What Works Best Here?

What works best here? In this space? Those are a couple of questions many operators forget to ask before opening their doors.

Now, it’s true that many places are limited by the space itself. I was talking to my wife the other night about a coffee place that closed at her work. She was telling me how many people–for obvious reasons–want it to reopen.

After discussing it in more detail with her I discovered that there is no direct water source! For 8 years the proprietor schlepped water in from down the hall, in 5 gallon buckets, just to brew his coffee and run his espresso machine. Gee, I wonder why he finally walked away from it…


I worked at a place that was situated in a building erected in 1927. To say there were limitations in that place would be an understatement. No room for anything. No storage. No work areas.

So, yes, while it is true that the space can confine you, it is also true that an operator must take those things in to consideration and work around them somehow. It especially helps if those concerns are addressed before opening that front door.


In my consulting business, I come across many restaurateurs, with restricted work space. Limited storage space. No hood fan! Kind of dictates what will work and what will not.

Figure it out

Should we put in a glass rinser and a dishwasher behind the bar? Is there room for those? Not to mention the proper plumbing? Should we take reservations? Should we use OpenTable, or some other online reservation system? Should we have Ipad wine lists? Table side ordering systems?


What is the size of out walk in? Our freezer? Our dry storage area? Kind of need to know these things before deciding what items to put on your menu,

It amazes me how infrequently restaurant operators ignore these most basic questions. I have a friend who is a bartender. He was invited to come check out this sweet new million dollar bar. He was in there for 30 seconds, and his only comment was: “Where are you going to put the glassware?”

Seriously? You spent all of this money on this bar and forgot the simplest of details? I can’t believe how often I am called in to consult on a space after they have already set everything up.

Um…kinda too late now

One consulting client had all of these wonderful menu ideas she wanted to use, but without a hood fan system in place, I had to shoot that one down. Sometimes consulting clients don’t like what I have to say. Most of the time.

Why did you call me in here?

Take a look around. What is the space giving you? What is the target market expecting? Work within those parameters, don’t lose sight of them and you will have a greater chance at success.


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