Saturday, August 30, 2008

I Love Saturday Mornings

I really love Saturday mornings at the restaurant. Saturday morning has a different rhythm than every other morning of the week. After the frantic scramble of the four preceding days—a scramble to devise the night's menu, to get everything done before my 3 pm meeting, to finish the bookkeeping from yesterday, and so forth—Saturday morning is blessedly relaxed.

Saturdays see no inventory, no deliveries, and no checks to write. It's a constant struggle for me to stay on top of what I need to order, to remember what is on order but not yet delivered, to ensure that what has been delivered is what I ordered and in good shape, to get all the deliveries stored away, and to find time to cut checks for the deliveries that come in COD. Saturday brings a welcome respite from these quotidian tasks and a chance for my mind to wander to things other than exigencies of the business.

One of the best things about Saturday mornings is that darned telephone doesn't start ringing until after noon. Even the [many epithets deleted] telemarketers take the morning off, so I don't have the slam the phone down in exasperation.

The kitchen has a different feel too. Sure, we're tired because it's the end of the week and because we got pounded last night, Friday night, but we did the lion's share of prep for the weekend on Thursday and Friday. Even though I change the menu daily, Saturday's changes are generally just minor tweaks to Friday's menu. Being as tired as we are on Saturday, we don't really want another long day of prep going into what will probably be a bone-crushing Saturday night dinner service.

Saturday affords me a leisurely walk to the farmers market, especially on a beautiful fall day like today. There I meet different people from the rest of the week, people who are at the market because they want to be, people who don't have forty other things to be accomplished on the way somewhere else. Without the huge pressures on my shoulders as during the rest of the week, I feel I can take a few minutes and socialize and catch up with people whom I see infrequently. And a few minutes of working the crowd at the market is never a bad marketing (bad pun intended) strategy.

Saturday lunch is a different animal too. For one, it starts late compared to week days. Just knowing that there is a slim probability of customers in the house before 12:45 to 1:00 pm puts us in a more relaxed mood; we don't have that pressure to get everything set perfectly by 11 am.

Saturday lunch is also different in that we will host the fewest number of guests of the week. There are just too many other things competing for time on Saturday morning: ferrying the kids to soccer and football practice and games, working in the yard or on the house, shopping, and running errands. But while there are not many customers, those who come are laid back, unhurried, sans ties and jackets, and who have come to dine.

Moreover on Saturday, we don't have the crush of customers coming in right at noon and wanting to be served right now so that they can hurry back to work. This lets us work at a more human pace. If you've ever worked a dining room full of customers on a weekday lunch, you know the breakneck pace required, the anxious glances of customers around you, the ticking stopwatch in your head, and the knowing that you cannot give all these customers the service that they deserve.

Because of the leisurely pace of Saturday lunch, I can often get out of the kitchen to visit with diners, to recommend wines, to suggest sites that they might want to see while they're in town, and so forth. It's a good time for the people person in me.

And, on some Saturdays, my wife and children will come to lunch. This is often my first chance since the previous Monday to see them. But all too often, my wife has to work weekends or I am too busy in the kitchen to spend much time with them. Still, seeing them makes Saturday one of my favorite days.

Saturday lunch and the leisurely pace carries on until about 3pm, at which point the reality of the impending bone-crushing Saturday dinner service rears its head and all that I love about Saturday mornings vanishes. But, one thought (and a lot of adrenaline) carries me through Saturday night dinner service, no matter how tired I am: tomorrow is Sunday and I can sleep in!

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