from my perspective, I'm remembering what I love about this: it's fun. I love to laugh. I love to look around and see a room full of happy people eating and drinking. I love to work with my staff. I love to think about dinner features and play with infusing booze. I love this whole life.