Social Media for Restaurants & Small Businesses-Essential in 2018

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 1/20/2018

At a luncheon meeting with a chef/owner of a Boston area restaurant, the chef and client of my consulting business told me that he chose the restaurant based on the recommendation of Marc Hurwitz, founder of Hidden Boston, an online restaurant guide covering Boston and New England. The Hidden Boston platforms have a combined reach of 185,000+ followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Marc had highly recommended the chicken wings, and they were very good. To acknowledge the referral, I took a picture of the wings and was preparing to post it on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, tagging the restaurant and Hidden Boston. Unfortunately for the restaurant, they had no Instagram or Twitter accounts, and still don’t today. As a result, the restaurant didn’t benefit from a post that would have been visible to a minimum of 148,000 people (IG and Twitter), plus the retweets and people who searched Google or searched the hashtag #ChickenWings. And when I was there, the restaurant wasn’t very busy…

On January 7, 2018 Zagat released their 2018 Dining Trends Survey: Highest Tippers, Social Media Habits and More that included:

“In our last dining trends survey we learned that 75% of our respondents who browse food photos have chosen a place to eat based on social media, in addition to other fascinating stats on dining deal-breakers, tipping habits and more. Once again, we attempted to tackle the curious subject of diner behavior by tapping into the opinions of nearly 13,000 avid diners across the country in our 2018 survey.”

There is no excuse in 2018 for restaurants and most businesses to ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining social media accounts. You can’t benefit from ‘passive’ promotion from ambassadors of your restaurant if you’re not even in the game. Sometimes it is about life and death, and other times it’s about your brand, reputation, promotions, and crisis management.

Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” (25+ million copies sold), noted in a blog post on 10/31/08:

I sometimes use the metaphor of an Emotional Bank Account. Like a financial bank account, you can make deposits and take withdrawals from the account. When you make consistent deposits, out of your integrity and out of your empathy—that means your understanding of what deposits and withdrawals are to other people—those two things—empathy and integrity—that little by little you can restore trust.

This metaphor translates perfectly to businesses and the people who own, lead, manage, and operate them. And PR, social media, and marketing play a critical role in consistently making deposits to build trust and respect with employees, vendors, your community, and current and future customers.

Life and death. During the summer of 2016, a very popular Boston food truck suddenly lost a young member of their work family to a tragic death. A few days later, the owner of the food truck took to social media and posted a heartfelt tribute and a link to a campaign to raise money for their brother’s funeral services. As a result, they raised almost 2 times their goal so the family of the deceased could properly pay their respects and celebrate his life. No business or human being is exempt from unexpected tragedy.

Restaurants and other businesses face challenges every day–less extreme examples than above, that require effective communication with their customers and their network. If a sprinkler head explodes, you’re robbed, experience a fire, flooding, or mechanical failure, and need to communicate temporary or extended closures, the larger your network is, the easier it is to get the word out, on your terms.

Many social media “resisters” haven’t established accounts because of their misconception about what’s involved to get started and maintain them. It’s really not as difficult as many people think. Here are a few examples of why restaurants and small businesses should have a minimum of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, and a growing email database for newsletters:

  • Recruiting staff.
  • Congratulating/recognizing employees.
  • Acknowledging and thanking loyal regulars and new customers.
  • Promoting/co-branding with vendors, neighbors, friends, and peers.
  • Crisis management-communicating on your terms, not an editor’s.
  • Promoting on-site events and off-site charity event participation.
  • Marketing food and drink specials and seasonal menu changes.
  • Notifying the public when you’re closed due to a private event.
  • Notification of holiday hours, vacation closures, and medical emergencies.
  • Notification when remaining open during snowstorms or extreme weather.
  • Linking to, and acknowledging media coverage, and positive amateur & professional reviews.
  • The passive benefit of customer ‘ambassadors’ promoting your business for you.
  • Grass roots, organic, social media marketing leads to broader media coverage.
  • Building goodwill and making deposits into the “emotional bank accounts” of employees, vendors, and the public.

Imprints and impressions derived from social media drive decisions about where customers dine and consumers spend money. And all businesses can benefit from some genuine goodwill at some point during their tenure. Even busy restaurants have gaps that could be filled in with effective social media marketing. I know of several restaurants that are slow Sunday thru Wednesday that are doing little or nothing to help their own cause via social media and email marketing.

A common refrain I hear from restaurant and business owners is, “I don’t have time for all that social media stuff.” With the increasing number of restaurants and competing entities, restaurants and small businesses cannot afford to ignore the benefits of establishing and maintaining social media platforms. They are essential, and failure to embrace social media will put restaurants and small businesses at a competitive disadvantage.  It’s not that hard to get started or improve upon what you are currently doing.

After requests from prospective clients in Boston and across the US, I’m now offering a new Social Media Audit & Consultation for restaurant and small business clients. This social media marketing, independent audit, and workshop, is a way to ensure that you, your staff, and affiliates are maximizing the potential to market your business. This candid analysis and feedback will ensure that your restaurant/business is at the forefront of social media marketing, you’re “in the game,” and that you remain current with ideas to improve your business and income on an ongoing basis.

Who will benefit?

#1- Restaurants and small businesses across the USA currently not using or maximizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email marketing to engage their current and prospective customers to maximize sales.

#2- Restaurants and small businesses that are using social media but realize they could be doing a much better job, and need a jump-start to inspire them and get them back on track.

Details and pricing here.

Please forward this post to any restaurant or small business owners who could benefit from it.

Thank you-Patrick  Email: Patrick@servernotservant.com

Instagram and Twitter: @PatrickMBoston

Disclosure: I have a professional relationship with Marc Hurwitz of Hidden Boston, and refer restaurant and small business clients to him for sponsored social media posts.

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Social Media Audit & Consultation for Restaurants & Small Businesses 2018

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 1/20/2018

Offer for USA restaurants and small businesses from Patrick Maguire of Maguire Promotions-PR, Social Media & Hospitality Consulting.

After requests from prospective clients in Boston and across the US, I’m now offering a new, personalized Social Media Audit & Consultation Workshop for restaurant and small business clients. This social media independent audit and workshop, is a way to ensure that you, your staff, and affiliates are maximizing the potential to market your business. Too many restaurateurs neglect to ask for respectful, candid feedback to improve their operations. In an environment of fierce competition and a shortage of quality staff, continuous improvement and remaining open to opportunity should always be priorities.

This candid analysis and feedback will ensure that your restaurant/business is at the forefront of social media marketing, you’re “in the game,” and that you remain current with ideas to improve your visibility, relevance, and sales. Social media works:

On January 7, 2018 Zagat released 2018 Dining Trends Survey: Highest Tippers, Social Media Habits and More that included:

“In our last dining trends survey we learned that 75% of our respondents who browse food photos have chosen a place to eat based on social media, in addition to other fascinating stats on dining deal-breakers, tipping habits and more. Once again, we attempted to tackle the curious subject of diner behavior by tapping into the opinions of nearly 13,000 avid diners across the country in our 2018 survey.”

Social media is one of the most economical and powerful influences driving consumer purchasing decisions.

Who will benefit from the consultation?

#1- Restaurants and small businesses across the USA currently not optimizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or email marketing to engage their current and prospective customers to maximize sales.

#2- Restaurants and small businesses that are using social media but realize they could be doing a much better job, and  need a jump-start to inspire them and get them back on track.

This service is not intended to disrupt any successful, existing relationships you have, but to supplement them. However, too many restaurants and small businesses are over-paying for PR and social media consulting firms that are over-promising and under-delivering. With minimal (but consistent) time and effort, social media can be successfully executed in-house.  For those of you currently managing social media on your own, our partnership, through coaching and candid feedback, will enhance what you and your team are currently doing.

Services include:

• An audit/analysis of your most recent 2 months of social media posts/content. This includes every aspect of your company’s online presence, including your website, social media platforms, and Google search results. This is the respectful, honest feedback you need that your friends, family, regulars, and vendors won’t give you for fear of offending you. The initial evaluation will be performed by me (Patrick Maguire) personally (not an intern), and the results will be presented in writing and in-person or via conference call with your team.

• A copy and review of my “Maguire Promotions Social Media Strategy Guide.”

• A copy and review of my “jm Curley Social Media Strategy” is included with our partnership and will be included in the initial discussion with your team. jm Curley barroom and restaurant in downtown Boston was named one of the “50 Coolest Small Businesses in America” by Business Insider when I was managing the social media marketing and promotions. Business Insider, eagerly embracing social media, currently has 8.1 million likes on facebook, 2.2 million followers on twitter, and 1.2 million followers on Instagram.

• A copy and review of my “Instagram Strategy for Restaurants and Small Businesses,” including a referral for an Instagram takeover/give-away to add 400+ local Instagram followers.

• A copy and review of my “Free Promotional Content Checklist.” We’ll implement protocol for communicating (Internally and externally) and humbly sharing positive reviews of your restaurant/business and all media, blog posts, and features praising your restaurant/business. Most restaurants and businesses have no strategic gameplan for sharing great news.

• A copy and review of my “Social Media Daily Checklist” for restaurants and small businesses.

After emailing all of the highlighted items above to your team, I will meet or conference call with your social media team, and your designated affiliates. (Average initial meeting time is 1.5 hours.)

• After the initial kickoff meeting, 2 hours of consultation, coaching and follow-up is included with our partnership.

Ongoing: I will be constantly seeking ways to promote your restaurant/business and improve your operation. A common complaint I hear from restaurateurs and business owners is, “I don’t have time to keep up with all that stuff. It’s overwhelming.” I agree. I read everything I can locally, nationally and internationally about restaurants and business, and will forward anything that I feel is relevant to your restaurant/business. I often find great pieces on hospitality, training, motivation, leadership, and other industry-related topics. I will forward select items I come across about your restaurant or industry that you may want to forward to your managers or entire staff. Great internal communication builds trust and loyalty.

Next Steps: Getting started on our partnership requires an up-front payment of $500 per restaurant or business that includes all of the services described above. Upon receipt of payment, I will email copies of all of the items above, then schedule time to meet with you and your team, in-person or via conference call.

Please feel free to forward this post to your restaurant industry friends and small business network within the USA who could benefit from this offer. Please contact me to clarify anything included herein, or to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely, Patrick

Email: patrick@servernotservant.com

PS- Please email me for a complete list of all of the restaurant and small business consulting services I provide. All services are available à la carte, and can be tailored to the specific needs of your business. Thank you.

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Boston Beverage Bureaucracy and the Morass of Massachusetts Alcohol Regulations

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Observe / Analyze

Posted: 12/28/2017

On Friday, November 17, 2017 Trillium Brewing Company announced plans to operate an indoor winter beer garden in the historic Roslindale Substation Building ” in partnership with Roslindale Village Main Street.” The post included:

“We had a killer time with the Garden on the Greenway this summer so we jumped at the chance to bring Trillium to another Boston neighborhood,” said Trillium co-owner Esther Tetreault. “Our goal has always been to build a strong community and share what we do. The Substation is such a unique and iconic space, in a welcoming neighborhood, making Roslindale a perfect winter home for the Trillium Garden.”

“Beer aficionados will have the unique opportunity to drink Trillium’s award-winning beer in the Substation’s awe-inspiring space, with its 34 foot ceilings, 18-foot copper clad doors, 250-ton capacity gantry crane, and six two-story windows,” said Alia Hamada Forrest, RVMS’s [Roslindale Village Main Street] Executive Director. “Where Trillium goes, its fans follow. I’m eager to welcome the newcomers that will discover Roslindale’s existing mix of vibrant restaurants and retail options, and hope that these types of creative partnerships continue to spark across all of Boston Main Street districts. We know when you visit — you will want to return.”

The ‘Trillium Garden at the Substation’ pop-up is a good, interim solution for a very cool (and huge), historic, vacant space while the search for a long-term tenant continues. The RVMS website adds:

RVMS identified and sought out Trillium because of its national reputation, loyal following, and successful track record of working in partnership with food, arts, and cultural pop-up events in non-traditional spaces.

Built in 1911, the Substation functioned as part of the Boston Elevated Railway Company’s then revolutionary alternating electric current power system. Designed by architect Robert Peabody of Peabody and Stearns with Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation, the Substation is one of six nearly identical converter substations built in and around Boston at that time. It has been vacant since the 1970s. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Prellwitz Chilinski Associates of Cambridge was the architect for the renovation.

To use Alia Hamada’s (RVMS executive director) words, how do these creative partnerships happen? And why aren’t the details transparent to the public? Unless I’m missing something, the detailed information is not readily available online as it should be.

In January of 2017, Dan Adams in the Boston Globe reported on a long-overdue Massachusetts initiative to review how the state regulates alcohol in a piece titled, ‘Everything is on the table’ in sweeping review of state alcohol rules. From the piece:

Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg is throwing open the doors to the most extensive rethinking of how the state regulates alcohol since the end of Prohibition, directing a new task force to create a more cohesive set of rules that “deals with the 21st century.”

With no limits from Goldberg on which issues it may consider, the group of seven legal and political figures — with input from the public and bars, brewers, distributors, and other companies — will have broad authority to set its own agenda when it meets for the first time later in January(2017).

Among the issues that officials and industry executives suggested could be reviewed: extending the hours for package stores, lifting caps on liquor licenses in each municipality, allowing beer-makers to switch distributors more easily, loosening restrictions on consumers bringing alcohol to restaurants or reusing growlers, boosting funding to the chronically understaffed Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, or clarifying rules about so-called pay-to-play incentives.

Many recommendations would require approval by the Massachusetts Legislature. And lawmakers have been reluctant to make comprehensive changes to state alcohol laws, in part because of heavy lobbying by some members of the industry.

Even so, the effort is already the source of anxiety among brewers, distributors, bars, package stores, and other companies with alcohol licenses. While most agree the current regulatory system is needlessly complex and unclear, each segment is worried that changes sought by other businesses will hurt its own bottom line.

As if the antiquated MA liquor licensing laws aren’t confusing enough, when you consider that the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) has to operate ‘in concert with’ each MA municipality (with their own ‘rules’), clarity becomes  even more elusive…

From the Mass.Gov website:

The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is an agency under the Massachusetts State Treasury. Our overall objective is to provide uniform control over the sale, transportation, possession, purchasing, and manufacturing of alcoholic beverages in the state.

Who we serve

We work with companies in the alcoholic beverage industry and municipal licensing authorities to provide licenses, enforce legislation and regulations, and resolve license issues.

Updates on substantive progress from the state have been scarce. The Massachusetts Alcohol Task Force released a preliminary report in August of 2017 that included, “We anticipate providing a final report before the end of the year.”

[I spoke with Chandra Allard, Communications Director for the Office of the Treasurer and Receiver General for the State of MA on 12/27/17. She was extremely professional and helpful, and mentioned that the independent MA Alcohol Task Force was on schedule, and that the Treasurer’s office was expecting the report any day. She offered to forward the report to me, and I will edit this post to include it as soon as I receive it.] 

Edit 12/28/17:  Copy of Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission of Massachusetts: Task Force Report

On Sunday, November 12, 2017, the Boston Globe ran a front page story titled, Scores of Cambridge restaurants paid six figures for a liquor license. Others got them for free. As the title suggests, the process of obtaining a liquor license for Cambridge, MA restaurant owners is complicated, inconsistent, and often frustrating and maddening. The article states that “Nothing on the Cambridge License Commission’s website or at its offices explained how to get a free license,” and that there is “… a long line of Cambridge restaurant owners ensnared in an opaque and arbitrary system in which commissioners granted liquor licenses for free to some, while others had to pay up to $450,000 — sometimes at the direct urging of city officials.”

Excerpts from the Globe piece:

City officials belatedly recognized the regulatory mess they created. A new license commission chair was appointed in January 2016 to help clean up the system. Nicole Murati Ferrer formerly worked at Boston’s licensing agency and was charged with bringing Cambridge in line with state law.

In a Globe interview, Murati Ferrer distanced herself from a number of the commission’s past actions. She is relaxing the hurdles to get free licenses, and she has stopped the commission’s practice of urging license seekers to make deals with particular sellers, which had effectively put the city in the middle of high-cost, private transactions.

But Murati Ferrer made no apologies for past policies on issuing licenses, or the negative consequences for owners caught in the middle. She said the commission had no duty at hearings to inform owners of their options, and that people needed to seek information from the city earlier in the process.

“Our job is not to decide whether you negotiated a good deal,’’ Murati Ferrer said. “The rules and regulations were out there.”

“… the process was uneven at best, as commissioners tried to find middle ground between handing out free licenses and making applicants buy them. They often stretched ethical boundaries, and at times broke the commission’s own rules and state law, according to city and state officials.”

One of the biggest complaints from Cambridge restaurateurs was the lack of transparency in the process of issuing licenses.

As a result of the investigative Boston Globe piece, on November 14, 2017, the Globe ran a follow up piece stating that:

A state agency is investigating the way liquor licenses have been issued in the city of Cambridge, officials said Tuesday, and is focusing on practices that may have violated state laws.

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who oversees the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, said she found “troubling” the findings in a Boston Globe report on Sunday that examined liquor license transactions in Cambridge. She said her office was “looking into any allegations of wrongdoing that violate state law.”

Clearly, there is a still a significant amount of work to be done to bring fairness and uniformity to the laws, requirements, procedures, and communications related to local and state liquor licensing in Massachusetts. Which brings us back to the Roslindale.

The original announcement about the Trillium Garden at the Substation and/or the opening on December 7, 2017 was reported on by several Boston news outlets. Even reporting on the complicated licensing process can be confusing as hell, as evidenced in this piece by  Universal Hub. As they often do, none of the media outlets reporting on the opening of Trillium in Roslindale included any public information about the alcohol license, a hearing regarding the license, Neighborhood Association meetings, Fire Dept inspection, certificate of occupancy, or permitting (building or otherwise).

No reporting I’ve seen includes answers to the following:

  1. Exactly what type of alcohol license was issued? [Farmer Brewer License, Farmer-Series Pouring PermitPub Brewery License.] Was it a combination of these and/or part of Boston’s special license initiative to encourage commerce in specific neighborhoods?
  2. What are the restrictions/requirements of the specific beverage license issued? (Beer brewed onsite in Roslindale, etc?) My understanding is that Trillium beer is brewed in Fort Point and Canton only, not Roslindale.
  3. What are the restriction/requirements with respect to serving food? Why isn’t Trillium Garden at the Substation required to serve food out of an ISD-inspected kitchen operating within their facility?
  4. Will neighboring restaurants/purveyors be given preference as food vendors? [Sophia Eppolito reports in the Boston Globe on 12/19 that local food vendors will be invited, and that visitors can bring their own food.]
  5. Where did the license come from?
  6. How much did it cost?
  7. Was the license pre-existing?
  8. Is the license a succession of temporary monthly licenses, renewable or transferable?
  9. Who holds the license, the tenant or the landlord?
  10. Was there a public hearing before the license was issued? If not, why not?
  11. Were there public Neighborhood Association meetings conducted before the license was granted? If not, why not? If yes, are there minutes?
  12. If this was a unique/special license granted, were neighboring restaurants/bars invited to a hearing to ask questions, discuss their concerns or voice their support?
  13. How does the Roslindale neighborhood governing body interact with the city of Boston, State of MA,  and Feds (TTB) to ensure that the process of issuing alcohol licenses is consistent and fair for every licenses issued?
  14. Does the issuance of this specific license pave the way for others to follow suit so “these types of creative partnerships continue to spark across all of Boston Main Street districts?” If yes, is anyone (local, city, state, and Fed levels) collaborating on a ‘playbook’ to show others how to replicate and simplify the licensing process?
  15. Why aren’t most of the answers to the questions above readily accessible online?

When I spoke with Chandra Allard with the MA Treasurer’s office, she noted that after they review/analyze the MA Alcohol Task Force report, they will prioritize the recommendations based on what positive changes they can implement immediately, then changes that will require legislation and/or legal proceedings. She also mentioned that the public is welcome to continue to submit recommendations to the MA Treasury Department’s Constituent Services Team via this link. After I read the report, I will be submitting my recommendations based on the questions above, your comments below, and everything else I can read on these issues.

Currently there are a lot of questions, few answers, and a morass of longstanding, complicated issues that need to be addressed. Clarity, consistency, and complete transparency are some of the most pressing.

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Kindness in Boston Restaurants Captured by Kara Baskin for The Boston Globe

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 12/23/2017

Boston Globe correspondent, Kara Baskin posted this lead-in on facebook to her attached piece on kindness in the restaurant industry in Boston:

There has been lots of disgusting news about abhorrent behavior in the restaurant industry (and every industry) lately. Talking to these restaurant workers who look out for our elders and treat senior citizens with respect, offer them companionship–and in some cases actually keep them safe–was a happy reminder that most people really are good at heart.

Amen, Kara. Reprinted with permission.

By Kara Baskin Globe correspondent December 18, 2017:

For older diners, restaurants serve up sustenance of another kind

Leo always visited Johnny’s Luncheonette in Newton alone. Over time, he became a familiar face for co-owner Karen Masterson.

One mid-summer’s day, Leo showed up wearing a down jacket. “My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease,” says Masterson. “I’m sensitive to the early confusion stage.” Not long after, he pulled out a piece of cardboard. The cardboard had contact information for his most important touchstones: the YMCA, Veteran’s Taxi, his daughter — and Johnny’s. He handed the card to Masterson and asked for a ride to an address scrawled on the page. Not wanting to bundle Leo off to an unknown address in a cab, Masterson phoned his daughter, who confirmed his home address.

“I feel so strongly that this is how we need to care for each other,” Masterson says. “Restaurants need to make that phone call, be that place, see when someone needs a little extra. If you’ve been gifted with a long life, hopefully people in your orbit will do a little more. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Lately, news from the restaurant world has been short on beautiful things. Formerly untouchable chefs like Mario Batali and John Besh have fallen spectacularly from grace amid accusations of sexual harassment. Earlier this month, five kitchen workers filed a sexual harassment lawsuit based on experiences at the Faneuil Hall McCormick & Schmick’s. Who’s next? Where’s next? Restaurants aren’t always a safe place to be. Sometimes they’re scary, discriminatory, dangerous.

But sometimes they’re safe havens, too, and steadying influences for people who need it most, warm places in the literal — and figurative — cold.

That’s what happened at the Black Rose near Faneuil Hall. The Irish pub has turned into a hangout for Phyllis, who lives alone in the North End. When Phyllis came in complaining that her TV had broken — which meant that she couldn’t watch her beloved cartoons — the staff pooled money to buy her a new one. When it’s snowy, someone will drive her back to her apartment.

“It’s just a minute away, but it could take her a half-hour in the ice and snow,” says bartender Christine O’Neill.

Staffers at the Black Rose met Phyllis when she began coming in with her mother, says O’Neill. Soon, though, her mother passed away. Phyllis kept visiting, even when she had cancer and needed a walker for tumors in her legs.

“She comes for an hour or two, has fish and chips, and always sits at the same table,” O’Neill says. “She’s everyone’s friend. She calls us her children. She brings us candy that she gets at the bank.”

Another Black Rose server sometimes buys Phyllis dinner.

“She’s on her own. We pay the check for her. You don’t know what her situation is completely, you know what I mean?” says O’Neill.

The relationship works both ways. These restaurants are sanctuaries for customers — and an emotional boost for workers, too.

“Phyllis always lightens up our day. She comes in and says, ‘Hello, my darling!’ ” O’Neill says.

For staffers, these customers feel like family. Mike Tirella is a regular at Trattoria Il Panino, always with a full-bodied wine and chicken parmesan. He drives to the North End from the boulevard in Revere and sits at the bar to chat with Leo Rodriguez, his favorite bartender. Tirella is 80 and Rodriguez is 28, but they have plenty to talk about.

“These people are like my family. I see them more than I see my family. You know how life is. You barely see your family once a week. But I see Mike three or four times a week. I walk in and want to give him a hug. If I take a day off, he’s worried,” Rodriguez says.

“You feel like you belong. You feel like you belong to the place, and it means a lot,” says Tirella.

Across town, Richard Ray describes himself as the “Norm” of the Butcher Shop in the South End, as much a fixture as its tagliatelle with bolognese. Ray lives two blocks away and has been visiting since it opened in 2003. Now, he has his own designated seat at the bar on Friday and Saturday evenings.

“There’s a group of friends who I spent most of my time with before the Butcher Shop opened,” says Ray, who is 78 and lives alone. “When you reach a point with your friends when you complete their sentences, you’ve run out of things to say.”

So he decided to spice things up at the new local watering hole.

“I found it comfortable, a way to meet new people,” he says. A manager greeted him with a glass of sherry, and he never looked back. Now he’s there every weekend before 5 p.m., chatting about books, TV, and whatever’s streaming on Netflix.

“I’m a creature of extreme habit. Everyone knows I’m not available for anything else because I’m at the Butcher Shop on Friday or Saturday. It’s like a second family. I don’t want to say I’m their old grandfather — but maybe their old uncle,” he says.

He’s especially fond of Saturday night bartender Steven Gilarde and his wife, Kate, a former Butcher Shop employee who’s now at O Ya. The couple sometimes goes out to dinner with Ray; he’s invited them to his birthday parties.

“We care a lot about him. My wife even set up a rule with him: If you won’t show up on a Friday or Saturday, you have to call so we won’t worry.”

And he does.

In a busy world, certain restaurants serve as sanctuaries and safeguards for people. It’s not just about the food; it’s about the companionship, the pure human connection.

That’s what happened for Rita Manor, a Brookline icon who used to make the rounds in her walker, popping in at local businesses and sassing her favorite owners.

Steven Peljovich owns Michael’s Deli in Coolidge Corner, one of Manor’s chosen haunts. Over time, she became a surrogate grandmother for him, busting his chops if there wasn’t enough honey in her tzimmes.

“She lived in her own apartment in Brookline by herself. I don’t know how she was so happy, because she had nobody. She’d cheer us all up, bring us presents on birthdays and holidays. I’d fight with her in the winter, the way you’d fight with your grandmother: ‘Rita, stop walking! It’s snowing!’ ” he with a laugh.

Finally, concerned for her health, Peljovich got her phone number. During bad weather, he’d call and ask her what she wanted delivered for lunch. He bought her a new walker from Belmont Medical Supply when her insurance wouldn’t pay for it, trading it for food.

“She hung a Michael’s Deli sign from it,” he says.

Then Manor stopped visiting. Her special table was empty. No more wisecracks. No more meatloaf or chicken noodle soup, no more bread toasted so black that Peljovich’s toaster nearly caught fire.

“I literally started calling hospitals because I wanted to bring her food,” Peljovich says. Finally, he tracked her down at a Boston hospital. She would be transferred to hospice in Chestnut Hill, he was told.

So he drove out to see her one last time.

“I’ll never forget: It was a horribly snowy day. She loved to read. So me and the staff, we put together a bunch of books, food. I had no idea how bad her condition was. I said to the desk, ‘I’m here to see Rita.’ The woman said, ‘She’s not seeing anyone, but I’ll get her this stuff.’ I left my card. The folks called me the next day to let me know she’d passed.”

But, in a way, Rita still visits the deli, even though she’ll be gone two years next month.

“She’d sit at the very first table. There’s a picture of my father here, and her picture is the only other one I have,” Peljovich says. “I have a lot of regulars. But I’ll never forget Rita.”

———————————————————————————————————————–

Please share your stories in the comments below, and share this blog post if the spirit moves you.

Here’s to a much better year in 2018. Cheers-Patrick

#ServerNotServant

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8 Reasons Your Kids Should Work in Restaurants-Guest Post by David Wither via TODAY Parenting Team

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Family-Life Experiences

Posted: 12/16/2017

On August 21, 2017,  David Wither submitted a post to The TODAY Parenting Team blog that I think is worth sharing. I’d add a 9th reason that working in restaurants can be a valuable life experience:

#9-The appreciation, empathy, and respect people should develop for hard-working service industry workers and humans they interact with for the rest of their lives, encouraging decency, mutual respect, and common courtesy.

8 Reasons Your Kids Should Work in Restaurants by David Wither in TODAY Parenting 8/21/17

Half of all Americans have worked in restaurants at some point over the course of their lives. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant work is the first job for one out of three Americans.

Sitting down with Dan Simons, co-owner of the most booked restaurant in the nation on OpenTable, Founding Farmers, we learned a lot about why restaurant work is not only a draw for teens and young adults but why he thinks every kid, beginning with teenagers, should work in restaurants.

“There is an assumption that even though restaurant work may be good for your wallet, it is a throw away job that isn’t good for much else,” says Simons. “We know that working in restaurants early is a great career step for those headed into the hospitality industry. But it’s also good professional and personal development for almost everyone, regardless of where they are headed with their careers.”

According to Simons, encouraging restaurant work, especially for teens and young adults, provides many important skills for future work life, and for building a happy, productive life.

• Of course a strong work ethic is a requirement for many jobs, but restaurant work often raises the bar. In most restaurants, employees have to work hard, quickly, efficiently, under the watchful eyes of the guests, their managers, and other team members. The products of their labor are usually in full view, how long it took to bus the table, how the drink tasted, how the plate of food looked, whether the hostess was polite and helpful, were the bathrooms clean, was the waiter folding a napkin as she walked to the table because she didn’t do her pre-shift work. All of it matters to the guest experience. An individual’s work ethic, their capacity to get the job done, must meet the standards and quality control not only of their bosses, but the satisfaction of their guests, and the acceptance of their team.

• It goes without saying that punctuality is essential in restaurants. The timelines set by these service industry jobs are tight, staff working against the clock because the guests are often waiting to be seated, to be served, and to be sent happily on their way, all in a timely fashion per their particular schedules and desires. For staff across the restaurant, this requires effective minute-to-minute time management and organization. Workers are arranging tasks around meal and drink ticket times, orchestrating the seating of guests based on waitlists and reservations, and delivering all of it in accordance with the desires of each guest.

• In a restaurant, no job is done in a vacuum. Every piece of these jobs requires a piece of someone else’s job. Teamwork is mandatory. Learning the art of working with a team is essential for every single employee. This includes learning to help others, rely on others, get along with others, and appreciate others. It also teaches the power of good collaboration.

• Restaurants usually bring guests from all walks of life. They also draw fairly diverse staff. All of this depends, of course, upon the location of the restaurant, but it is an industry that, for the most part, will give teens and young adults exposure to diversity. They will learn to work for and with all sorts of people.

• Learning to serve others is built into most service industry jobs. In restaurants, whether directly interacting with guests, or not, you are part of an operation built to serve. For workers in the front of the house, service is not just providing what is requested, but also paying attention to what guests don’t ask, being empathic. Not everyone wants the same service or attention. It depends on who they are and why they are there. Some guests need to get in and out, without any fuss. Some want to hang out and talk. Some love a lot of attention. Some want barely any. Some tables have a mix of both. Great service adapts to each individual guest and group of guests.

• Entry-level work is a great learning experience. It isn’t necessarily about learning humility, although that is a great life lesson, but entering a position at the ground floor and learning the ins and outs amongst others who already know the ins and outs. This is an important life skill and not something kids get in school where everyone usually learns together, as a group, as the teacher walks them through their lesson plans and syllabi.

• Cleanliness! Learning to clean up after yourself and after others. This is the fantasy of so many parents, a kid who actually knows how to clean up and does it, without being asked, without grumbling. Restaurant work teaches kids how to clean and how to clean well, because there are food safety standards and a manager who is following behind them and saying, “you missed this spot.” Wouldn’t it be great to have someone else teaching your kid that? While they are under your roof, and when they move onto their own.

• Working in a restaurant is usually lively, engaging, and fun. It often makes going to work also fun, helping kids learn the importance of doing what they love, of not setting up the outdated work/life dichotomy but building a career that makes them happy and provides satisfaction across their lives.

As we all know, the real world is very different from school and often very different from the parental catered experience many kids have. Helping kids prepare can cause much angst and worry for parents. Working in a restaurant and learning some of the skills inherent to serving others, working hard, smart, as a team, and quickly can help pave the way for many kids. This work may smooth the transition into a more independent existence and give them some essential tools to build successful careers and lives. 

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Thank you.

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