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Restaurant biz is tough

Keeping the five senses in check

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What makes a restaurant succeed? This is a question that has many complicated answers. If the answers were easy, people would be opening dining establishments right and left. Smart folk don’t open restaurants. Crazy people do. To put it more politely, people that like to live on the edge open restaurants. The view is much better from up there.

Probably the most important aspect for a successful restaurant, next to location, is atmosphere. What do you want your restaurant to say? We as human beings are driven by our senses. So it is understandable that what we see, smell, and even touch can be key to making your customers feel welcome. Many times it is what we hear that can be most intriguing when developing a restaurant atmosphere.

The other day the husband and I met some friends at Doyle’s. The crowd this particular evening was fairly young and feisty, and there was an uplifting Irish ditty playing for that authentic pub atmosphere. However, there are only so many fiddle solos I can listen to at an Irish/European pub in one evening, but it is to be expected when visiting a place like this.

Fortunately, the husband wore his Clutch T-shirt with great pride this evening and saucy bartender Brian must have taken notice, for soon our favorite stoner-rock band was rockin’ the house. This was a smart move on Brian’s part. He read the crowd and created a new but equally delightful atmosphere (if Clutch qualifies as delightful). Give the boy a raise, Russ and Dave.

Next time you are in your favorite dining establishment, take the time to listen. In my restaurant we have satellite radio, which is a great way to go. We keep it on classic standards and some light jazz depending on time of day and who is dining with us at the time. Every once in while, we like music from the ’70s and for the most part the tunes are pretty innocuous: The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Bread, etc. We have to stay sharp for once in a while “Cat Scratch Fever” or “Whole Lotta Love” will flare-up and we dash for the remote. Not exactly what I would call “sipping on wine” music.

For the most part, a restaurant should try to play music that appeals to the masses or to their customer base. Remember, we are trying to create an atmosphere for maximum enjoyment. It really irks me when owners or their staff try to push their music choices on the customers. A former employee of mine kept trying to sneak “The Mountain” type music on because that is what she liked. I went round and round with her over this. It’s not about us. It’s about the customer. OK truth time. Sometimes it IS about us. You try listening to the same music day after day. It can be grating.

Speaking of grating, I cannot hold my tongue any longer. I must speak out on this issue because it has reached an all time low. Can I assume you weren’t raised in a barn and talking on your cell phone in a restaurant is frowned upon? Well, not only was this woman talking on her cell phone, she had it on speaker too! She took or made four or five calls in my restaurant where we could hear everything. She claimed it was stuck on speaker and she couldn’t figure out how to change the setting. In the meantime we are stuck listening to her inane phone calls. “Hey lady, I’ll fix your phone …”

Yes, my friends, restauranting ain’t easy, but it can be done. God bless the crazy folk who put their heart and soul into creating an escape for the rest of us. If it weren’t for them, we would be stuck fending for ourselves, and for many of you out there, this would be tragic.

Eat out Tacoma. We need your love.

Sandee Glib has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry for more than 12 years as a server, bartender, cook and owner. Her opinions are expressly her own and she is always right.

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