I had an email written yesterday and ready to fire off this morning, when I suddenly found I had to eat my words or start over. In the interest of keeping my side of the street clean, I’m doing both. I’d gotten an email from a woman who’s not on our email list, a reply to the email I sent the other day, which had been forwarded. Twice. The email, in a nutshell, had a few concerns about the media writ large, and about the government, and I’m happy to chat with people I disagree with, but it went on to tell me not to be afraid, and to open the dining room because, in her words, my tribe needed me.
My hackles were up for two days. Here was someone making assumptions about my business, and about my motives, and telling me how to run the business I’ve spent nearly twenty years building. There was a bit about people feeling like they need to be “a good person- the best person- and win the superior citizen contest,” and some other points about the media and the government not caring about what we’re going through, and I had in my mind painted a mental picture of the author- it looked like Anselm Kiefer had painted it: dark, and thick with paint and tufts of grass. I replied to her, civilly, I thought, and heard nothing back.
So yesterday I climbed up on my high horse and wrote an email essentially telling everyone that I’d done just fine so far, thank you very much, and I didn’t need people who don’t own Feast to tell those of us who do own it how to go about running it. I walked the line between standing up for myself and taking my ball and going home. I was snarky. I was self-righteous.
The email was all queued up and ready to go out today, and I happened to check my email again last night, and there, indeed, was a reply to my reply. It was kind and caring, and recharacterized what I had oringally interpreted as angry and officious, and suddenly, my domineering interloper became a voice of genuine concern and kindness, worried about whether I was letting societal judgement determine my course of action, and hurting Feast in the process.
I’m walking away from the conversation with a hatful of lessons. First, it would have served each of us to write a first draft and come back to it later, or at least find out how it sounded to a neutral ear, because neither one of us came off like we intended to. Second, you can disagree with someone and still think well of each other, an idea that I believe has been rapidly disappearing for nearly a generation now, which I’d love to see come back. I still like to think of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill having a beer together once in a while. And third, people can speculate all they like about what you go through on a daily basis, but they can’t truly know it if they’re not in it.
Yes, Feast’s dining room remains closed for now. Yes, one of the reasons for it is the safety of the staff here and of our guests. But it also turns out that while we’ve lost staff over the past year to attrition- we’ve had an employee who was fired, another who moved away, and some who took other jobs to supplement or supplant their jobs at Feast as they lost hours, or saw their sales, and therefore their tips, cut in half. And we haven’t replaced them, in order to give those hours to the people who’ve stuck by Feast for the past 54 weeks.
Now, as the crew gets vaccinated, and we’ve begun to consider how we’d go about reopening, we’ve started looking for people, only to discover that we came out of the bunker to witness a barren wasteland. We placed an ad for a server last week, and we’ve had exactly zero resumes sent. People have abandoned the restaurant industry in droves. Whether they’re watching daytime television while they collect unemployment, or they’re now apprenticed to carpenters and electricians, or working in a call center, they’re not out there looking to get back into restaurants.
I’ve talked with four colleagues, and they all tell me the same thing: they need more people to reopen, and no one is answering ads.
And that’s one of a hundred facets of the problem. We have to balance takeout and dine-in, we have to stop losing money on delivery. We have scheduling, and logistics, and hiring, and training all to consider. So know that it’s not for lack of wanting, nor is it fear of political consequences, or any other one reason that we’re not there yet; we’re under a dogpile of reasons, and we’re eventually going to get out from under it, and with any luck, we’ll walk it off and be fine once we are. We’ve made it this far without being carried out on a stretcher. I’m bullish, especially because I didn’t send out a tirade today telling everyone who wants me to run Feast the way they think I should to shut their piehole. Instead, I found that I misjudged someone, and even though I disagree with her, that doesn’t make her my enemy. It reminded me of this:
I will take this moment to suggest, however, that everyone who wants me to run Feast the way they want it run please go out an open your own restaurant. There are plenty of empty spaces to open one, and mountains of used equipment to be had for a song. And I wish you luck in the industry.
Now. We’re in the business of filling pieholes rather than telling people to shut them, and for those of you who’ve chosen to scroll down to the part where I shut mine and get down to business, here it is:
First, today is the last day for you to order Easter fare if you want to be guaranteed to receive it, so here’s that menu:
Next, you’ve a mere two days to get in on the benefit we’re doing with Child & Family Resources next week, so here’s that as well:
There’s also this week’s wine tasting, an amalgam of Aussie treats.
There’s food for you
and food for someone else
and more to come. The menu changes a week from today, and we’ve got plenty of irons in the fire- wine tastings and food pairings, baked goods and cocktails, and we’ll post it all soon. And with any luck you won’t have to read through a six-paragraph philippic to get to it.