Friday, April 4, 2008

Old Friends

When restaurateurs get together, we often rant about the economy and customers who we feel have ill treated us: it's our therapy. From listening to us, you might conclude that there is little joy in this business. You'd be wrong to conclude that, however.

Last night was one of those magical nights in this business when we were very busy (on a normally slow Thursday night when it was pouring rain and sleet) and yet every table came out to have a good time. The happiness in the dining room was palpable even in the kitchen.

It was also a special night because one of our regular tables returned. This couple live in New York state, but winter in Florida. Each year for the past four years, they have stopped at our restaurant on the way back to New York. And we anticipate their visit each year.

Does four visits in four years make you a regular? You tell me. We know their names; we know them by sight; we know about their business and their children and grandchildren; they have their table; she tells the server, "Ed knows how I want my steak." And each year, she asks for an extra napkin and water goblet and she folds the napkin into a beautiful rose and places it the water goblet.

This year, I was so busy that she brought the rose into the kitchen and gave it to me along with a hug. All four roses are displayed on the shelf in my office like trophies, as reminders of why I am really in this business.

This business, as hard as it is, can be extremely rewarding.

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