January 03, 2011
Written by: Vince McConeghy
When I was in the business, the 2nd or 3rd day of January was a default freak-out moment for me. The crush of the holidays had ended, the sales tax check cleared, and it was back to square one with the restaurant, wondering if we would ever get busy again.
I'd walk in and open the kitchen, look at my staff-tired and hungover- and the bile inside me would multiply: 'Are we ever going to get busy?'
Winter stretched out as far as my mind contemplated.
Back in the slap-happy days of August, I had vowed to take the first week of January off, get out of town, so I could avoid this choke of anxiety but of course I never did. I was too preoccupied on whether or not we would be busy, and if so, when.
That's when I spotted Walter at our bar, eating lunch. Same order, same half sandwich minus the mayo, 300 days of the year.
By the time he sat down and untangled his coat and scarf, his order appeared before him; the staff biologically attuned to his unchanging dietary habits so much so that his order was fired, executed and served in record time.
That's when I broke down and hugged him.
Walter looked at me sideways: 'What's your problem?'
I could not reveal the true nature of my problem. He wouldn't understand the sheer panic of a restaurant owner on the 2nd or 3rd day of January.
You don't remember the big checks, the record weeks, the specials that sell out.
You remember the regulars who show up when nobody else does, reminding you that you will be busy again, not today, not this week, but soon enough.
Soon enough to get you through those first wretched days of the New Year.