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Read through my latest blog posts and feel free to comment on them if you like.

 

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It's a hard life owning a restaurant

Posted on 29th May, 2017

So it's been a while ...Life kind of happens despite having a restaurant to run. Since my last post (March 2016!) We have completed out foster parent training, taken charge of a lovely wee girl, taken over and then sold another cafe and fitted in a months study leave to help 15 year old through the Nat 5 exams he needs to apply for an engineering apprenticeship. Now things are calmer and I'm back in my restaurant full time I can get back to my blog too...

 

It's was hard job but someones had to do it. In fact Tammy came in early for her shift to show solidarity in this task. With selfless devotion to her job she sacrificed half an hour of her leisure time to come in to help.

Yes, Friday morning, 10 o'clock was ice-cream tasting time. We had to wade through thirty-odd samples of various  ice-cream flavours. Four different reps dropped in samples ( four very slim reps may I add - you'd think in their job the product might get the better of their waistlines.) And, as ice-cream is one of the few products we buy in, we take the task very seriously. VERY seriously. I personally forced myself to try every sample provided. Rhubarb and Custard (delicious), Lemon Sorbet (delicious), four different varieties of Vanilla (delicious), three different Chocolate (delicious), Scottish Tablet flavour (delicious), Mango and Strawberry Sorbet (delicious) Raspberry Cheesecake (delicious).....the list goes on and you can see the pattern here. I am the last person you want to get to taste test ice-cream. I love it all. It's all delicious. When it comes to ice-cream I have no discening palate. And judging by Tammy's reaction hers is only slightly better. So in the end Chris-the Head-Chef made the call. Seeing him taste the ice-creams was like introducing someone to your favourite comedy show and realising they are not laughing. it was clinical. He wrote off three Vanillas immediately and then the Rhubarb and Custard got the thumbs down...I couldn't watch for those delicius Chocolates.....

Not to worry though, job done. And next week? Well that's Prosecco week. And guess what? Tammy has heroically volunteered her services again!

 

Kitchen pickers wear big knickers.....

Posted on 21st March, 2016

Monday is office day at Wee LOCHAN. When Roo and I were young and were working in a restaurant in the Cotswolds, the VAT man came-a-calling. He waltzed in unnanounced and asked for all the receipts from three random days in the previous couple of years. The look on our boss's face has never left me. It haunts me. If I get behind on the paperwork the mere thought of the glazed look in his eyes is enough to motivate me. To a degree his filing system was excellent. He never misplaced an invoice. There was a huge cardboard box sitting on top of another cardboard box in the office. In this box he chucked all till rolls, receipts, invoices and bills. When the box was crammed full he squashed a lid on it and got another one. And when the VAT man arrived our boss spent the best part of a week sifting through these boxes, searching for the receipts required. Even then he didn't think to get them into date or supplier order. Nope, he just sat on the floor picking up each receipt, checking its date then placing it back in a box if it wasn't relevent. I never found out if he retrieved all right documents from the box, all I can remember is his weary face staring at that awful pile and him muttering obscenities about VAT inspectors as he searched.

So Monday is office day. And all my friends know it. They also know that I am delighted to be distracted for any reason however trivial.

So today my friend Ruth arrived for coffee. I had just started on the VAT return for the next quarter and was finding it hard to stay awake. To say I am not a natural in the office would be being kind. For starters I have trouble sitting still for more than 10 minutes at a time. (Normally I think of this as a positive in my life but on Mondays I can see the limitations of perpetual motion). The idea of focussing on one topic for the hours it take to organise a VAT return is exhausting. So happily I relinquished my computer spot and headed for the coffee machine. And as I passed through the kitchen, Vic-the-chef was putting a box of brownie cuttings up for staff.(If you've ever wondered why the brownies always seem to have a perfect edge, it's because the chefs trim off the wobbly, rough edges and feed them to staff). They are put at just an arm's length from the restaurant where we can all help ourselves as we go past. So I grabbed a few pieces for nibbling with our coffees. As I sat down, placing the goodies in front of us, Ruth said, 'kitchen pickers wear big knickers'. I looked at the brownie trimmings. I looked at Ruth. I looked back at the brownie trimmings. Ruth helped herself. I thought about my VAT return and my boss's face. I thought about the size of my knickers and I helped myself. Sometimes, even the thought of big knickers can't dissuade the Monday-office-bored me from eating all the brownie trimmings. And if the VAT man ever pops in, the big knickers will be worth the investment. 

The seven times rule...

Posted on 8th March, 2016

So the strategy worked. Years of using the seven times rule has paid off. My children grew up with it. The only time they really object is if I try it on their friends. I think oldest child's friend, Rachel, might be avoiding my house. She is on my list for peas and has only got to the first time. I'm not sure she will get to seven but I'm trying.  What am I wittering on about?  Well I was watching a family in the restaurant whose child refused to eat anything other than chips then pudding and I was just thinking back to our  holiday in Berlin and how the seven times rule really had done the job.

As chief holiday organiser, I had booked us into the Blind Restaurant for a meal. I was under the impression, on booking, that we would see the menus, order then be taken into a pitch black restaurant. Well we did see the menus and they were in English but they didn't actually tell us what was to be eaten. The descriptions such as " the Italian lady meets white fur of Eastern promise..."  or "Smooth night time descends on a crackling of electricity..." didn't give much away... My kids were not fazed. Intrigued maybe, hungry definitely but not put off. They picked three courses each and off we set into the darkness. It was at this point that I realised the seven times rule had paid off. (When the kids were wee someone had told me that if you get a child to eat something seven times, even just a little bit, after that they just accept it. They might never love the food but will eat it when presented with it.) And as we walked, hands-on-the-person-in-front's-shoulders, through the complete black of the restaurant to our table, I was amazed the kids had just randomly picked a menu each without a clue to what they were about to eat,  with a lot of giggling and discussion but absolutely no fuss and much anticipation. 

The meal was great. Youngest child particularly enjoyed filling me in on which table manner he was currently ignoring, knowing fine well that, as I couldn't see him, I wasn't sure if he actually did have his feet on the table or was eating with his fingers and that even if he was I didn't know where exactly he was sitting to swipe to get him.

If you are ever in Berlin and the restaurant is still there, go - it's great!

I love Trip Advisor. Whoever thought of it should have a wee gold star on every lapel he/she owns. In the past it could take ages to find out if there was a particular problem in need of attention. Now check what Trip Advisor says et voila - instant feedback - problem can be fixed. Clearly it would be better if customers just told us what was wrong there and then and we could fix it for them but hey ho .... So it occurred to me that there could be a parallel site for restaurant owners to rate customers......

 

Please provide an overall rating for this customer  0 0 0 0 0

 

Title your review in a couple of sentences:

Great customer but legs awfully long- make sure he gets a spacious table or you will be tripping over him all night. Can highly recommend his laugh.

Or:

Overall good experience but needs to brush up on table manners. ( Noticed elbows on tables, talking with mouth full etc.)

Or even: 

Can't recommend this diner. Wouldn't eat anything on the menu had to get pizza in from next door to keep him happy.

Or even even:

Fantastic customer will have back on regular basis. Friendly easy-going with bright red coat - easy to find in the mass of black ones at the end of an evening. Can't recommend highly enough.

 

Rate this customer on the following: 

 

Manners                                                             0 0 0 0 0 

Smiliness                                                           0 0 0 0 0

Chatiness                                                           0 0 0 0 0 

Added to Restaurant atmoshpere                     0 0 0 0 0

 

 

 

 

Now, how great would that be? If you had a high rating as a customer, restaurants the world over would be queuing to have you through their doors. You would never hear the utterance, "Sadly there are no tables left on Saturday night at eight o'clock" because the restaurant could just bump a customer with a low rating and let you have their table....a win win situation. Restaurants get pleasant customers and pleasant customers get preferential treatment.....So next time we call you and say 'sadly there has been a mix-up with our table plan and your table on Saturday night has been double booked" .........You know what we're saying...

 

 

 

 

Spiders

Posted on 1st February, 2016

Sunday morning. Rupert, bless his cotton strippy "I'm a great dad" socks wakes me up, as he does every day with a lovely mug of coffee. This compensates for the fact that it is quarter-past-seven on the Sabbath. So the day has started. We moved house not long ago. It's a lovely house but it is freezing. However I'm still in bed in my onesie with a steaming cup of coffee, albeit at the crack of dawn. All is well with the world. By nine o'clock I'm at the restaurant ready for the frantic day ahead - almost. Another wee coffee and I'll be awake. Now the thing about restaurant life is that everyone drinks coffee all the time and you can't just make yourself a cuppa. No, if you make one for yourself then you feel obliged to make one for everyone. The best possible result is to arrive at work just as the coffees are being poured because then whoever is brewing up will add you in. Not this Sunday though, I had missed my chance. By the time I got there not only had all the chefs had their coffee, they were ready for another one. So. before I'd even taken my coat, hat or scarf off I got the pan of water on.  I felt an itch under my hat. New hat - woolly. I rearranged. Coffees made, I got to the office. Another itch under my hat. I had a look. Spider......It amazes my children. Well sometimes it amazes me too but after 46 years I'm kind of used to it. And worse still I am one of those people who, when they see somebody shrieking at wasps or cold water pools, thinks "man up princess". Yet I am hugely, irrationally and completely terrified of spiders. No-holds -barred  shaking-scared. 

I chucked the hat into the middle of the kitchen floor. And, casting all my Bhuddist leanings aside,  I screamed to the kitchen porter "Kill it. Kill it"  So there's my hat lying in the middle of the floor with four chefs and a pot-wash looking blankly at it as I scream "Kill it. Kill it". From the back of the kitchen I hear a wee murmur..."Aisla, I think your hat is already well dead"

 

And so begins another week at Wee LOCHAN.

 

 

It can be intimidating being married to a chef. The first time you cook for him...well that can be the end of a fine romance...Let's face it, they can be fussy folk. Luckily for this family our chef, Rupert, is not fussy - I would go as far as saying that if you are willing to do the cooking he is willing to do the eating - and say 'Thank you. That was delicious.' afterwards, even if it was a bit burned and overcooked which is quite handy for me because chef I am not.

We often tell the kids how we met - I was working as a general dogsbody in a restaurant in the Cotswolds. (It's a pretty part of the country - if you're Scottish you have to slow right down when you talk or you lose the customers after 'hello')  and I was, on my kitchen days, Rupert's commis.  (This usually earns a few sniggers from the kids.  The idea of me being anybody's commis amuses them ....)  A commis who argues with you is not ideal as Rupert found out to his disgruntlement. Luckily, my presence in the kitchen was, despite my inability to follow orders, a fun addition to life and to Rupert's gruntlement I moved permanantly restaurantwards and peace was restored.   He never did manage to teach me to cook restaurant style although, when pressured, I can man a veg  or sweet section for the duration of a lunch service. 

So at hbutternut squash soupome cooking is a communal job. Whoever has been off that day will man the stove. If I'm cooking there will be soup. I love soup. When I go on holiday I miss soup. I can eat soup on the hottest Summer day.  Rupert is an expert at looking at all the odds and bobs in the fridge and rustling up a tasty meal. (Generally not soup....). All the kids can cook too, to differing levels of expertise. Joe has his trusty omlette pan and the girls are pretty capable if asked to get dinner organised.

And if absolutley nobody has the will to cook.....? Well we live right next to  the Blue Sky Chinese takeaway and they know how we love their crispy beef.

 

so you fancy owning a restaurant....

Posted on 25th January, 2016

I married a chef. That's how it began.  

A lot of people confide in me that they harbour a secret desire to own a restaurant. I wake up every morning and still feel a bit surprised that I do own a restaurant. I didn't set out in life to be a restaurateur. If you'd asked me, when I was young what I wanted to be, I would probably have said actress.(The fact that I can't walk across a room with a sensible walk if someone is watching me alerted me to the fact that this was not the profession for me.)

So I own a restaurant. I like owning a restaurant. It's a way of life more than a job. My children are restaurant children and I can spot other restaurant children at 10 paces. Do I like my children being restaurant kids? I'm not sure...it wasn't planned. It evolved. I don't think it has harmed them. They certainly know what hard work involves. But it surprises me that other people are so enamoured of the idea of opening their own restaurant. Ask my kids and they will tell you that there is a very blurry line at our dinner table between family chat and work chat. There is that same indistict line running between all the aspects of their lives. It steps in and out, between the two areas, blurring home and restaurant.

As they get older they join in the restaurant side more and more. Their friends are recruiting ground for part-time staff. Homework is sometimes conducted at table one as I polish glasses nearby. Dinner venues can be switched to the restaurant if needsbe... Why would anyone  choose to swap banking or teaching or doctoring for this life?..I have no idea but I have been confided in by people from all different professions that they would love to 'open their own place'. So I have decided to write this blog to give a wee insight into the actual life of a restaurant family. Before you decide it's the life for you you might want to read on........