Thursday, June 30, 2011

the big day

Well the day that we have been celebrating & anticipating all week, finally arrived today! The big 5 year anniversary for the restaurant! It's truly hard to fathom. I assume I may experience this again someday when I have children or something of the sentimental sort... but it really is amazing how fast time has flown. It is no longer "We've been around for a few years." It is 5 years. A significant amount of time. This week has been a week of celebration. We have run 'throwback' specials that date back to when we first ran them in 2006. We have brought in anniversary ales & wines to highlight the occasion. It has been a fun week!

So one of the things that really comes to mind upon reflecting on all of these years is.... the way the Cerulean crew can party. : ) We don't need much of an excuse- every day is a special occasion of some sort when you work with 40 other people! There is always a birthday or holiday or announcement or graduation or something that calls for celebration. We truly have become a family here & I am SO GRATEFUL that we can be stressed out together & celebrate together, all in the same night! A few highlights, if you will...

Opening Night 5 years ago
themed birthday parties
christmas parties
halloween parties
porch parties
new years parties

staff summer parties

...and the list could go on & on. There is never a dull moment in the Cerulean life whether you are on the clock or off! So, today, in honor of our 5 year anniversary (& somewhat symbolic of moving forward) we invited Flat 12 Bierworks from Indianapolis to help celebrate with us! Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate fully, but like I mentioned before- "Cerulean people" don't have a hard time having a good time! Cheers, Cerulean people- you have made the past 5 years beyond memorable!

the bridge decorated for us by the neighbors! 5 stars for 5 years

...let the celebrating continue!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

spicy lemon shrimp

Well this week will mark the 5 year anniversary of the restaurant! It is SO HARD to believe that we have survived that long. Caleb & I are not normally the sentimental type but this week I have been a bit overwhelmed with what 5 years really means... 

...we lose weight & hair...but the smiles are still there!

They say that in most things in life, once you get past the 5th year, things start to even out. They become a bit more predictable & anxiety levels drop immensely. Whether it be a relationship, a job, a business, a pet, a child... (ok, maybe not a child- what do I know!) but life tends to become a bit easier & less stressful. It's figured out. They say in the restaurant world, once you have arrived at the 5 year mark- you have survived! So, in honor of our survival... and, I suppose, for sentiments sake, I decided this week to reflect on a few of the random things that have happened in the restaurant over the past 5 years. 

Today, I am reflecting on the Host Stand. The Control Center, if you will. I would be FLAT OUT lying if I said that nothing worthwhile ever happens at the host stand. Sure, we look composed & pleasant when you walk in the front door... or sound calm & collected when we answer the phone... but what you don't see is all the little side "games" that are going on at the same time. All the 'loss of sanity' moments when we have nowhere else to go but there! Now honestly, I could write a book titled "The Host Stand". Maybe someday (in all my spare time) I will. But for now, these are the pictures that came as a result of breaking an all time record of covers served. some random night. at the host stand... And the result of losing precious sanity amidst the conquest!

The side game that occured this particular evening was a bet at how many covers we were going to actually do. All bets must be placed by 5.00p. Written in pen. Must be closest without going over. Just like Price is Right. Yours truly happened to win the bet on this glorious evening... So I got to collect my winnings at the end of the night...

a Courtney sandwich

Not too shabby for a night at the HOST STAND...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

if fear ran life...

So in the past few weeks I have been convicted, reminded, humbled by the fact that each decision in life obviously affects another. Every choice we make will trickle down to all facets of life whether they are large or small. It seems that in our current stage of life very few decisions are made because they are the 'rational'... and I'm ok with that. I feel that by living a life against the grain, we are able to experience so much more. For example, if fear ran life...

I would not have attended my ONLY sister-in-law's bridal shower for fear of leaving the restaurant on a busy Saturday.

We would not have taken a day in the middle of the week to visit our new construction site in Indy, attend a wine tasting, & have dinner with distributors that will be a great network once we are there... for fear of feeling guilty for missing a day at work & being behind.

I would not have offered the restaurant to the NICEST people for a graduation party, free of charge & on a busy Saturday... out of fear that someone may find out & ridicule us for it later. I got a hundred hugs instead. 

I would not have written an encouraging note to an employee for fear of not being professional enough & getting too personal with a staff member. I got a thank you letter back.

We would not have stayed out until 3am on a Friday talking with dear friends who are moving in 2 months for fear of being exhausted on a Saturday & not being able to work productively. It's been a week since then, we got over it!

I would not have planted a garden for fear of killing things or not being able to keep up with its responsibilities...

a pepper!

I would not have taken the time to start a book. I never read. I feel lazy when I sit and read... for fear of feeling lazy & unproductive. The book is good & I am learning from it... so that is productive!

if fear ran life... i would not be the girl i am today... 
the decisions that affect my 'today' would not have been made the way they were...
and i would not be SO thankful that i do not live a 'rational' life...

if fear ran life... 

we might miss some big things in life...

if fear ran life...

...we would never learn to fly!!!

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rain...check, please!

There are times in the restaurant world where it seems like everything may come crashing down around you... or better yet, spin so quickly out of control before you have a moment to breathe and figure out the next move. One tidbit of training from a host perspective is to always know your next 5 moves. Yes, 5... it may seem excessive & if you have never hosted in a restaurant before, you think, "ok, sure- way to over-prepare just in case." But then once you have hosted. in a restaurant. on a busy night. you are crying because you were not over-prepared enough. 10 people walk in the front door, a server needs something comp'd, the phone rings, someone needs a carryout order, the porch is too hot for the Smith's & they need moved... and all of this literally happens at once. Remember, you are in front of customers & a staff who look to you for answers so there is no time to lose your smile or change your tone from anything but 'bubbly.' Prioritize, get a grip, and plan your next 5 moves...

Well this past Friday was a night that I felt I lost my 'grip.' The weather man had been calling for rain all day including hail at 7.00pm. The Garden is open air seating only so I figured cutting down on staff out there would be the logical way to go about the night. It was pouring down rain at 4.00p when we opened so I let the bartender do his thing and get set up- thinking, surely only a few people will come sit at the bar & then it will be raining so hard we will close it up... So, against my gut instinct, I cut the other server.... Then at about 7.00p the storm hit... but it wasn't hail. As I stood inside watching the Garden from the host stand I began to see the place begin to fill- swirl, if you will.

"Holy, you know what! I gotta go help the bartender!"

Within minutes, the entire bar & dining area was filled with customers. I imagine we had 50 people walk into the Garden within 10 minutes of each other. People were pushing tables together coming in with groups of 8-12 people....Scrambling to check ID's, make drinks, take orders, and flash some sort of smile to the new people walking in, we swirled a bit out of control...

In my head I was so mad. I was so mad at myself for cutting the server. I was so mad at the service we were giving, I am so mad that I was physically not able to get to the people that I needed to get to, in the time I needed to get to them for me to consider it 'good service.' Argh! BUT, that cannot show. If a customer were to even catch a glimpse of the anguish on my face, I would fall even further into the pit of failure....

So, we smiled. we did all that we could. we sweat. we ran into each other. we did our best impersonation of having it all together.... and I am sure we gave away a few drinks...

There is no amount of imagination that can understand the pressure of timely customer service unless you have been there. Bartenders, you know. There is no where to hide. Any mistake that is made is seen by all. When a keg needs changed, there is very little sympathy or patience. Every customer in the place is the most important... and if you need to scream- everyone will hear you!

I suppose I learned a couple lessons on this NOT rainy Friday:

1. Never cut the server
2. Empathetic directness (said in a loving tone) always wins
3. Hard work will show even if it is not followed by the 'best' service out there
4. In all my experiences at the restaurant, I have never quite had a night like that...

And I could beat myself up over it for days and days but the fact of the matter is- it happened. Now, time to take a breath, plan my next 5 moves and don't let it happen again!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wham, BAM, birthday!

The first week in June marks 2 repetitive events in my life every year for the past 5 years. The Art Fair in the Village and my birthday. Yes, they are forever to going to fall on the same week as long as I am physically able to be in the restaurant business. 

The Art Fair in the Village is an amazing event that takes place the first weekend in June. This year over 60 art vendors came to the area to set up their tents & sell their product for 2 1/2 days. And this year, we had GREAT weather! This weekend meant a few things for Cerulean this year:

1. The one and ONLY time a year we open the restaurant for breakfast. Mmm, yummy breakfast. Doors open at 8.00am. 

2. The inaugural Art Fair for the Garden. We opened the Garden early at noon so we would have overflow lunch options from the restaurant. Boy, did we ever!

Dog Days seemed rather fitting : )
3. The official 'kick off' to summer and one of the busiest/longest days we experience all year. For example: I was at the restaurant at 7.02am on Saturday & left the restaurant @ 9.38pm. My break consisted of (literally) running home, changing out of my sweat drenched clothes into dry clothes & eating a pb&j as I walked back to the shop.

The fun side of this day was not only the yummy family breakfast that we all partake in after the crowd disperses and we begin to prepare for lunch, but bar-tending in the Garden. It has been a long time since I have managed a bar on my own and let me tell you, it is addicting. One shift out there and I instantly want to do it again. I love serving people, I love engaging with people, I love the feeling of being almost overwhelmed to the point of cracking...but not quite. : ) It was a great challenge on my birthday! I suppose it helped me feel young.....

So despite the phone ringing off the hook and customers getting upset that we would not take their reservation for lunch- it was a WHAM of a day. Close to 200 covers each lunch and dinner & a record in sales on the day. It may be long and taxing but BAM, it's worth it!

However, the best part of the weekend was Sunday. Ah, Sunday! Caleb decided to build me a deck for my birthday (yes, that's what I said) since I told him I would like to have a simple cookout when he asked what I wanted. He had received a grill for his birthday so I thought it would be fun to hook it up, have a few people over, cook some burgers, and just relax outside for an afternoon. And just when I thought this weekend could not get jam-packed enough...This is what I got:

AMAZING! Monster deck, friends, family, Banks' buddy, Alfie... it was a wham.bam.weekend.