Earlier today I went back to grab a pile of cookbooks that I had left behind. I sold my share in the restaurant two and a half years ago and they’d sat, collecting dust in the windowless office, since. I was obviously no longer a partner, but today we closed the doors for the last time and the following are my lessons learned from closing a restaurant.
175,000. That’s about the number of dishes I was a part of in that building, and I made sure every single plate looked and tasted as good as the one prior. I gave everything. At times I’ll argue with myself that I gave too much and sacrificed too much to the restaurant that felt to be failing me. I had compromised my relationship, my finances and at times, my health. At times I try to convince myself that I gave that restaurant more than it ever gave me in return, and in a way, that argument holds up. But, the real truth is that in those five years, interspersed amongst those nearly two hundred thousand meals that were served under my watch, were a lot of happy people. Certainly, we contributed to the customer’s lives, but I also got to help people pay their bills, and I got to experience true camaraderie and togetherness with a fine group of individuals. Plus, that little restaurant – it grew me into a chef. With that title and rite of passage are lessons learned, new perspectives and deeper understanding of how the industry works – how relationships work – how the world works.
The 4 questions I ask myself are these:
1. Did the restaurant make the community better?
2. Did the restaurant make our customers lives better?
3. Did the restaurant make our employees lives better?
4. Did the restaurant make my life better?
Quite simply, the answer to every single one of those questions is a resounding, “yes”.
Thus, I wouldn’t trade it for the world – it will always be a part of me. It shaped my life in profound ways – ways that taught me lessons, ways that made me treat people better, and in ways that made me decide to treat myself better.
That now-closed restaurant, I will look back on with nothing but deep-seeded gratitude.
Some things aren’t meant to work out. Instead, they teach us valuable lessons. Ideally, we learn from those lessons and we take them with us forever.
To be honest – going back to the restaurant today – I didn’t really go back to get left-behind cookbooks – I went back to say a final farewell.
Have you closed up shop? I’d love to hear your lessons learned from closing a restaurant.
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