Tastes Like Burning

I usually leave the rants to Jam Rock, but I thought I might share this one with the both of our regular blog readers. It may come as no secret to you but along with blogging for the renowned SpicyMayo.ca, I also am a co-owner of a restaurant in Saskatoon’s Broadway district called Sushiro. Early last month we participated in the Broadway Theatre event Taste of Broadway. Its a revenue generating event for the theatre based on donations from a half a dozen small restaurants in the surrounding blocks. I participated in last years event and when the Broadway Theatre rep poked his head thru the kitchen pass and asked me in a few words if I was in, I agreed.

Like last year, he told me to plan for 50 guests. He left a note suggesting if I couldn’t donate labour to help run their promotion I should call. A couple months passed and one evening a new kitchen worker mentioned “Hey, isn’t tonight Taste of Broadway?” and in a panic I found his note and realized it was the next day. The day of the event we prepared 188 pieces of sushi, most of it large futo maki made from tempura shrimp, eel, also smoked salmon. The event was meant to run over a couple hours, so in addition we include 32 pieces of raw maki, sashimi grade tuna and salmon, hoping it would get scooped up before it got warm and un-servable. We donated the help of our lead server Aman and sent our donation. I was no longer at the shop after the event but the next day Aman said he was “fazed” by the amount of people there. Also the theatre volunteer expressed about our donation to Aman, “this is it?” and began directing the party goers they are welcome to only one piece of sushi each. Now maybe Aman is easy to faze, but at Sushiro he can over see the table service our 40+ seats, so I think handing out free appetizers to 50 people at a cocktail party shouldn’t be difficult. So what went wrong? We sent a server, with a donation of three to four large portions of sushi for each of the 50 ticket buying customers. How did the wheels fall off of The Taste of Broadway? Why is the Planet S Magazines food writer commenting on Sushiro, “our eyebrows were raised by their meagre offering”? Then about everyone in general, “I don’t think the majority of these restaurants brought their A-game.”? Then complaining about “inexpensive ingredients” and “portions that left stomachs rumbling”? Why am I getting all jacked up and writing with the indignation of a self righteous stereotype? Well that last one is easy. I’ve been hit with every owners fear. Bad word of mouth. I’ve been bitten by that before and it stings the old ego. I remember when we first opened, I was more worried about squeezing every dollar out of an evening, jamming guests(read customers) in, moving them from table to bar to table, then taking a couple take out orders, loading all of this on a over worked kitchen. I made the beginner mistake of treating my guests like a revenue stream and their service a necessary evil. To my guess thats what happened with the fund raiser. The Broadway Theatre over sold the event. By three or four times i’d imagine. Instead of fifty happy guests, we found a couple hundred unsatisfied, and by the sounds of the Planet S writer Craig Silliphant, drunken customers. I’ll take some of the blame, I was lazy. I let the Theatre carry the ball, I didn’t follow up with the organizers. I didn’t plan the event like a promotion for Sushiro, I considered it a cocktail party catering, and next year I’ll do it differently. Hopefully the theatre organizers have learned a lesson and will step up as well. Next time only serve as many guest as you can please, also the phrase ‘Sold Out’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact it’s great advertising for next year when perhaps plan for 150 guests and include more donations and culture a following. Maybe then or valued guest Craig S. will not be forced in his wine buzzed displeasure to use corny contrived phrases like “our eyebrows were raised”. Just kidding.

 

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