Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Exhaustion Almost Has a Flavor

It's been many weeks since my last confession. Puzzling, because the interval between now and my last post contained a highly anticipated respite from the daily beating - viz., three days (two nights) off, astride fair Chromio, questing Northwest Oregon for a worthy pint and an establishment of quality and dark nooks in which to consume it in the company of a book or a an enlightening and intelligent conversation. I had taken a few notes while away, both on flat bits of highly compressed and processed tree, and in the more dubious recesses of my slowly decaying cortex. There were to be a series of blog entries to follow; well crafted sequences of constrained verbiage to be chucked into the digital slough.

And that's all fine and good, but it's not where I am. I'm examining a phenomenon, a beast that almost manifests itself as a funny, elusive taste in my mouth, which is too complex and rich to describe unless you, yes you, the reader, immerse yourself in the life of a pub owner. My friend Premises Supervisor Dave writes about similar stuff at his rural inn in the Lake District of England. He permitted me a taste of the life, and I'm still rolling it around in my mouth like a cask-strength single malt whisky from Islay. Peat's not for everyone.

I know that there are many of you out there who have dreamed of opening and running your own brewpub. I've talked to you. You can be recognized by your nervous tick, by the pace and rhythm of your conversation, by the elusive reflection in your eyes reminiscent of a board-room pie chart: one part crazy, two parts mad. I may not, at the moment, be able to offer a reason why, but I still say to you, "run with it."

Are you running? Good. Good to hear. While running, herein lies a mere taste of what you might encounter along the Road to Exhaustion and the Best and Worst of Times.

- Revolving credit is evil. When credit card companies, upon which you have based a portion of your unexpected startup costs, can raise your rates from 7.9% to 29.99% without asking for permission, you will be entitled to the privilege of living with a rock in your gut until you can find a way to expel or digest it.

- The menu has been revamped to actually reflect the original vision of a "Pub Menu". For you American's, unfamiliar with British or Irish pub life, read that as "Cafe Menu". I want it to be simple and on a chalkboard and to not create the impression of being a restaurant. I know I aggravate my customers and my staff by my seeming bullheadedness, only to continue to affirm to myself that I have specific ideas of what this pub is to be.

- We have great reviews on TripAdvisor.

- More often than not the first thing I hear upon arriving in the morning is a complaint of some sort or another. I haven't failed to notice that sometimes I'm the source of the complaint. Lately it has been the cost of running the kitchen. It shouldn't cost as much as it does and I wish I didn't have to solve the problem any more than the next guy. Problem is, if I don't solve it, I ultimately wind up commuting and programming computers for Some Other Guy, like the days of yore. I would also have to start buying beer again, and it would be cold and fizzy and in a bottle.

- You don't want to, ever, ever, try to please everyone. No matter what you choose to do, you will annoy, puzzle and confuse some portion of the public. But I know, less and less theoretically, that success is not based on statistics, but on quality, personality and commitment. And cash flow. Stupid cash flow - who invented that? Probably some Harvard MBA or something, or a (gasp) economist.

- I have equity investors to appease real soon, who wish to convert labor into cash in various and seemingly impossible degrees of expediency. I'd like to comply, but the business at 9 months is not even profitable yet.

- Water. Simple, but people want it hot, cold, and instantly. When we're having a busy evening, it would be useful for this natural product to be self-serve. I've spent part of the day trying to solve this problem, and don't have a good answer yet. I think I'll just buy a bunch of picnic water coolers and rotate them through the walk-in cooler for the moment, as I can't get into the idea of paying for bottled water that I have to pay for and pick up in Springfield once a week.

My next post will be about butterflies and bunnies. These butterflies and bunnies will be enjoying real ale and reading a book or enjoying an enlightening and intelligent conversation, hopefully in an unlikely and incongruous real ale pub in a small ex-logging/mining/railroad town in the Oregon Cascades.

1 comment:

Woolpack Dave said...

Like a very good malt whisky, quality demands a higher price. It is possible to make whisky cheaply. Take a large amount of bland lowland spirit, which has possibly never been in contact with lumber, and mix with a small amount of quality whisky which has been stored in a oak cask for many years. It gives a hint of a malt whisky, but isn't really.

You are delivering quality, which costs more.

I suspect you will find it difficult to reduce the kitchen costs without reducing quality. You need to ask yourself if your customers are more price concious than quality concious. You could just take some bought in frozen food, put it in a fryer or through the microwave, garnish with a little bit of fresh lettuce, or whatever it is "restaurants" do out there, and it will seem hand crafted. But isn't really.

Or you could continue doing what you do, happy that you will not satisfy everybody, sell up to those that appreciate you, underline the quality and provenance of your product....and put up your prices.