Holy Meatballs! We Have a Winner!
The restaurant business has its challenges, not the least of which is dissatisfied customers. When a complaint repeats itself you know it’s time to make a change. Change can be hard in any environment. Change in a place where things have been done the same for decades can be downright painful.
Since Roger and I beamed up here; 3.31 years ago today, in fact, there have been changes. We wouldn’t dare mess with Geppetto’s signature recipes but replacing Sysco brand meatballs with my East Coast girlfriend’s Sicilian Grandmother’s recipe was a no brainer. They are labor intensive, which I know can be a bad thing in business but in this case so worth it. The investment of time is a lot. Our Stuffed Meatball Pizza is a huge hit! It’s when the meatballs are served on a plate, in orders of three where trouble seems to come. It hurts my heart to find them on a plate in the dish room or to hear customers say, “Their dry. Too dense. Couldn’t even cut it with my fork.” My reactions have run the gamut, from “Well they are just impossible to please.” To… “ Who was on the line when they ate?!” Last evening’s complaint was to be the last. Knowing the hours myself and others spent making them over the weekend, I vowed to get to the root of the problem.
I laid in bed overnight, unable to sleep. I went over the entire meatball process. From the time my dear friend surrendered her Grandmother’s recipe and helped me figure and multiply “a little bit of this and a handful of that” by forty. I remembered with great fondness the time I enjoyed those meatballs in their family home. I thought perhaps I’d died and gone to Italian Grandmother heaven! Then it hit me, the missing stretch in the road to consumption! What Geppetto’s wasn’t doing made all the difference and it wasn’t good. They needed to simmer, in sauce, for HOURS! Then and only then should they ever be consumed.
So, this morning, I arrived at the restaurant with a plan in mind and it worked! I was so happy to have found a solution. No more of the old way. The new way has begun and it is a Geppetto’s meatball game changer! I can’t wait for folks to order. The tenderness is there. The flavor is rich. This is gonna be great, I thought.
Well, my awesome change in procedure was not well received by some.
“You’re giving us one more thing to do and obviously… you’re not a cook. You don’t know what it’s like.“
My response, “What if this makes it easier for you?” Ultimately, the goal has to be customer satisfaction! A little more time in preparation can make all the difference!”
We reached an understanding when he took the time to taste them. The rocky road smoothed and all will be well. All will be better as we learn and grow. Reflection and examination of things is not always easy or comfortable but so worth it.
To quote a wise Vulcan, "Change is the essential process of all existence." -- Spock
As I rolled out of bed I spoke to myself. Saying; “Gotta keep moving forward in faith and hope for brighter days."
We didn’t sign up for today’s parish BBQ but I told Rog, “If we can… I’d really like to go to church.” I know God is always with me… but there is something quite special about meeting Him there.
We have been to church twice since March 16th. Life feels strange without that part of community but we’ve had to be present here and able to pivot on a moment’s notice. Signing up for anything beyond ordering and deliveries is truly a gamble. Our schedule is predictable in one way; we open at 11:00 am, seven days a week.
My dear husband is not particularly good at remembering so I was surprised when he returned from an errand and said, “You ready? Let’s go to church.” I dropped what I was doing, grabbed my purse and as we headed toward the door we were intercepted with the news that there would be a delivery order ready in about an hour. Roger’s eyes met mine and we spoke without words.
Maybe next time.
“Let’s go get something to eat.” I said. We have time for that.”
The two of us spoke along the way to Flight Deck about how hard these times are for so many. The depth of loss is great. As a business we are doing what we can for our guests and our staff on a very personal one-by-one basis. I mentioned to Roger that I wished we could do more. Then the Still Small Voice spoke to my heart and assured me, we are doing what we can, for now, and there may be more to do tomorrow. Message received… let the space between hurting and helping remain and prepare yourselves for what is to come.
We parked and donned our masks. I can’t wait till this is over too. I thought. Gazing into the gray over the tarmac, another reality hit; There will be no take offs or landings today. It’s hard to know where the smoke ends and the fog begins. We are simply stuck. Forced to wait for Mother Nature to help. “Dear God, please, clear the air and let it rain.”
As we entered the Flight Deck, a sweet voice called from inside the restaurant, “Roger and Julie, your table awaits!” There she stood. Flight Deck server, Victoria, had set a table for us. She spun and smiled and outstretched her arm like Vanna White presenting prizes on Wheel of Fortune. I haven’t approached a set table since March and COVID-19 guidelines have been in place. Paper napkins around flatware and red plastic drink cups never felt so fancy. I was genuinely moved by the gesture and about two bites into Chef, Frank Primley’s, Huevos Rancheros when the lump in my throat took over. Tears came to my eyes as I spoke, “Roger, look what God did. He knew we wouldn’t make it to church today and instead he set a table for us here at Flight Deck.” Frank and Victoria were not aware of our earlier disappointment but they were part of the plan… a better plan. God nourished our bodies and blessed our hearts.
We left breakfast well fed and with a deeper sense of community. If you don’t feel like you’re helping… or doing enough… keep doing what YOU do. Do it well so you are ready. We never know how or when God will use what each of us has to offer. Thank you Frank and Victoria for being and doing your best. You made a big difference in our lives today. And so y’all know… Frank’s Ranchero Sauce… is really, really yummy.
Supply Chain Realities - I Married Our Sysco Rep!
Even in space there is need for supplies. The things we acquire help us to function and thrive. Those of us in the restaurant business are dependent upon vendors to keep necessary supplies coming. Vendors provide the things we need… so that we are able to provide for our customers. Since March the uncertain sands of supply chains have, at times, affected our ability to provide as we would like. Some suppliers seem to be struggling more than others. If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words, “There is nothing I can do.” I would be on vacation and somebody else would be guiding this ship! As long as the we are open for business, “There is nothing I can do.” is simply not an option. In ever changing times such as these we have to do something. Quick thinking and creativity are required. If one vendor cannot provide we have to find another way.
Sysco is one of Geppetto’s vendors. I would like to take an unusual moment and offer thanks for our sales rep. I call him “Sysco David.” He deserves a shout out of galactic proportions. He is creative and helpful and genuinely concerned for the well being of his customers, the success of their businesses and the community in general. Through it all he has been by our side, ready to assist in figuring out a work around no matter the challenge we face. Today I came across the above picture in my photo library. Sysco David is pictured at center. The photo was taken a year ago at Friends of Pimpollo's Tamale Trot here in Salem. Sysco David, #5156, was running to raise money to provide education for those in Southern Mexico who cannot otherwise afford it. David has a huge heart. He is generous with his time and wisdom. I am grateful for the partnership we share. Side note… he is very funny and an incredibly gifted chef who has solid answers to my frequent culinary questions. He is always watching for ways to help us do and be better.
Roger and I were heading to the bank on Thursday when Sysco David messaged. He needed our weekly check. The money is not the most fun part of our relationship… but supplies don’t come for free. We agreed to meet for lunch at Ritter’s. We took time to discuss the two most important ingredients in the restaurant business; food quality and consistency. Ritter’s and Wild Pear truly have those two things dialed in. Because we are willing, we are learning and growing with every experience.
David ordered the crab sandwich. I followed his lead because I trust his taste in food. He wasn’t wrong… it was absolutely delicious! He is perpetually helpful. He is the Sysco rep I call, friend.
It is true, about a month ago I married Sysco David. Well, actually, I officiated for the marriage of he and his lovely bride. They are destined for a life together filled with great food, deep love and lots and lots of laughter. You can either be the rep who easily accepts defeat and “There is nothing I can do.” Or… you can pivot and change, offer other options and perhaps make an even better way.