Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Is Necessary In A Restaurant?

Leary's Canteen

Recently I've been trying to fine tune my concept for my own restaurant and I am starting to put my chicken scratch into a formal proposal of some sort. This is an interesting time only because reading and trying to understand chicken scratch can be a monumental effort at times. One of the more intriguing underlying questions or ideas that I have found to be common in my research is the basic necessity of service or product in a restaurant. What defines what a restaurant should or should not have? Is trend dictating a restaurant's focus and sustainability away from food?

I know the questions are ridiculously vague, but they really tie into restaurant sustainability, seating, staff, menu and almost everything else. For example, the simple idea of whether to have a hard liquor license or not is really a $100,000 dollar swing vote when you put in consideration the need to permit, space, stock, hire, and accommodate all the requirements for having a cocktail bar. Why wouldn't I simply decide to take the $6000 (not actual amount, example) that it might take to stock hard alcohol and add that into building an amazing wine list?.

And when did it become wrong to have a restaurant be primarily focused on food? Too many restaurants want to throw in big giant bars, flashy modern design and cocktails, but isn't that a problem when success is hinging on an associated bar concept. People are flocking nowadays to street food and gourmet carts for exactly 1 purpose: the food. And if you take the most fundamental of ideas, shouldn't that be the first and foremost thought for creation? I understand that people love to go to restaurants that can offer multiple sources of entertainment, but are there too many places that have deviated to this model?

When I tell people that I want a small restaurant focused on primarily the food, sometimes I can see a little chuckle coming from their faces. They're laughing inside because they think the notion of having the objective of a restaurant to be "food" is completely obvious if not downright stupid. But, if you think hard enough, there is quite a bit of complexity and inherent philosophy in that response.

A focus on food allows you to remove all the clunky, costly clutter that doesn't necessarily contribute to the diner's food experience. It also allows you to assess the focus of service from only one perspective and not three: bar service, table service, diner services (e.g. sommelier, event staff, extra FOH). And once you are able to simplify the experience to one focus, you can then be pragmatic about how to provide that service. Yes, people will tell me that service has been done a certain way for centuries, but I will counter that people also did bloodletting, human sacrifice and slavery for centuries too and only one of those things are cool (not slavery).

Sorry, but unfortunately I am not offering my own ideas on how I want to structure service onto a public blog at this moment, but I think you have an idea that things can and should be different. It's hard to describe everything in detail, but essentially the idea reduces to a single underlying core philosophy that we, as common people, have a desire and a need for great food. I feel that at this core beyond all the surrounding barriers, walls and layers of a restaurant, there should sit a foundation, a truth and a way: I am a chef and all I want to do for you tonight is cook you personal and beautiful food.


  1. I wish there are MORE diners who can genuinely appreciate the fine-food rather than those fancy liquid-soap in the restaurant toilet.

  2. Just catching up on all your posts. Move to NYC. We'll open a restaurant together. I know lots of people who just love food!