August 17, 2018

Forecasting... Who needs it? (Spoiler: I do.) (#22)

There's a mantra in the food services industry that essentially says regardless of how long you have been in the industry, regardless of the records you have kept from past years about holidays, events, or weather patterns, and irrespective of your choice of crystal ball, tarot cards or tea leaves, you simply cannot predict how crowded (or not!) your place will be from day to day.

Thankfully, I am new to the industry, have no previous records and stopped listening to prognostications ever since my Magic 8 Ball answered, "Sources Say Yes" when I asked if I would retain a full head of hair well into my 40's.  So - mantra-schmantra - week after week, day after day, I have analyzed and scrutinized the numbers. Because things make SO much more sense when past performance IS indicative of future results!


Well, there's apparently a reason something becomes a mantra and not just a whimsical saying... wait for it... you're about to witness a rare event, like Haley's comet... I. Was. Wrong. (or, ahem, May. Have. Been.) One might as well try to forecast the number of yards Tom Brady will have in the 2019 Super Bowl.

The part of this job I despise the most is when I ramp up our service and kitchen staff in anticipation of a big night - only to have to smile awkwardly at my bored staff and embarrassingly shrug my shoulders and say, "Soooorrry."  Luckily, most veteran employees just say, "that's the nature of this business." But I think they're just being nice. I do take some solace by strolling down the street and slyly "checking out" my competition by looking through windows, secretly hoping they're doing just slightly less business than me (hey, it's a small neighborhood - I don't wish them ill)... which brings me to my story.

Among the many other mantras and old wives' tales of the restaurant industry is the thought that "all months beginning with 'J' are slow" - like ep-ic-ly slow (Wait, I thought it was impossible to predict? - Ack! Conflicting mantras!). But, a few Sundays back, I had made reservations for my ex-wife and some of her friends for brunch (yes, we're still close). I left word with the gang that she'd be there (guaranteeing VIP treatment, of course!) as I was out of town. As brunch time neared, I got a text from her saying, "Is something going on? The line is around the corner." Having completely put work out of my mind and having forgotten what day it was or to what she possibly could have been referring, my carefully crafted reply was, "Huh?" Well, it turned out it was the World Cup Finals and that, as well as brunch, started at 11AM - with apparently very hungry fans. I believe the technical, industry term for the brunch service was... a "shit show." Of course, we managed to get through in one piece and the following week... we were ready. And we had a very robust brunch! Yes! Score! Forecasting works! The tide had turned (digression: odd saying, no? Have you ever described an ocean tide as 'turning'?)! The word about our fantastic brunch was out! And then... the following week, we were slow again. Huh? How? Is there a "Go Brunch/No-Go Brunch" Facebook group everyone knows about but me? What the Fahrvergnügen!

For those of you that don't know, I have a slight forecasting obsession. It might actually be a spreadsheet obsession, but for the sake of wrapping this up, let's call it a forecasting one. I had always questioned the notion of forecasting, but gradually throughout my business career I came around to the much-accepted side of "it's essential!" (Actually, if you are in business - especially software or professional services - try asking your colleagues why forecasting is needed, and see if you get responses that generally reduce to, "because you're just supposed to!"). Well, now I'm in an industry where it is nearly impossible to forecast.  Can you imagine the frustration? Well, maybe if you're a huge nerd you can. I feel lost. Alone. What am I to do?! 

Hmmm... except challenge all of you to come on down to Wit's End and let's discuss the pros and cons of forecasting! :-)  I can tell you about this spreadsheet I made... it's amazing. If you think I'm joking... you don't know me that well yet.

Well, thanks for commiserating... I hope everyone is enjoying their waning summer...

Gëzuar!
Pete






August 1, 2018

And Now... We Brunch. (#21)

I opened a bar.

There are times it still hasn't sunk in, but then I wake up at 10AM (juuust kidding - more like 9:30) and remember this has really happened (and then I freak out and start thinking about all the things I need to get done... so I do the natural thing; I roll over and go back to sleep).

The best part is that it seems that people like it. They really, really like it! But enough channeling of Sally Field. Thanks to your help (well, some of you anyways), we are now in the running to be the "Best Brunch in Cambridge!" How did I get here?! I'm not exactly sure - it's been a whirlwind (no, not a drunken whirlwind). But never had I imagined that I would need to make decisions around topics like:

- Straws: Should we try to make and use bacon straws?
- Celery: A bloody mary must? Or a relic of old?
- French Toast: Too "normal?" Is French Toast Casserole as good?
- Custard: Is that really what you call the batter you dip French Toast in? (yes, lots of french toast questions)
- Biscuits: Can they really be that hard to make good?

Where'd the "bar" part go?

Don't get me wrong, there is a still a substantial "drinks" component to a brunch done right (i.e., our brunch). We have more choices of bloody marys, mimosas, bellinis and shandys than I can keep up with (luckily, my bartenders can)! I do sometimes wonder if we've gone over the top as one could spend hours at Wit's End tasting, evaluating and debating all of these drinks... hey... genius! And I take solace in F. Scott Fitzgerald's insight: "Too much of anything is a bad thing, but too much champagne is just right." (note: insert Prosecco for Champagne... but the idea is the same).

Well, the "Best Brunch" voting has ended and now we wait. For a few weeks. I'm trying to post more, so I hope you'll hear from me before the results are announced. Feel free to direct me in what you might be interested in hearing about. I have stories of employee retention, operations, processes gone awry, food (the good, bad and ugly), menus, games, preparedness, reviews, first dates and split checks (this is a hardly understandable practice - to me - I think this might be my next blog entry), technology and spreadsheets, food ordering, work schedules, crazy customers and more.  Leave some comments and let me know what might pique your interest!

But until then, I'll be cooking brunch (totally kidding, no way I could do that)!

živjeli,
-Pete

July 2, 2018

Are we having fun yet? (#20)

Howdy!

I first must apologize for the duration of the hiatus since my last post. Three months! (And if you're time constrained, feel free to jump to the last paragraph... important stuff there!) But I am committing to being more prolific and more engaging than ever (lucky you)! I apologize as I have been plenty busy, but a sufficient number of people have come in to Wit's End saying that they miss the blog posts. And boy oh boy, do I have things to write about! So, without further ado (I have no idea what an "ado" is... but I am continuing nonetheless... hmmm.... nor do I know where the word "nonetheless" comes from... but I digress!)

I will use the blog to retell some of the stories and situations I have and will continue to encounter - like, why I am on my 4th chef, how I dealt with crazy drunk lady, how we perfected the meatball and some tales zany enough to even confound industry veterans! But first, I will attempt to answer the question that I am asked most frequently (and annoyingly.... umm, did I say that outloud?) by those who have been following my foray into this world... Am I having fun?

I would love to (and frequently, if not dishonestly) simply reply, "Yes! Best time of my life!" But, am I really having fun? Does the "bar owner" moniker live up to its hype? Would I do this again? Turns out that I don't need others to ask me this question, as I ask it of myself quite regularly. After the initial glow of opening a new store has faded (it hasn't yet completely), and reality sets in, what is the real answer? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but the jury is still out (whomp-whomp).

There are most certainly some aspects of the business that are still too chaotic for me to chalk up as "fun." Building the right team to execute the vision has proven frustrating and jaw-droppingly shocking and depressing at times. Reading sub-par reviews can take the wind out of one's sails (thankfully, we are between 4 and 5 stars on most sites now: 4.4 on Google; 4 on Yelp; 4+ on OpenTable - yes, a shameless plug...but it is my blog). And the infamous "no-call; no-show" manner in which employees quit jobs in this industry (basically "ghosting" their employer) is downright infuriating.

But, there are a lot of times when I see 70-80 people all happy, drinking, eating, interacting with the space and super engaged with each other and I think, "Well, this is awesome." And I spend a good amount of time reconnecting with old friends who stop by out of the blue (hint-hint) and that is super fun! I get a thrill when strangers bestow unsolicited praise on the place, like last night when a guy said he "knows mac & cheese" and our "Gouda Will Hunting" small plate is now the best mac & cheese he has ever had (hmmm...another plug). And I am overcome with deep satisfaction at times when guests are surprised at how much fun they are having, like the couple who thought we were East Coast Grill, but stayed for a glass of wine and a beer.... And then another round. And then food. And then more food. And then they stayed for trivia. And then they bought their children a $250 gift card because they fell in love with the place (okay, and then another round). THAT is fun. And finally, I think about the alternative...sitting in front of a computer... in an office... every day (although, this is interesting... that is exactly what I am doing right now... yikes... must stop).

So, I will continue to strive to better answer the question in future posts. But for now, the above will have to suffice. Oh, and finally, if you haven't heard THIS is also fun... We were nominated for the BEST BRUNCH in Cambridge. Oh, AND the BEST BARTENDER in Cambridge by the Cambridge Scout Magazine. If that's not fun, I don't know what is!


So, now I have a favor to ask each of you. I am committing to continuing this blog. In return I would ask that you stop what you are doing and take 30 seconds and vote for Wit's End in both of the above categories at scoutcambridge.com/vote. Hah, imagine if we win! More fun! You can vote up to 5 times. So... umm... why not? Be a part of the ride! And make sure you say hi when you stop in!

Cheers,
-Pete





March 1, 2018

I'm alive! More on that soon... (#19)

Hello all!
It has been a few months.
It has been hectic.
It has been exhilarating.
It has been fun.
It still is being challenging.... and entertaining.

And I will regale you with stories.

But for now....

Sunday is Oscar day, if you have not heard...
(Best Picture Nominee: Lady Bird).

6PM is trivia! You can gain some fame...
(Best Picture Nominee: Call Me By Your Name).

8:30PM we watch to hear what Jimmy Kimmel said...
(Best Picture Nominee: Phantom Thread).

With any luck, he won't be a jerk...
(Best Picture Nominee: Dunkirk).

But he will poke fun of those in the Ivory Tower...
(Best Picture Nominee: Darkest Hour).

Then the fun begins. Winners win prizes and losers pout...
(Best Picture Nominee: Get Out).

At Wit's End, the competition for predictions will grow hotter and hotter...
(Best Picture Nominee: The Shape of Water).

And with the Best Picture Winner, we will have a Prosecco Toast...
(Best Picture Nominee: The Post).

Reserve your space now, to avoid the hoards...
(Best Picture Nominee: Three Billboards).

Email: jayson@witsendbar.com or me at pete@witsendbar.com for reservations!

За здоровье!
-Pete


December 9, 2017

It's snowing!

I know I've been quiet these days. And the website is up at the old www.witsendbar.com address. But I have not forgotten you! And I hope you don't forget me! I'll post a Grand Opening update soon. But until then, come on by! I'm here. I'm always here! ;-)

And things are going well!



November 27, 2017

Game On! (#18)

We are open! And yes, I am tired!  But excited.  Things continue to get smoother each day. The drinks are awesome. The food is getting great feedback. And eeveryone seems to be really taking to the place. The move symbol wall is challenging everyone. The riddles on the chalkboards are perplexing.  People are wondering whether "Send Nudes" in the Scrabble Bar was just a coincidence! Saturday night, surprisingly had about 8 tables playing all sorts of games, as well.

Next up... marketing and word of mouth.  We need to go viral-ish. So, please check out the article below and share it with your social media networks! Not sure what more to say. Except, come on over tonight! (Yes, I will be there when you arrive. We open at 4:30PM every day!)

Check this article out from today!

And here are some photos.  First one is Wit's End Customer #1!







October 17, 2017

Clearly, I was unclear. (#17)

All:

So much to do, so little time. The place is shaping up nicely. Still looking for a bartender or two! I am delaying my opening until mid-November. But please read this, and if you are so inclined, act now. I would think most of you would - well those of you who like great deals, anyway. It's an email I will be sending out shortly.
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Hi everyone,

If you are receiving this, I either know you or know someone that knows you.  I have spent the last 10 months planning to open a bar/restaurant in Cambridge, MA. And the time is very near. Everything is fully funded and ready to go. I would be honored if you would come by for a visit. It's called Wit's End and it's in Inman Square.

I wanted to find a way to give my network a special benefit by giving you a gift card for an amount at least 30% more than the value of your contribution. That's it. There are no gimmicks. If you plan to visit anytime in the future, this should be a no brainer.

You will also get other trinkets, like T-shirts and coasters and - for a larger investment - the opportunity to leave your mark on the bar itself!

I chose kickstarter as a way to facilitate this offer. It is a means to get this out to you in an easy and accessible way. I have heard from people that doing it on kickstarter is confusing and strange - and that my keen business mind is up to something (obviously they don't know me that well - my mind is far from keen). But I think it just might be an atypical kickstarter campaign. There is not much typical in my life these days! 

This is an all or nothing proposition. About 15 people have contributed and will be receiving bigger gift cards than they paid for - some will have left their mark on the bar forever! But we need to reach the $5,000 mark for anyone to get anything (we are 35% of the way there).

So, here it is... Click here now. Contribute. Get more in return. 

Click this ==> KickStart Wit's End

Thanks,
-Pete
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