A stress-free restaurant

(Riverside Market & Cafe has 550 types of bottled beer. Choices, choices)

I’ve already written about how much Luke and I loved filming at Riverside Market & Cafe in Fort Lauderdale. We’re working on their videos now, and I thought it might be cool to offer a preview of some of the things owners Julian and Lisa Siegel talked about in their interview.


Roll the dice

Finding people in this industry is really hard. And sometimes we do get into a jam and get understaffed. Everyone says, “Just put it on Facebook. Put a sign on the door.”

Well there’s nothing worse I can imagine than walking into a restaurant with a Help Wanted sign on the door. We’re not a lumber yard. When people walk up to your restaurant, you want them to think that you’ve got everything under control, so the sign in the door doesn’t work. Same with social media. I couldn’t imagine putting a note on Facebook, “We need servers. We need help,” because you always at least try to feel that you are secure in your business and you don’t need help. Good help will come to you.

Some of our best employees have come to us by accident, just walking through the door. And there’s always a network. There’s always situations where somebody says, “Hey my sister’s friend’s cousin is new in town and he’s great.” Or, “My best friend’s son will work out. He’s a dream.” You get a lot of referrals, which is great because at least there’s a level of connection.

Every time we’ve gone ahead and advertised openings, we’ll have a thousand resumes, set up a hundred interviews, ten will show up, and one is qualified. I prefer to just roll the dice and let the right person walk in the door.

Make everyone feel at home

We wanted to make this a tribute to a mid-century theme of a general store, but base it on great food and craft beer, and kid-friendly – which is huge.

At one point we had an oversized counter at the front, and we didn’t really need it, so we made it a children’s play area. Board games, padded floor, toys, high chairs. You name it. And it was just one of those spaces where your kids could play while you sit back and have a beer. It’s just one of those things we do because we want everybody to feel at home here.

Everyone identifies with us. If you look around the room on any given time, you’ll see professionals, you’ll see cops, you’ll see misguided skateboarders, you’ll see tattooed, pierced teenagers, you’ll see artists, musicians, photographers.

Everyone seems to be able to relate to this establishment, and enjoy it. And they just expand our audience because they tell other people about Riverside. And we love it. And we love them for loving it!


Don’t count pennies

You don’t have to have spreadsheets and a million dollar build out to make a successful restaurant. I think that because we are not trying to maximize everything, and we’re not penny counting, and we’re not sitting there with spreadsheets is a big part of why we have had success. It’s because we’re not stressed out about that stuff.

We’re here having fun. We’re having an enjoyable, authentic relationship with this restaurant, with the people that work here, with the people that are part of our family, the people that come in here. And I think that’s what leads to success.

If we were sitting here watching every penny and nickel-and-diming everything, what fun would that be? It wouldn’t be. So I think that approach works for us. We’re not trying to meet numbers and push to goals. We’re just here having fun, and it’s working.

Check your stress at the door

Julian and I try to live a stress-free life and have a stress-free environment here at Riverside. I think we emanate that energy, and people feel it. You come here to relax, enjoy yourself, meet a new friend, or just be by yourself and drink a beer and go back to what may be a chaotic life.

We recently had another restaurant owner come in and on his way out he said, “This is the most relaxing hour I have had in months. And now I have to go back to my crazy life at my restaurant.” And that’s how we’re supposed to do it. That’s what we want you to experience when you come here.

We’ll have the vids ready soon. You’re gonna love ’em!