You Can’t Handle the Truth About Running a Diner [PHIL-OSOPHY]
The great American diner is in a class and stratosphere all to its own. Very few restaurateurs can successfully operate a diner because they are not like an establishment restaurant.
One of the best quotes from the movie A Few Good Men applies here: "You can't handle the truth," about what it really takes to own and operate a diner.
Culinary graduates fail; folks who've operated other food places fail as well. I would hire family members who've grown up in a diner. They are the best owners or workers because they have the inner instinct that's needed to turn a table and turn a profit.
If you ride past the Mattapoisett Diner, on one side of their sign it reads the need to hire a chef and other kitchen workers. On the opposite side of the same sign, it says the diner is for sale and gives a number to call.
Whoever ends up getting it, my advice is to find employees with "diner" experience, not just food service experience.
In the past, New Jersey yuppies on their way to Nantucket would stop into the Shawmut Diner and tell me that they've always dreamed of owning a real 50's diner. So, I'd invite them to meet me at 4:15 a.m. and shadow me around for the day. Not one ever showed up at the door the next morning.
Forget absentee owners completely. And even when the owner hires a general manager to operate the diner, it's not the same as the owner-operator being there to greet the patrons, check the provisions coming in, jump on the grill when needed and take care of the overflowing toilet. The owner-operator has a vested interest that's attached to his or her soul. Anyone else has a vested interest only attached to their pockets.
Thank goodness the recently-closed Al Mac's Diner in Fall River has new ownership and will be operational in May. That's such good news! As for the Mattapoisett Diner, she needs someone to come in "who gets it," who has real diner experience, to fix the place up and re-open the eatery as the classic neighborhood diner that it is.
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.