Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sugar - cubed or tubed?

Today we finalized a project that we've been working on for a while.
In the past, we've always served the raw cane sugar lumps with coffee. ('la Peruche'), however, we recently identified that what was intended as an upmarket offering was in fact an expensive, time consuming and potentially unsanitory one!

The expense isn't only in the product itself but also in the fact that every time a customer touches the stuff, it has to be thrown away and every day sugar bowls need to be filled anew. Customers of my mother's generation use their teaspoon to take sugar out of the bowl, others tend to use their hands! - enough said.

So one solution was to put lumps on the saucer (tricky at brunch when we use mugs), but this actually turned out to be psychologically worse for the customer - someone must have touched that sugar for it to be on the spoon!

So we decided on the individually wrapped sugar tubes. I know potentially less green, although with the saving in waste, delivery and fancy full color cardboard packaging, not that far off, but definitely an opportunity to further brand our product and to reflect our commitment to hygiene and cost awareness. This should also have an additional benefit by impacting our crew's attitude towards these two issues - costs & hygiene

We've already had samples of the sugar and quotes, so now all we have to do is order it! - will keep you posted.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


One of our crew has just left to pursue a master's degree in Colorado. He will specialize in all that is vocal. One day we hope that he will have his own voice clinic and be working with household names. Whether he'll remember us or not remains to be seen (or heard!). Our Hollywood actor still does, as does our artist who is about to have his first show in a New York gallery, but will still come back to help us with our holiday decorations this December.

Our voice expert is leaving New York after 8 years, having arrived here aged 22 and he reminds me of so many of the great people that have worked with us. It's seldom in New York that we find front of house crew whose ambition it is to remain in the restaurant industry. We do have a few but most join this industry because it helps them to make money whilst pursuing other ambitions such as acting, singing, creating art etc.. Sometimes it gets in their way as they become dependent on their tips and choose to live a certain "industry" lifestyle that can be fun, fast and furious but also debilitating, destructive and dark (literally as most of it takes place at night!). As a result they end up going to work, partying and sleeping and having very little time to pursue their own ambitions, which in turn results in frustration, anger and blame (my job is keeping me from my career type of thing!)

Most will find a happy medium and along the way, hopefully, they will pick up some useful lessons from our industry. One of the major ones are tolerance and humility. I'm always interested when I hear a server complain, quite justifiably, about how a customer has talked down to them or been condescending. That sort of behavior is of course despicable. However in the same sentence a server will often also imply - "they think I'm just a waiter, but I'm only doing this so that I can pursue a real career" - hmmmmm! - bet the career waiters (like me!) and kitchen crew love that one!

Another great lesson is in being sociable and disciplined. The restaurant world is often the first world someone comes in to having left home and come to live in the big city to pursue their dream. Hence the restaurant becomes the new family. But this family is different - it's one where you have to get on with each other, or at least pretend to, where you don't necessarily get your own way, where you have to earn respect and where your performance impacts everyone else and will be judged by others accordingly - in other words this is a job and unlike in a family you can be asked to leave!

Working on the floor in a restaurant is also a great opportunity for developing selling skills which can then be applied to other aspects of life. This ones a bit trickier though, as restaurants differ in the way that they sell to their customers, as do bars, depending on the type of clientele, however, the basics are the same - how can you identify and satisfy your customer's needs within the framework of your business. This doesn't always mean that you can do exactly what they want but you learn to handle things in a way that keeps them loyal to your business.

So, all in all the restaurant isn't a bad place to learn some of the basics that will help you in a future life and/or career. Of course, there are also a few negative patterns of behavior that can be picked up in this as in any other environment, but we won't go in to that here.

Hopefully our voice expert, together with all the others who pass through our world will feel the same as I do and even if they don't remember the specifics, will think back to this time in their life as a productive and useful one.