Starting a small Tavern in rural Northern California. Barley and Hops Tavern catalogs the trials and tribulations of the restaurant biz, and teaching wine country to love beer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A meteoric rise

We had our biggest week ever, in the dead of Winter. This is how it happened:

There is secret society of food reporters. A culinary Illuminati which get together at ... let's say Whole Foods Cafe'... and hatch plans to help, and at the same time, abuse, restaurateurs. By the way, never say "restauranteurs". It has no 'n'. When you say "restauranteurs" it makes you look foolish, and I publicly mock you mercilessly, and endlessly.

Right, the secret society.

So they want to give some good press, because the fish and chips are really good; or because the location is sweet, or because they just really like the cat logo. Instead of spreading the press out, it is all rolled out simultaneously. Which has myriad effects.

First, I get a call and an email from Heather Irwin, the boisterous writer of the Press Democrat's "Bite Club" food column and blog, of which I'm a reader. Apparently Barley and Hops' regulars have been posting about the Tavern in the comments sections of some of her blog posts. So she comes out to see what all the fuss is about, but does so during the .00000001% of the time that Mir and I are gone home (this was during our brief xmas trip to the inlaws). So Tish, our GM Jedi, takes good care of her (Tish doesn't know who Heather is; she takes good care of everyone.), and Heather has a great meal and a great time. Oh yes, the call. So I get a call, or more acurately, a frantic message, as well as email, that she needed to come in to photograph the place, have some mousse, and a Mirjam's homemade soft pretzel (which is now permanently on our menu... but that's another post). I had no idea she had been in, but was quite excited to meet one of my favorite bloggers. So she comes in and does her thing- I found a beer she likes, which I can do for anyone who drinks, and has a somewhat open mind. She took some really stunning photos, we chatted, and that was that. She published a glowing review, that, yes, we deserve because we're rad and work our asses off constantly-- nonetheless, she really did something big for us. When she left we hoped (and still do) that she will come back for dinner sometime, because she's really, really cool.

And then the floodgates opened. Apparently, a LOT of people read Bite Club (we also were in the print Press Democrat). We didn't think that the article would come out until the following week. The entire week we were slammed like back-to-back New Year's Eves. Eveses. Evii? We are staffed for about what we need for the Winter. Especially after a somewhat slow holiday-- the holidays were actually good, but the surrounding weeks were SLOW, which we'll remember for next year-- after the holiday, we were cautious about staffing. Keeping costs down is important during the Winter, as we've been told buy our fellow restaurant owner friends. Actually we have a secret society as well. A restaurant cabal, hell-bent on providing good food and beer to the masses. Anyway... that verbal trip around Jupiter was to say that we were a bit understaffed, and weren't expecting the absolute deluge of customers.

And then the Sunday paper came out. The Sanfran-freeking-cisco Chronicle. Apparently they had been to Occidental at some point, taken pictures of our restaurant, as well as others, and eaten at our place. The article was about travel to Occidental, but the photo they went with was of Barley and Hops Tavern, and they gave us the lead in the (extremely complimentary) dining section. So all of the Press Democrat readers (a huge paper in its own right) who waited for Sunday came, as well as a flood of Chronicle readers from as far as the South Bay drove HOURS to come to Occidental, and eat at the Tavern. The dam burst. We were slammed beyond any holiday turnout we've ever had. We were frantically calling in anyone we knew to come help.

ALWAYS have a plan B. Always have people you can call, people who will do you a favor, because you never know what to expect in this business. Be ready to drop everything and FIND A WAY to help them when they need you.

ALWAYS be ready to work days with no sleep. Because when you get slammed for days, unexpectedly, you need to restock and prep. I had to make cash and carry runs that absolutely crushed the suspension of our little Saturn. It barely made the trip.

But we did it. We did it, which means we can do it again. It's only a taste of what's to come this Summer. A fire drill.

To the papers... thank you thank you, THANK YOU a million times over.

The best sort of advertising is the free kind - happy customers who like great food and great beer at fair prices - commented on a blog. That snowballed into our best week ever. As the weather grows cold and rainy, it has calmed down a bit, but we're still having record days for the Winter, and we appreciate so, so much, the wonderful people who come and hang out with us at the Tavern.

1 comment:

Amy & Gaston said...

We're going tonight and really looking forward to it! And, yes, you do have Bite Club to thank for our visit because otherwise (sadly) Occidental is somewhat off of our dining radar.