Thursday, January 21, 2010

Smart is as smart does

This just in: Restaurateurs don’t know everything.

It gets worse, folks: A lot of people think the strange beings who own or operate restaurants could actually learn something from counterparts in other fields. Or at least that’s been the thinking of clients who’ve commissioned me in recent weeks to draft stories or presentations aimed specifically at restaurateurs.

“Maybe we should look at what other industries are doing, so restaurateurs can see what they’re missing,” suggested one editor. “Focus specifically on caterers, since they seem to have figured it out,” asserted another. “Feel free to talk to retailers if you find out they’re getting it and restaurants aren’t,” said yet another.

This would’ve been heresy just a few months ago. You always spoke to restaurateurs by using the words and experiences of other restaurateurs.

But those of us who monitor the business can’t help but be a little frustrated with our usual sources. The Great Recession has changed the game, yet many restaurant operators are determined to carry on as they did in a much different age. Two years ago, say. The railroad has come to town , and they’re still focused on the stagecoach trade.

Part of the problem is the restaurateur’s pride in being different. Many take great pleasure in comporting as society’s desperados, the nonconformists who want no part of the suited mainstream. Unless you’ve sliced a finger three times, burned your palm at least five, and survived a Friday dinner service where the chef didn’t show, they have no use for you. You’re not one of them.

Indeed you’re not. But the restaurant business is hampered by such an acute lack of imagination at present that you want to shake the close-minded individuals who refuse to look beyond the trade’s boundaries.

If they were really smart, they’d look for the people who are even smarter than they are, regardless of what field they’re in.

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