Starting a business is something that I never thought I would do. The Tasty Table started organically by providing a need for catered events and then realizing that I could make moneydoing it. I have never been afraid to work hard, so why not start a catering company. In May of 2010, I catered my first event, realizing that I knew very little about catering, but I knew how to cook good food. Now here I am twelve years later, having learned so many things— things that have been as simple as the best knife in the kitchen to more serious things such as how to support those who work diligently to help you be successful. Recently I have been faced with the need to think deeper about what this business does and how it serves my community, my family, and my professional team. It is hard to face that most of the time when things do not go well, it is because of my leadership faux pass’s. It may be because I did not communicate effectively; it may be because I got frustrated; it may be because I just did not support those around me well.
This week, I was faced with the fact that a new business venture was not succeeding as quickly as it needed to, to be sustainable and profitable. I refuse to go into debt at my age and have decided to change things up a bit to decrease costs. These are hard. My “dreamer- self” wants to keep at it, but my business- minded self tells me that there are limits. I love both of these parts of me because they are what makes me good at what I do. The dreams are what drives my passion for this business, but my business side keeps me in reality. When I take the time to put things to prayer and lean fully on God to guide me, it usually turns out just right. Maybe not what I had intended, but what HE knows is good for me and all that are affected.
Recently I listened to a podcast, The Ed Mylett Show hosting Damon West. Damon wrote a book about his experience in prison and a lesson that was learned from a coffee bean. The premise of this story is that when put in a pot of boiling water like a coffee bean (pressures of life), we can choose to be affected by what is around us or we can be the change. The coffee bean changes and drips that lovely brown liquid that makes us smile. Using a smile over a frown, a word of encouragement instead of words of sarcasm, and serving others over yourself are three of many ways you can change the day for others and brighten our surroundings. I encourage all of you to listen to this podcast and invest in the book, The Coffee Bean. There is also a children’s book that I purchased for all of my employees and grandchildren to read. My fourteen-year-old grandson even sat and listened while I read it to his sibling. Take today, and each day to make a step forward in being a bright light in your home, workplace and community.
July – August 2022
Living in Middle Tennessee at this time of year means having to endure hot humid days where you sweat just by looking out the window. The ceiling fans are whirring, the a/c units are running and the funeral home fans might be in hand. July is typically a slow month for us—families are getting in the summer vacations and there are holidays where people are on the lakes enjoying the late-night sunsets. The people business is a bit more laid back in the hot months of summer and the need for a good meal and cold beer provides some relief on these summer days.
We opened a new concept a few months ago called The Public House offering local craft beer and wine alongside our favorite menu items in the evening. This new opportunity opens up a chance for us to serve new clientele and build a new customer base alongside our existing one. I have been working in this industry my whole life; well at least it feels that way. My experiences have taught me a better understanding of what it takes to keep the customers coming back—good food and great service.
Visiting other restaurants confirms a strong need for better and consistent service. The need to smile, welcome people, and give them an experience where they feel like they are valued keeps people coming back. How do we show value to a stranger and form a relationship where they are no longer a stranger but a friend? We do this by developing a relationship. This relationship starts with the first impression and hopefully grows over time. I have developed some of the best relationships through getting to know my guests, always remembering that there is a fine line between serving them and talking too much. The art of service is truly a gift.
Here are some key things that will make any restaurant successful in building customer relationships:
1. The Greet: making sure that the people who walk in your door feel the instant welcome. Back in the days of a full- service industry everyone had a hostess. This person was the most important person in the restaurant because they were the “first impression”. If you do not have a hostess then it is up to the whole staff to make the first impression. A successful greet is engaging, not yelling across the room “hello” or “welcome,” but someone stopping what they are doing and making eye contact with the customer and letting them know they are welcome.
2. The Introduction: This can happen at any point after the Greet. I am a firm believer that the guest should be introduced to the server within one minute of the Greet. This introduction can happen while being seated, when giving menus, or when getting a drink order. The introduction is giving the guest a small glimpse of what you do. In our restaurant, the opportunity happens when we set down coasters and menus. It is the first time our service team and the guest get an opportunity to start the relationship. We use this opportunity to say hello and thank them for coming in. We ask them if this is their first visit if we are unfamiliar with their faces and we share our specials and favorite menu items.
3. The Shine: this happens when we have taken orders and we begin our rotation of walking by each table to make sure our guests have everything they need. This does not mean that we speak each time, but a simple glance allows us to assess what is going on at the table. This could be the time to refill drinks, remove trash from the table, and pre-bus. This is also the time that we can be alert to how long they have been waiting for food. When the guest receives their food our food runners must engage as well, asking them if everything looks correct and seeing if they need anything. Once the guest has their food we need to wait until they have had a few bites and intentionally go over and make sure the food is satisfactory. Guests should always have a full glass of beverage when they receive their food.
4. The Invite: Once a guest has finished their visit with us, we have an opportunity to invite them to come back. We take this time to find out if they are local, what brought them to our establishment, and share with them what we have going on in the future, letting the guest know how much we appreciate them and look forward to seeing them again. This happens when the check is taken to the table.
These four core service tips will make any small business stand out. It does not directly focus on the restaurant industry because the feeling of being welcome is universal.
I am fully invested in the art of feeling welcome. I live four blocks from our restaurant in the heart of downtown Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a small but fast-growing town that still has core southern values. I often sit on my front porch in the early morning of these hot summer days thinking about how we can improve our business. The improvement will always start with good leadership and focusing on the importance of our guests. Southern hospitality is not hard, it is simply a warm smile and a cold glass of sweet iced tea.
April – May 2022
It has been a bit since I posted to the blog because there have been many changes within our business world ,and these changes have required a lot of my brain and time. There are things that I have learned the past eight weeks and want to share only because I am certain they can help.
1: Do not ever think that things will remain the same; they never do. Life is always evolving and when you think it is starting to settle down, something happens and you need to be ready to react and handle your business.
2: Just because someone has a talent and has started a business, does not mean that they are good at running a business. The best business person is the one who realizes that they are not good at certain things and finds people who are.
3: There are people who are really good at things. They just need a push in the right direction.
4: Sometimes you have to say the tough stuff to get someone to move.
5: Words are great, but actions are so much better. When you say you are going to do something, do it. We all fail and forget. A simple apology doesn’t suffice, you have to take action.
My confidence was tested and I spent time re-evaluating myself first and realized that I am not good at a lot of things, but I am really good at knowing the things I do not do well. Finding loyal people is not easy and loyalty is something that is earned. If you are a business- leader please understand that you are not worthy of someone’s loyalty unless you are willing to give it in return. A healthy business mindset is the one that is capable of finding the talents in others and developing them to benefit your business. If they cannot benefit in your line of work, then help them find a place that their talents will be elevated. That is true leadership.
Recently, I had the opportunity to share my testimony at my first public speaking engagement. I truly believe that the honest freedom of God’s grace gives humans the ability to do all things as long as they are serving HIM. Speaking to others about my past is not easy, but I cannot let my spiritual journey solely be mine, it must be shared. The compassion and forgiveness that I have received is unimaginable. This speaking engagement gave me more freedom and confidence to speak with honesty and humility. We as Christians must speak up and sometimes it is just as simply sharing your personal story.
I know that there will always be bad days, relationship challenges, and many more obstacles. I also know that my faith in my God has and always will get me through. I encourage all those in business to find that relationship with God because it is truly the only relationship that will guide you through all the earthly things.
How did food come into play these past few weeks? We created an amazing Carne Asada taco for Cinco de Mayo and it sold out in a little over an hour. This amazing item is now permanently on the menu. We took some chipotle peppers, pineapple juice, Worcestershire sauce and marinated the steak overnight. Served it on a grilled flour tortilla with jalapeño cilantro lime slaw and lime sour cream. We made an amazing avocado and tomato salad to compliment it, and voila, it became a favorite of the customers.
As the last two months passed, food was at the center of my thinking. My business revolves around providing good, flavorful food for customers. One thing I cherish most is finding comfort in the beauty of flavorful food arranged beautifully on a plate, and who I am blessed to share it with.
One more amazing holiday season has passed and here we are in February, my birthday month, along with a day set aside to celebrate the love we have for others and Black History month. The groundhog determines our weather outcome and my second grandson, Rawlin, turns six. It is a really good month.
I decided to write about love, most of the time, all things that we surround ourselves with are things, people, and activities that we love. I am blessed to be in a career that I love. I am not sure if I love it all the time, but when I consider not doing it, I get really sad. The love of food has evolved for me over the years from simple dishes I grew up with to organic, more complex things that I enjoy now. I am not a big eater, but crave creative dishes using ingredients which add new flavor and texture. I am simple with my tacos, but love a loaded nacho.
Flavor is the key to creating an enjoyable dish. Flavor is like the red & purple to a painting—it adds a dramatic touch to a simple product. My favorite flavors are a combination of sweet and savory, like having jam on my grilled cheese with jalapeños or Ramen noodles with butter and vegetable seasoning, or a chopped daikon radish and pistachios. Take a pork butt, add pitted cherries, chipotle pepper, salt, pepper, honey, and a bit of water and slow cook it over night for a sweet and savory delight. Make a simple slaw and add olive oil, cilantro, honey, and chopped jalapeño to make a sandwich fabulous. The art of good flavor is how the food tastes after it is swallowed— that back of the throat, remnant on the tongue yumminess? That is FLAVOR!
I encourage everyone to find a love for things. A love of all people, the love of nature, the love of animals, the love of God who created all things, and of course, my favorite— the love of food. Loving life just how it is and seeing each day as a gift allows to spread a little more love.
The catering business gives us the opportunity to be a part of our client’s biggest days. We watch couples get married, see babies be showered with gifts, celebrate the BIG birthdays, and share in the sorrow of loss, as families and friends join in a celebration of life. On a few occasions we have catered for one client a bridal shower, the wedding to follow, and the first baby shower. In the last twelve years, I have had such an amazing view of these private, intimate, life-changing days. It is a privilege to be a small part of those events.
Today, I was able to watch my daughter pray over one of her best friends since elementary school and her unborn baby girl. It was one of the sweetest moments. I thought about all the people that I have cheered with when they say “I Do”, joined in prayer with when a father blesses the couple, laughed with when memories were shared about someone who has passed, and even watched a drunk Santa mess up a whole wedding ceremony. My career choice has put me front and center of moments that most guests do not get to see. This year we will have catered our largest event, serving over 800 people. We are truly blessed.
This holiday season, we will have the privilege to celebrate with corporations and their teams, shower more babies, and be a part of another very special person’s marriage on the last day of the year. I have gained many friendships and often feel like a part of families. This season brings much joy–pure thankfulness– for another year of memories and working with a team of amazing women. Our Chef Cassie and Chef/Jack of all Trades, Mercedes have stuck it out with us through some trying times and for that I am forever grateful.
Merry Christmas from Us to You!
How it Started!
This blog is such a cool way to reach many with wisdom gained through experiences in an industry that can make or break you. The Restaurant/Food/Hospitality industry or like I call it THE PEOPLE BUSINESS is what I know. The goal is to share with you what I have learned through choices of my own and others. This blog is a way to share my stories. The stories that have molded my life for the past thirty plus years. Here it goes, my first blog of many and I hope those who read will find some entertainment and enlightenment.
I started in this industry when I was 18 years old. Let us just say that has been a LONG time ago. At the time I was a new mom, single, going to school and working two jobs. My first job in the restaurant industry was a hostess at Applebees. I loved being around people and it was fun. I am not a “sit at a desk” kinda person. I enjoyed the fast pace and the good-looking servers. I was in Nashville close to Lipscomb University and Belmont so let me tell you we had some good looking servers. Obviously being a new single mom hindsight tells me that I needed to stay away from them, but give me a break, I was 18. Oh, I digress! Let’s get back on track. I was young and full of life, but naive at the same time. I learned three things during this period, how to cuss like a sailor, how to wipe tables really well, and how to fend off the kitchen cooks with their dirty hands and off color comments. I started my calluses early, and when I say calluses they were the ones you develop with your mind and heart so you are not as offended by each word. Line cooks can be quite harsh if you have a nice ass and are young. There were days I would sit in my car and cry because people could be so mean, but I LOVED this industry. Maybe I am a bit off, but I truly loved the excitement and satisfaction of serving others. At 18, I did not know that this was my path, I actually wanted to be a Lawyer. This was a way to make fast money and pay daycare for my son while figuring out life. The joys of being a mother at this age are different than most, it was hard, it was unknown, and it was fun. I was completely unaware that I needed my son to keep me on track. When I would start to go in a direction that was unhealthy, he was there to remind me that he was more important than me and it was about choosing him first.
Thirty years of working in the People Business. Everything I have done in this industry revolves around food. The love of food, the taste, the smells, the colors, and most of all the satisfaction of seeing others enjoy something you have created. I have not always been the creator of the food, but I have been the one who has served it, prepped it, managed it, washed the dishes after it, and sat you at the perfect table. I learned every part of this industry from the ground up and through it all I have developed a pure Love/Hate relationship and that brings passion. Passion gets you up in the morning. It drives you to do better each day with the hope that you help others find that same kind of passion. I had a previous employer tell me that he knew more about the restaurant business than I did. I sat back and looked at him in the eye and said, “I find that quite humorous, you purchased a franchise five years ago after working in logistics am I correct? “ He shook his head yes. I continued, “I have worked, really worked every crevice of this business, I learned to be a line cook, hostess, serve, wash dishes, trained myself to read P&L’s, created scheduling systems, unloaded and ordered trucks. I held employees when they lost loved ones, celebrated their engagements, marriages, pregnancies, and graduations. I even held their hands as they filed a police report after being abused by their spouse I have worked 70 plus hours a week getting up at 3:00 am after getting home at midnight. I have endured tongue lashings from General Managers, Customers, and Employees. Knowing this business is not sitting behind a desk and pushing paper, knowing this business is not riding around in your car and visiting a location for thirty minutes, knowing your business is not watching them on the cameras from your home. Truly knowing your business is investing in the people. Knowing your business is creating relationships that carry a lifetime of experiences.” “So Mr. …. you do not know this business better than me, you know logistics better than me, you just own a couple of franchises.” I was fired from that job three weeks later.
I look forward to sharing more stories and experiences with the hope that when you go somewhere to get food be thankful to those who are there doing the work because it is not easy and most do NOT love it, but you just never know who may.
My life of servanthood!