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By Vicki Sternfeld-Rossi
Thed Times 

Business Rules


August 5, 2021

I’ve found that in owning a restaurant, gardening, and life in general, many of the rules and clichés I’ve learned throughout my eons in the business world still apply. First, the 80/20 rule, which I wrote about recently, and another a former boss always touted and of which I was recently reminded: Don’t rule by exception!

There are certain items on our menu at the café that we consider to be “rock stars” because they always sell, one of which is our crispy cod sandwich. Occasionally a customer will ask for the sandwich without the bun, or they don’t eat the bun, which Daniel never fails to notice when I clear the table. Out of approximately 250 sandwiches sold, about five have been bunless. The other day, after another order was, “crispy cod, no bun,” Daniel announced we’re changing the menu to Fish and Chips, no more buns! My first thought, which shall remain unexpressed until I need to remind him, is: don’t rule by exception. If ninety percent of the people are OK with the bun, don’t cater to the exceptions and lose the majority.

The same with the burger. One week we will sell 20 in two days. The next day none so the new Daniel proclamation: We’re taking burgers off the menu. That day was 110 degrees, and no one was in the mood for a burger; that doesn’t mean they never will be again. That burgerless day was the exception, not the rule: The following week, we sold burgers galore!

This year in gardening, we learned the hard way: A little goes a long way. Since many of the thriving gardens we see around Waitsburg use compost, we jumped on the bandwagon and started to compost. But, until the compost is ready, we decided to fertilize with chicken poop this spring. We have learned, a lot of poop is not better than a little. We burned probably half of what we planted. Maybe I need to admit human error could be the cause of the failed tomato crop this year. However, contrary to fertilizer and gardening, in restaurant life, a lot of Advil is better than a little. (wine too).

Another cliché, “you never know who you’ll meet,” turned into an exciting situation last Saturday night at the café. About a week ago, a lady called to make a reservation for five people for Saturday night. I noticed that her phone number was a New York prefix. When they came into the café, I asked where in NY they lived since I’d once lived there. They were living in Manhattan but are now moving to San Diego and were nearing the end of their 10-month road trip to their new home.

The next day, they called the restaurant and left a message. My first thought (panic) was they had food poisoning or left something at the restaurant that I probably tossed in the trash. Bravely, I returned the call, and I may have a new cousin!

The next day, they noticed on our website that my maiden-name is Sternfeld. It turns out that they have relatives with that name as well, who emigrated to the US from Poland, as my grandparents did in the late 1800s. Now, we are both on a mission to determine if we are related, and if so, how. She has a cousin working on a family tree, as is my sister. Soon we can compare and see if we’re related.

Not only are Dayton and Waitsburg small towns, but as the last cliché it’s truly a small world!


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