Minding My Own Business: a Restaurateur’s Rant
I’m open to suggestions. I’ll even tolerate your criticisms as long as you’re not a dick about it. But please, keep your comments, suggestions, requests and criticisms civil, reasonable, dignified, respectful, helpful, and at least theoretically possible.
Please don’t start our conversation with “you should”. When I hear those two words my eyes, and my brain, glaze over. I start thinking about my grocery list, or making a podiatry appointment, or trying to remember as many of the decimals in pi as I can because, over the years, I’ve heard “you should” about as many times as there are decimal places in pi.
Some of the “you shoulds” consider things we can’t possibly do anything about, like “you should”: “have a parking lot, open a patio, have a private room, move the front door, move the kitchen, move the bar, move the washrooms, move the restaurant to Milton, Markham or Miami, or change the trajectory of the sun so it doesn’t shine in my eyes”. Some of the “you shoulds” relate to matters that are entirely personal to you, like “you should”: “turn up the music, turn down the music, turn off the music, change the music, turn up the lights, turn down the lights, change the lights, turn up the heat, turn down the heat, turn up the air conditioning, turn down the air conditioning, change the art, hang my art, hang my child’s art”, and so on. And some of the “you shoulds” are matters we have probably considered, and rejected, for business or personal reasons (none of which are any of your business), like “you should”: “change the restaurant name, get round tables, have live music, open for lunch, open for brunch, open 7 days a week, open on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (as a customer once said, ‘you should really be open on the 24th and the 25th because not everyone celebrates Christmas’), change the menu, never change the menu”, and so on.
The “you shoulds” that probably drive me the most mental are the menu-related ones, like “you should” have: “more vegetarian items, more vegan items, more game meat, more low-sodium choices, more dairy-free choices, more gluten-free choices, more paleo-friendly selection, more Ontario wines, less Ontario wines, more French wine, no French wine, and how about a hamburger or sushi or tacos”? Our menu is posted on our website and on the menu board outside. We would be happy to mail, fax or email a menu to you, and we would be pleased to discuss our menu over the phone. The plain fact of the matter is that I am too busy to consider and discuss your “you should” right now because I am trying to figure out how to change the alignment of the planets to suit the folks at table 3.
As you can see, the “you shoulds” are often contradictory, occasionally impossible and, after 18 years in business, probably something we have already considered or tried, and rejected, before you came along. Why do some people go out for dinner at all? Why don’t they just stay home and design a restaurant and menu for their fantasy restaurant league? When people start a conversation with “you should”, I might say “thank you for that”, but I’ll be thinking “you should open your own restaurant Mr. Smartypants.”