Bruce Buschel, proprietor of new-ish restaurant Southfork Kitchen, on Long Island’s tony East End, has spent more than a year detailing the trials and tribulations of opening his establishment in the Start-Up Chronicle blog in The New York Times. He writes honestly and openly about problems big and small, in a voice that will sound uncannily familiar to fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Questioning conventional wisdom at every turn with refreshing candor, Buschel’s blog has a developed a rabid following of fans and foes, both of which he seems to relish.
I talked to him recently about whether he feels that the blogging has been a blessing — or perhaps something worse.
Bruce, you’ve received a lot of advice and praise as you’ve blogged about your restaurant’s conception and opening along the way. Any regrets?
I have no regrets about blogging about this. At certain times, I have regrets about certain details or specifics. I’m sorry if somebody is frustrated or doesn’t get what they’re looking for. I just hope it’s not in vain — not vain as if vanity, but vain as in all for nothing. I believe that if somebody puts out something as honestly as they can, somebody else will benefit. That’s my personal mission. I have no lessons and nothing to teach other than to relay my own experience. And, because I’ve never opened a restaurant before, I may be more open to the oddities and the peculiarities of the process.
How has blogging about things after the fact been helpful to you as a restaurant owner, from an operations perspective?
It’s very helpful. I imagine it’s similar to people keeping a diary. I’ve always used sitting down and writing to figure out what I’m feeling. Like e-mail, though, sometimes you have to read it and say, “Hmm…this is not for the public. This was written in a moment of anger or frustration. Let me see what I think about this in a day or two.” And, that’s a lesson in most restaurants: You can’t stop the show in the middle of service. It’s been an exercise in long thinking and patience.
Has this been good PR for attracting diners? Or are many patrons oblivious?
It’s both. People are aware of it to a degree, but I would hope it’s good PR, even though that’s not the purpose of it. I’m sure some people read it and it becomes bad PR!
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve gotten via crowdsourcing?
I think I went to crowdsourcing because of the comments on the posts. I was stuck in old-fashioned, advertising PR cycles. When I wrote about that, people kind of pushed me into social media. Generally, the comments are really well-spaced across the spectrum and I’ll get counsel from east, west, north, and south. So, it’s a pretty good pluralistic response. I usually weigh a whole lot of factors before making a decision in the restaurant.