It Came to Me in My Sleep
“… the music as part of the design is a great way to create the ‘multi-experiential environment’ we seek for the fun folks of Nashua …”
On most mornings, a thought is already finishing as my eyes ease open for the first time. Especially these days, as we prepare to open our next restaurant. Two hours before dawn and album-cover art has successfully bridged the gap between my unconscious mind and wakefulness. This sleep science phenomenon is well known to me — the work that our brains put in while our bodies slumber. And what better way to begin the day than dreaming of bringing people together with incredible food, drink and music while watching years of concepting brought to fruition by architects, designers, family and staff. The above interpretive phrase came from our restaurant consultant, Kealoha, the “how” now perpetually stuck in my head. How will we inspire a sense of community — an old idea, but with a fresh perspective? Your new, old haunt.
Slow food fast. These words on someone else’s sign represented one of many conceptual visions that have been formulating. The juxtaposition within the Manhattan restaurant’s tagline was humorous and intriguing. And why not merge the growing societal commitment to support local growers and once-upon-a-time’s natural farming practices with today’s speed of life. But how …
For the past five years we have searched for and researched, imagined and reimagined, future Stones. Our future industry. Our future future. The labor market is at an all-time low, costs at an all-time high. Boomers still boomin’ as their “kids” move beyond that ethical burrito and, so, what’s next? Devices always at hand, people’s dining habits evolving. “Globally inspired” becomes simply food, folks want to know what’s in each dish, the couchbound seek options beyond “pepperoni” or a dull box of pork fried rice, opportunities for genuine social interactions wane.
“… creative comfort food, yes, but open with a manageable menu for once in your life, Plath … create same sales with less bodies, better pay, happier people …”
Predawn revelations a new normal. Doing more with less is restaurant destiny. The pressure’s on, adrenaline is coursing, and Lord only knows from whence it comes when it comes. It’s a gift to be grateful for. Rarely a toss or turn. When that first wave comes, I catch the ride to coffee beach. Navigating the dark, my hands seek the pen necessary to record what will likely be lost before the next breaker hits. Damn right I’m up.
Fine Food Fast. Not ironically, a former director of ours texted me the photo of similar words on a different restaurant sign, down Georgia way. He, too, was humored — the two of us having spent countless hours together plotting a model that would evolve our industry’s endangered casual sector. We had selected those very three as our own in developing the would-be Stones Kitchen. Less fuss, less expense, more fun. Is this possible? How …
“… at British taverns, when you step up and order your fish and chips at the bar, the locals spin on their stool and make conversation, passing along your pint. Be social, community … it works …”
There is no more mystical an hour than 4 a.m. The tidal in-between of each day’s final ebb and first flow. Any feet not sheeted are shuffling — either finally toward, or just away from sleep. Before the sun casts her first blues, I am percolating and plotting upon the lists to be navigated. Service model. Menu. Pay structure. Budget. Legal, design, builder, technology, staffing, the cocktails …
At The Rising Eagle in Melrose, across the street from their flagship restaurant, our friends and the owners of Turner’s Seafood opened an incredibly handsome “Publick House.” Complete with a deliciously essential Yankee pot roast, gracious hosts guide you through the initial queue to the bar-top register where food and beverage is ordered. There is no waitstaff, per se. You display your numbered wooden spoon, once you’ve found seats near the historic tavern’s roaring real-wood fireplace, and smiling team members deliver the goods. “Is there anything else you need?”
Years ago in Puerto Rico with the Turners, we collectively brainstormed a response to the challenges small business owners are facing in restaurants throughout Massachusetts and elsewhere. Collectively, we are struggling to protect our businesses and our guest experience — while joining the just initiative to afford better for our valued employees, thereby securing the dignity that accompanies a livable wage. Indeed, the wee hours of morning call.
“… how must we evolve our model in maintaining standards, staffing levels, quality, morale …”
We thank you so much for all your support for so long. As you read this, our incredible team will be close to launching Stones #1 Social in Nashua, New Hampshire, after years of obsessive contemplation and conversation. Please join us in embracing the ongoing story of restaurant evolution, in times like these. We are excited and hope you will be too. And then, perhaps, a nap …