State of the Restaurant: June, Year One

Years ago when my wife and I were planning our little place we could never understand why so many small restaurants were closed one or two days a week.  “Don’t they understand that people need to eat seven days a week?” we’d say, all smug and confident that we knew better.

After eight months of doing our best we’ve realized that we didn’t know better, and there are incredibly good reasons why the local, non-chain, mom and pop operations in our area simply can’t be open all day, every day.

Starting today we will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and since you are the most important factor in our restaurant’s success we want to share our reasons with you:


Lauren is eight months pregnant, due in mid-August and we need to plan a way to meet the demands of the restaurant around having some guaranteed family time.

We’re so, so tired.  We’ll be using these two days a week before the birth to try and stock up on some sleep.

Employees:  don’t read the next paragraph!

Employees make me tired.  I’ve been self-employed for my entire adult life, but I’ve only ever worked by myself.  I respect and appreciate and am impressed by all of the people who work in the restaurant individually and they do a fantastic job.  But, with so many of them it seems like there always something:  days off, calling in sick, drama (oh yes, there is drama).  It’s just going to be nice to have a couple days that are guaranteed to not need me to try and respond to a dozen text messages that individually wouldn’t be a big deal, but taken together are a little overwhelming.  I’m trying to be the kind of boss I’d want to work for, but I’m not so sure I’m the world’s best manager.

Employees:  you can start reading again!  (I’m not so sure that worked, guess I’ll find out on Wednesday…)

The last part is simply financial, and is what made this decision easiest.  The dream for our restaurant was to be confidently conservative, gaining a following naturally and slowly until “making it” by being able to pay off the debt we’d accrued to get open and paying our employees an above-average wage for the restaurant industry.  We knew it was going to take a long time and hadn’t planned on being in a decent spot for two years.  Then the Kitsap Sun article was published three months after we opened and the restaurant filled up every day, all day for four weeks.  To be frank, we weren’t ready for it.  We were still learning how to be a restaurant at that time and I’m sure that there were many meals that were sent out that weren’t worth the 45 minute wait for a table- if you had a poor experience I hope you’ll let us make it up to you in the future.  A side effect of that time period is that it smashed my expectations of what it meant to open and operate a small restaurant; I began to expect instant, overnight success and was incredibly slow to react when the waves of new customers inevitably slowed, bringing us back down to earth.  Over the last few months we’ve lost money by being open on Mondays and Tuesdays and if we’re going to make it to year two and beyond we simply have to be smarter about it.  Based on the feedback that we receive and the fact that we have so many people who come in regularly bringing friends and family (thank you!) It seems like we’re slated to be an overnight success five years in the making, and I’m okay with that.

Thank you all so much for your support and if you have any feedback or suggestions please know that we will be thrilled to read them!

-Stephen and Lauren

June 18, 2016

State of the Restaurant

I think of you all as more than simply customers, but more like patrons- it is your support, provided by your hard-earned dollars and feedback, that makes our business possible. We aren’t a publicly traded company so I guess I’m not required to provide all the details that I do, but without you we wouldn’t be where we are, so you’ve effectively invested in our future and we think you are entitled to know what’s going on! The following topics were prompted by conversations with customers and employees, both in-person and online, if you recognize an issue you brought up, thank you for doing so!

Bottlenecks: We have them. The wait times that you have experienced are due to three factors: seating, kitchen size and menu.

If you’ve been in you know how tiny our restaurant is; this was intentional, since a smaller space means less overhead and a better chance at us being able to make rent and we thought our menu would be too specialized to be popular. We never wanted to try and cram tables in since we wanted ours to be a calm environment where people could have a conversation while they ate without feeling crowded. Adding on the reasonable constraints of the fire code means that we have all the tables and chairs that we can possibly have at our location. We’ve discovered the talents and skills of one of our original employees at being a host, and she’s going to be training us all in the art; but even when we get good at it there is still going to be a thirty minute wait to be seated if ya’ll keep coming in at once (Apparently there’s a rumor being spread that we sell out early, which makes everyone come in early so we sell out early; it’s a vicious cycle.).

Then we get to our kitchen. While our location is small by design, the kitchen is even smaller than we’d planned on. We’ve found out that we can indeed have two cooks back there working together and doing their best to keep up with orders, but we only had so much room for a hood, which limited the space available for stove burners and a fryer. We’re getting much better at staging orders so that there’s a little time in between each one, but even when we’re at our least busy, ⅓ of a pound of beef, cooked low and slow, takes time. Especially if you order it well-done (Which is perfectly fine! Once you’ve placed your order it becomes YOUR food and we’ll cook it how you want it!). So, our inability to cook more than three or four orders at once like the big guys do adds to the wait.

Finally, our menu. Making everything from scratch takes time. Lots of it. That aspect doesn’t affect us during service, but it does mean that we can’t just whip up a few more buns in order to meet demand and right now our buns are the reason that we sell out when we do. We can only make one batch of buns (the size of which is constrained by the size of our mixer, which is, of course, within scale of the kitchen) a day with the number of trained, capable employees that we have on staff.

As an employer the worst thing I can imagine doing is telling an employee that I have to let them go because the business can’t afford them. If the demand that you are showing for our food continues we will be able to do more than breakeven and will start turning a profit, which will immediately be passed on to the employees. I cannot make every burger, nor take every order- if you’ve enjoyed a meal at our place it’s because of the hard work and passion of an employee who will be the first to be rewarded if we do become a successful restaurant. If you happened to have a less-than-ideal experience it is because I asked too much of them or did not provide enough training. Once our employees are paid a fair wage for the work they do, there’s a mathematical possibility that my family might be able to start paying down the debt we accrued to get open, but we never intended to get rich by opening our restaurant; success to us remains conservative and modest.

Our team has collectively decided that the best thing to do is to ride out this coming week with our current staff (with increased hours for previously part-time employees and one cook, hi Josh!) before bringing anyone new on. If you show us that your desire in these last few days to eat the food we love making is not just a fluke or a temporary uptick, we’ll be able to hire and train more people, at least two of whom will be responsible for making a second batch of buns per day, allowing us to make sure we’re open for dinner as well as lunch.

tldr;
Thank you all so much, we’ll keep it up if you do!

-Stephen and Crew

February 13, 2016

Good Morning Kitsap County!

Our customers are every bit as important to us as the food and employees so I thought a “State of the Restaurant” post would be appropriate the day after the Kitsap Sun article was published.

Yesterday was simply crazy for our little restaurant and while we weren’t quite overwhelmed we were definitely close to it. I truly believe in the quality and type of food that we offer and want ours to be a calm, quiet restaurant where you can come in expecting great service in a relaxing atmosphere- not sure how it felt to those of you that managed to come in before we sold out yesterday, but to us it felt like we were freshly beheaded chickens doing our best to keep up, at least as well as a beheaded chicken is able.

Even if you generously assessed us being cool and collected that amount of business is not sustainable with the amount of employees we had scheduled and we don’t yet have people trained and ready to go that we can simply add on the roster for this weekend. Until we do have enough employees to guarantee that everyone’s experience is just how we want it to be we aren’t going to increase our production numbers to try and meet demand- instead of trying to cash in on our newfound fame we’re going to make sure we keep the quality of the food where it is and has been since we opened.

That means we will probably keep selling out a little too early for a while and we can only hope that if you wanted to try us out you will be patient with our fledgling restaurant, we believe in what we’re doing and we want to be able to prove it to you.

I will always post on Facebook when we’ve sold out for the day in the hopes that we catch you before you’ve committed to driving in, and you can always call ahead at 360-399-6006 as well so we can provide you with updates (though if we don’t pick up it’s probably not a good sign…).

Thank you so much from all of us here; we truly love doing what we do, and to have you recognize us and enjoy our food is just the icing on the cake (or is it seeds on the bun?).

-Stephen

February 12, 2016

My Goals for Genuine Burgers:

To be able to make the kind of food that I believe in using resources that I can be proud of without compromising my standards in order to keep the business alive.

To create a workplace that is fun, engaging and fulfilling for people who love to work with food while providing a decent wage.

To make sure that our customers leave not just content, but thrilled with their meal and experience.

To eventually earn a modest living for my family, once all of those other goals have been met.

 

Thank you Kitsap County, sincerely, thank you. My biggest fear was that we would not be able to communicate our point of view on what food is and should be adequately, that we would not be able to stand out as something other than just another burger joint. Your feedback, input, critical critiques and, I humbly acknowledge, praise has been so very appreciated. After just these two short weeks I can see that with hard work, diligence and persistence, Genuine Burgers can indeed become what I and my family want it to be.

There have been issues that we fixed and tried to make right and I’m sure that there were people who weren’t as happy as we’d like but didn’t get a chance to let us know- so if you’re reading this and saw room for improvement, please trust that we will be working as hard as we can in the days, weeks and hopefully years ahead to do just that.

Starting this coming week we will be open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, from 11am to 9pm – it’s going to be a little odd for us right off the bat due to Thanksgiving; someone has to make buns the day before a service so we’ll be closed both Thursday and Friday to spend time with our families and will be be open again on Saturday.

Thank you all so very much and Happy Holidays!

-Stephen

December, 2015