So thankful the wife and kids let me sleep in today. I didn't end up waking up until about 1 this afternoon. It was glorious.
Otherwise, it was a bit of a surreal night. You can dream about what it will be like all you want, but until it actually happens, you have no idea. Seeing a packed dining room, slinging food at a furious pace, and hearing the dining room full of laughter and people having a good time is hard to describe.
It was a good test for us though in terms of food quality, processes, and identifying weaknesses. The crew did outstanding. No real communication issues and the food came out quickly and accurately.
One of the things we wanted to focus on was getting true opinions from people. So, everyone got a comment card when they came in and they could fill it out anonymously. About 70% of guests did fill one out, so that was very helpful. The card had a 1-5 scale for a few key categories, and then had a space for written comments. Almost every card had 4s and 5s, and the written comments were about 95% positive, mostly praising the brisket, burnt ends, and the homemade pickles of all things.
And since we had quite a bit of food left over, we wrapped it up and gave it to the salvation army in town who have a big lunch every Monday for the homeless. They said our food will probably make over 100 meals, so that's a nice bonus.
But the key lessons learned and improvements to be made:
1. Mac and cheese was too dry. I knew this going in. It dried out after sitting in the steam table. Will have to tweak the recipe.
2. Butcher paper on the trays was too big. Again, something I sort of knew, but wasn't sure if it was worth taking the time to cut them down. Now we'll cut them smaller.
3. Older guests want coffee. Guess I'll need to get a coffee maker.
4. Everyone absolutely loved the three sauces. Many picked the spicy as their favorite, yet a number of people wanted an even spicier sauce. Looks like I may be coming up with a 4th sauce.
5. Background music.
6. Cup lids. Apparently, I bought the wrong lids for the cups. They don't fit very tightly and pop off easily. Oops.
The home runs:
1. Food quality. Not a single complaint on the food other than someone who came right at the very end and said the ribs were a bit cold and dry. But without the warming cabinet hooked up, that was unavoidable.
2. Brisket, brisket, brisket! I had a hunch this was going to be a hit since it's very difficult to find around here, and I wasn't disappointed. Almost everyone came up to me and said it was the best brisket they've ever had and was so incredibly tender and moist they wished I could just sell whole smoked briskets for them to take home for dinner. Same with burnt ends. A lot of people, even those who have never had them before, said it was probably one of their favorite things.
3. Pickles. Who knew something as simple as my homemade pickle chips would be such a hit? I was just using them as a garnish and putting a few on each tray, but half the comment cards mentioned how amazing the pickles were.
4. Outstanding sides. Corn bread/cake ;) was an obvious hit. Lots of comments about the potato salad being the best ever. And I was a bit worried about the slaw because I don't make a thick, creamy, mayo slaw that's common here, but instead it's got much more vinegar in it. Surprisingly, 80% positive on the slaw saying it had great flavor and was something different that paired well with the meat.
5. Overall comments were very positive and supportive. Everybody was saying they can't wait to come back and commented on how they would otherwise have to drive a hundred miles to find comparable BBQ. Many other locals said I shouldn't be surprised if we have a line out the door when we officially open.
All in all, it was a great night. We learned more about what we're doing right and what needs to be improved, and found out that with the very supportive community, we're in a prime position to do amazing things. I can't wait to see what the future brings.
Here are a few pics from the evening.