Meridian Star

Columns

January 28, 2014

Restaurant Rollouts, Re-Concepts, & Revisions

MERIDIAN — by Robert St. John

Restaurant rollouts take coordination. Whether it’s the unveiling of an entirely new concept or the rollout of a new menu, a lot of detailed planning is involved in all departments.

It took a few decades for that lesson to sink in. In the early days of my restaurant career I flew by the seat of my pants, and if I had a good idea— or what I thought might be a good idea— we would try it. Oftentimes we failed, but sometimes we nailed it.

It’s those knock-it-out-of-the-park homeruns that keep me striving to push forward. I can look back over a 30-year restaurant career and see dozens of mistakes, but it’s those moments when something connects with the public that make it all worthwhile.

Miles Davis once said, “It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.” I believe that statement to the core of my being, though sometimes change without the proper planning can be a nightmare.

I once closed a very popular restaurant, completely remodeled, and re-opened an entirely new concept a week later. I did it based on an article I had read in one of the trade magazines and a few current restaurant trends I saw happening across the country. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

The new concept was a fairly solid performer, but it wasn’t unique. I was trying to do what other people were doing because they had been successful. What I failed to understand is that the other guys were doing something new, fresh and original. As long as those concepts were being operated soundly, they weren’t going anywhere because they had such a head start.

After a year, I re-concepted back to the original restaurant and the Purple Parrot Café is still around and relevant today.

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