WILY: Sometimes The Best Strategy is to Relax and Accept the Risk

Friday was our youngest son’s birthday. To celebrate, the family decided on dinner at the Sugar Bowl, a recently re-opened restaurant in Massillon. The first incarnation of the Sugar Bowl ran for 87 years until 1989. The reboot opened right around Christmas in what I believe is the original space.

There is risk involved with going to a restaurant right after opening and several ways to deal with that risk. The first potential strategy for dealing with the potential for a bad experience is avoidance. People often talk about giving a new place time to “work out the kinks” before going for the first time. In the case of a restaurant, the “kinks” are usually inconsistent food, service, or both. Perhaps you wait until you’ve heard a convincing number of positive reviews from people that you trust. Or, you never try a restaurant until it has been open for a designated amount of time.

To some degree, the risk can also be transferred back to the restaurant. A trigger can be established for slow service. Once the trigger is reached, say an amount of time without drinks, orders being taken, or food being served, you could settle up and leave. Meals that are not correct can be sent back, although I have a pretty firm rule against any potential antagonism toward anyone who is handling my food.

Finally, you can decide to simply enjoy the experience and accept the risk as part of trying something new. That’s where we found ourselves Friday night. My wife and I already ate lunch at the Sugar Bowl during Christmas vacation so we knew that the food was great and that everyone in the family would find something they liked on the menu of burgers, sandwiches, and ice cream.

The Friday night crowd was heavy and the new kitchen team was clearly overwhelmed. Our meal of burgers and fries, with no appetizers or dessert, took a little over two hours. The food was excellent, however. It was clear that the kitchen was focused on putting out quality meals even if it took longer. And, our server made sure that we were never without drinks or anything else we needed while we waited.

Though we waited longer than we normally would have liked for our food, a couple of strange things happened. Both of our sons are now adults and it’s rare to have them both with us at the same time. Our daughter and the birthday son’s girlfriend were also with us. Having the full family and a guest together was already special, but as we waited for our food the phones stayed in pockets and we had plenty of time to laugh and talk. Also, because we were in a packed dining room in our smallish town, most of the diners knew each other. As people waited, they walked from table to table and caught up with old friends and even family. In our case, we met our guest’s grandmother at a neighboring table and I saw someone that I worked with almost twenty years ago.

The bottom line is that instead of worrying about what could go wrong, we were happy for the extra time together. And, when it finally was time to pay the bill, I found myself wishing for another hour.