Blog posts

Five Craziest Restaurant Opening Stories

Five Craziest Restaurant Opening Stories

Food & People

“Opening restaurants isn’t always about the disaster story or the perfect night,” explains Jessie Banwart. “It’s all about how we can create the best hospitality experience.”

Banwart can be considered something of an expert, having opened roughly 70 restaurants over the past decade.

Jessie Banwart | photo provided by Alisar El-Farmaoui / Folkart Management

“It’s a lot harder than it looks and it’s not something that everyone can do, no matter what we tell ourselves.” Aside from suffering through the sore feet, tired legs, tense backaches, mental stress, Banwart and the 400+ people she’s trained over the years have seen their fair share of craziness…

The College Hack Job

“College kids don’t like to pay for anything…” Banwart begins. “We opened a restaurant near the quad on a campus and soon realized that EVERYONE was paying with a coupon. Imagine sweating while making sandwiches, opening the cash drawer over and over again but not putting any cash in…This went on for hours. Finally, on our second day, one of our opening managers decided to lock the doors. It turns out, a student hacked into our email list and distributed free sandwich coupons to the entire student body. That promotion ended real quick.”

(Don’t) Get Outta Town

“I was four weeks in as a Senior Training Manager at this high-end opening in the Chicago Loop for a fast-casual concept. I had to hire 40 employees with very little direction from the company. At the same time, I was also setting up a catering kitchen that was launching the same day we were opening. As opening date approached, the Senior Director of Operations and the Owner both decided to head out of town. At the same time. I was in complete panic mode, even though I played it cool. When we opened, everything went wrong—water was going in and out, the building was having issues, the garbage pick-up wasn’t set up, you name it. Despite that, my team and I made opening day a complete success. When it was time to give feedback on how the day could have been more streamlined, I told they owner they should never have left during the opening. I thought I was going to get fired on the spot. But instead, they agreed and I got a bump in my salary for owning the entire process!”

Next Time, Use the Back Door

“One of my favorite jobs was when I moved from counter service to full service. This place had already been in business for four years but wanted to change things up by re-training the entire staff, adding new staff members, and starting brunch service. We had an outpouring of support on our first brunch weekend. We also happened to run out of everything—including eggs and mixed greens. None of us could leave to make the run to Restaurant Depot so we sent my husband on the errand. He walked in with four cases of eggs (120 dozen eggs in total) and an unusually large amount of mixed greens. One woman who had been waiting by the host stand pointed and screamed, “No wonder the wait is two hours! They don’t have any freakin’ eggs!”

Turns Out, There is a Wrong Way to Spin a Salad

“I was once working on a catering team for an Italian restaurant. We were hoping to build up our client base by dropping off samples to different offices in the area. Obviously, these orders needed to be perfect. I was appointed to work with this guy—let’s call him ‘John’—who was very young and goofy. Everything was a joke to him. All morning, I prepped the freshest food and salads while he was totally unfocused. We get to our first client—the most important one—and as we’re walking into the building with the revolving door, John decided to jump in there. He didn’t make it. Neither did the salad. The entire delivery was crushed, spilling and spinning salad through the revolving door over me and another innocent bystander trying to leave the building. I was mortified. John got fired the next day.”

Don’t Worry About a Thing, Cause Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right

“Sometimes, when you’re on the road, you get a little close with your coworkers. It’s frowned upon but sometimes you can navigate around it. This scenario, however, was definitely frowned upon because it was between a trainer and the General Manager. I was asked to drive the trainer back home to Chicago from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, immediately. Since it was a “human resource sensitive situation”, I was ordered not to talk about it, even if the trainer tried, at all costs. We made it three hours—almost all the way home—but ten minutes away from her house, she brought it up. In excruciating detail. Acting fast in nervous-panic, I decided to blast Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” to drown out what she was saying. I’ll never forget the look on her face…”

Note from a guest

Despite Banwart’s crazy stories and even crazier hours, there’s a great deal of reward to the seemingly thankless job. “After a rough shift full of doubt and small humiliations, when I shuffle to the refrigerator to chug a pitcher of water at 4 o’clock in the morning, I see a note from one of my favorite guests fastened near the door handle with a magnet. It reminds me daily that I’m honored to be a part of this industry and to make these special connections with guests that support me. That support us.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *