Welcome back to On the House, a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to open a restaurant — or several. In 2013, Steve “Nookie” Postal shared weekly glimpses into his experience opening Commonwealth in Cambridge, and now he’s back as he works to open two cafes (Revival) and a beer hall (Mothership), all while keeping Commonwealth up and running. Keep an eye out for new installments of On the House on alternate Fridays.
How am I doing? I’d say I’m solid-mid-to-lowering-middle fair. Fine. Not great. Not terrible. And I think we might be here for a little bit.
Opening restaurants takes you to deep, dark places: It’s hard. It’s expensive. Stressful, check. Exhausting, yup. Exhilarating, most def. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I do love it, and I am passionate about it; I think you have to be. If you don’t love the idea of hospitality and feeding and serving and dealing with all that comes along with that, this is an absolute awful industry to be in — get out now. But if you love it, then you love it, and you have to take all of it.
Alright, let’s see where we’re at: Grease traps are in at Alewife, and the floor is poured. Walls are starting to go up. All the underground plumbing is complete. Wiring is done. I wouldn’t say I completely love the construction process. It’s not my forte; I’m learning, but I don’t know everything that is happening in there. I feel like I should.
I feel like I should be doing a better job at everything. It’s never enough. There isn’t enough time. I need to get better at structuring my time, utilizing my time better. Maybe less chitter-chatter, but I like that part the best.
Anyway, what else? Popped down to see my buddies Junior and Senior over at Avenue Auctions today with KC, my kitchen designer from FaO. I love going down there and digging and climbing around the warehouse to see what we can find. It’s basically a giant graveyard where restaurant hopes and dreams go to get reincarnated into new ones. Something slightly cathartic about it, if that is even the right word…anyway, I found some cool shit today. There are some really nice previously loved items there. I saw a nice cheese melter, but I am too scared to tell the architect I want to add it so we don’t have to incur the dreaded CO.
CO. What’s a CO, you ask? I always thought it was Colorado. Well, I guess it still stands for that, but it also stands for change orders. It’s when you change something, and then you find out it’s, like, $8 million more. Change orders are terrible, and I hate them. I do not like them. I think all projects have them, but I still don’t like them. And then sometimes things take longer to be delivered or to be finished, or there are, like, three blizzards in two weeks, and we incur the dreaded — insert bum bum bum horns — delays. Love those too.
Makes it hard to pinpoint a date to open. There is a lot of coordination. In addition to our weekly construction meeting, which tends to take around three hours, we have a bi-weekly meeting with the brain trust (Liza, Jennie, and Johanna). Did we order the cups yet? What’s the uniform? Have we chosen our espresso cups yet? Is the coffee equipment ordered? How ‘bout phones? And sound? Speakers? Sonos? Oh, and how are we looking on the mural? And the light over the pick-up line? And what about that stencil on the floor? How about staffing?
And the damn kettle keeps breaking at Crema, and Nicco is on vacation at Commonwealth, and there are birthday parties and life. Life is going on around me. Shit doesn’t stop ‘cause we decided to open these places all at once. I actually think the timing is gonna work out well: Revival Alewife, spring; Revival Davis, summer; and the Mothership, fall. At least that is where we stand now.
I think that is really it; I’m tired. I went to a latte art throwdown tonight at Loyal Nine, so I’m beat. That’s probably something I never thought I would say. This industry definitely takes me to interesting places, and I’m definitely getting old. I don’t care. I signed a bunch of papers this week. I own more LLCs than I think I should. Davis demo is going strong; that place has got nice bones. Design phase on the Mothership starts next week. The list keeps getting longer. And that’s it, no witty ending. I’m tired. Goodnight.