Welcome to the Restaurant Revival Project by Natalie Schumacher
Helping American restaurants save the world!
The Restaurant Revival project is a research venture. I am studying the art and science of the restaurant business. My hope is that the information I put together can help my fellow entrepreneurs run more successful businesses, and in the big picture maybe help the world fix some of our serious issues. I think food service is a great place to start. If the RRProject works I will end up painting in some exciting establishments and bring them more business while I'm at it.
Thank you for your interest. There are several ways to participate if you would like to get involved!
1.5 million years ago our ancestors domesticated FIRE and invented the BBQ. Cooking is a form of pre-digestion - makes chewing easier - this allowed us to recoup 16 times more energy with a lot less investment thereby causing our brains to GROW from about 700 cubic cm to 1600 cubic cm without any change in body size. COOKING is why we evolved these big brains. COOKING is why we’re not cavemen anymore. The evolution of the human brain was about feeding ourselves and it remains vitally important. We owe it all to the Chef. (Paraphrasing the documentary The Gut: Our Second Brain at minute 5:57 by ARTE France Inserm Scientifilms)
Because we domesticated fire....
The American entrepreneur can be a beacon of hope and inspiration - achieving financial independence and self-actualization. OR the American entrepreneur can be a slave to their businesses; suffering in a personal hell under soul-crushing debt and failure. Unfortunately, the later is shockingly common. How’d that happen? How can that be? This is America! Something isn’t right….
The restaurant industry can provide insight about the business world that anyone can understand; how and why a business sometimes works, and sometimes doesn't. Any business can suffer and fail, but restaurants we understand. We all engage with restaurants and have opinions about their offerings. We feel it when they come and go. Other kinds of businesses are not as palpable to us, but the owners and operators suffer just as much when things aren’t working right. Something I have observed in all kinds of businesses is how difficult making good choices can be when it's failing. People can’t see the forest for the trees. They can’t think clearly. They do stupid things. The broken heart causes bad interpersonal dynamics. They can’t seek or find appropriate guidance. It’s like drowning slowly but no one understands what's happening. Business failure is absolutely excruciating. I’ve been there.
Because we can and should
On the other hand, business success is exhilarating! I’ve been there too, and it will always rank as one of the more life affirming experiences possible. Because at the end of the day business success means you get to eat and live a little longer. So back to the restaurant we go to discuss how food really is life.
Current Mission Statement:
Figure out exactly what information to dive into and how to present it so it is useful and interesting. Talk to restauranteurs, business experts, marketing people ... so many people.... Eventually the goal will be to find struggling restaurants to test my hypothesis: that is if you have the right information, and strong support, the business can be fixed; the people can be helped in a meaningful, lasting way; and the information that does the fixing can be translated to help other kinds of businesses. Hopefully I will get the chance to actually work with real restaurants on this project, and if that happens I am offering my painting and decorating services to the process. I'm going to have to figure out how to fund this....
A bit of background:
I love eating. I have had several jobs in foodservice throughout my life including a camp kitchen, pizza parlor, deli, bartender and waitress. I have been a manager and an owner, and I went to business school. I once invented general contracting with what I thought at the time was a groundbreaking idea…. So, like, I enjoy reinventing the wheel my way. I’m a mother. I care about feeding people. I’m also an artist, so I spend a lot of time thinking about the art involved in doing things. I believe that when you get really into understanding how to do something well you have become an artist on the subject. To be an artist at anything is to dive into a bottomless understanding - the learning never stops, you just get better at it. An artist always keeps learning and pushing the boundaries of our maximum potential. This excites me. You can be an artist of cooking, of business, of reading people…. Art is not limited to drawing and painting. True artists work very hard and the reward is eventual mastery. MASTERY! So exciting. As an artist I understand that I am by no means an expert on the restaurant business. Please let me be very clear about that; I am coming at this project with a beginners mind. I’m doing research and learning. I don’t have the answers, but I’m going to try to find them.
I know the Restaurant Revival project has existed in other forms such as the TV shows Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant Impossible, but it’s something I want to study and be involved with, so I am personally reinventing this particular wheel. I think we still need this as a society. I’m grateful that there is a lot of data on the subject and plan to refer to those shows regularly. Those TV shows did a great job capturing the nature of the disfunction and the defense mechanisms people employ when the ship is sinking. Like, they know things aren’t working, but they have no idea why, and they hate every suggestion to fix it. It’s amazing! They ask for help, and then get the most qualified help imaginable, and then are totally rude and ungrateful about it. Fascinating… I don’t know how well my personal approach will work, or if anyone will want to work with me, but we will amass organized data either way. Maybe it will help someone. We can’t save the world if we can’t fix how we do business. We know that.