Over the past few months, we’ve been following the opening of Public Greens, Indianapolis restaurateur Martha Hoover’s second location of her hit healthy café. We followed Hoover as she and her team navigated every part of the opening process of a restaurant, from picking a location to marketing. In the final installment of this series, we speak to Jeanna Chandler, director of operations, about the last-minute logistical challenges that arise in the final weeks leading up to the opening.
The most important part of these two weeks leading up to the opening is being organized. We have a really solid checklist program, and everyone has delegated responsibilities instead of one person trying to take on everything. Having checklists and timelines allow us to remain calmer when life happens and vendors or designers or deliveries don’t arrive when you planned. I have very specific lists of items that each individual takes care of — and what I do is I only send people lists of everything that needs to be done today and tomorrow so they can knock that out. This makes it very manageable for people and not overwhelming — to feed them a little bit at a time so we are not trying to take on the entire world.
Timing is always the biggest challenge in making sure you are ready. There are always delays — furniture delays, construction delays. I am sitting here inside the restaurants and the patio was supposed to be stained yesterday so the patio furniture could be delivered tomorrow, but it’s raining, so that was thrown for a loop. There was also a mistake in one of the architectural designs so we have to redesign the seating or readjust the sizing of the seating. There are so many things like that where you have no control, but you stay calm and figure out the best way to move past it.
Today I am meeting with our linen company to talk about rugs that we would need, and then I have a meeting with our liquor vendors — we have our accounts already set up with them, so we are just getting pre-orders ready to go because we already know what the menu will look like. We will also unpack our smallwares on Friday and over the weekend in preparation for the staff to get here. That doesn’t mean we put everything away. We just want to get everything in their stations so that when the training happens, those things can be put in place and people are lining shelves and learning organization and how to make the station work for them. We want to have the product in-house for training next week, so staff can touch and feel as much as possible.
We are also in the final stages of making sure that all our licenses are in place, and we have all our health department approvals and certifications, first-aid items, and preventative maintenance agreements. The next thing will be the first drop of ingredients — we will start bringing food into the restaurant next week. I’ve already done our health inspection. We have a great relationship with the health department — they gave us permission to bring food in, based simply on our history and level of organization and how we do things.
At this point, I am spending every day in the location — literally walking through the space, pointing out things that need to be done. Like there are spots in the walls I want changed out to fiberglass reinforced plastic, a washable material. I saw that there is a space on the floor where the baseboard is not straight — that is a big deal to me. There is a tiny area where critters could come in and out if they come up through a drain. That needs to be leveled. I saw a cracked tile where an outlet was installed, and I want that replaced because when we pay top dollar for build-outs we want it done right. There are doors that don’t shut completely, a doorway with a tiny crack. I will sit in every spot in the dining room to make sure the lighting is perfect and that the speaker system is set up in such a way that no one is getting blasted with sound.
My biggest advice: don’t get yourself over-obligated right when you are about to open. People often try to take on too much. I warn people that they are going to lose me for a few weeks in the final stages of opening because it is really important to focus solely on this, every single day.
Also, openings are busy and hectic. The best way to prevent yourself from getting overly stressed is to have a core group of people around you that you can trust to delegate tasks to and know that things will get done. This is not a one-person thing. We all have our areas and then we come together to get on the same page at the end of every day. Now is not the time to add new opinions to that mix. At this point, it is time to stay focused and move forward.