I received this email from Charlie Wilson, who opened the Help Yourself whole foods restaurant and juice bar in Key West, Florida late last year. I asked her permission to post it here as it's a fascinating insight into what's involved in opening and running an establishment like this, as many dream of doing.
On related topics, in the upcoming Spring 09 issue of Get Fresh! magazine we have: an article from Charlie on the link between nutriton and the "Law of Attraction" (i.e. manifesting your goals and desires), and an article by Alissa Cohen all about why and how she opened her Boston restaurant, Grezzo. That issue will be printing in a week and it will be out on March 15 - more details about what's in it will follow very soon. Over to Charlie:
"Well, we have been open for just shy of 6 weeks now and for 6 weeks I have been in the restaurant anywhere from 15-18 hours a day 7 days a week. I feel like I am living in groundhog day; somehow though I have adjusted to having 5 hours sleep a night and have found the energy to keep on going and believe it or not I even find humor when my alarm goes off at 5.30am and I get ready to do it all over again! But I guess that's because for the first time I truly know this is what I want to be doing and I know that these early stages are an essential part of any new business.
Because we make everything from scratch we have an enourmous prep list. We use no pre-prepared items, even down to making our own coconut milk for our curry and our own dairy free mayonnaise, so this means we have a lot more prep work than many other restaurants. And we have a very small space. The hardest challenge has been getting our systems and schedules in place to get all the prep work done in the space we have to work with, but gradually we are getting there.
We were busy right from the start and with no dishwashing machine the dishes pilled up and washing dishes was a very long and laborious job at the end of the night after a long and exhausting day so pretty quickly I got a dishwasher in for the evenings. He is now our juice maker and our coconut cracker too. I thought it would be wonderful to offer pre-made bottled juices, so customers can just grab and go and we don't become a 'juice bar' where service has to stop everytime someone orders a juice. So I invested in an expensive juicer that retains the vital nutrients in juice for 3 days allowing me to make it ahead of time and bottle.