"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London
So I've learned in my almost full year of blogging. That having been said, it's really not so difficult because in some way, every day, my life is about food and restaurants. The true test is to take the every day and make it into something worthy of reading. Not all days have had this result, sometimes I'm just passing along information or giving an editorial opinion, and a few posts have had absolutely nothing to do about food whatsoever. But I would count many of those non-food posts as some of my favorite work.
I've written about what got into me, a former home-working accountant (well, actually I'm still that) who having done the jobs like fund raising, PTA President, den mom, homecoming parade co-chair, turned onto the internet as a new source of playtime. No curses to SideDish for this time-eating addiction, they allowed me to post a series of restaurant business blogs last June that whet my appetite for more. So began The Dallas Cook Book in July '08.
And yes, I really do have over 1,000 cookbooks, every trip to Half Price Books adds another 10 or so. Lately I've been concentrating on (possible) historically significant publications from Dallas and Texas, because not enough honor is paid to our rich food history. Thank goodness The Boy is headed off to college, I can use his bookshelves next.
But before the birth of this blog, came the articles for SideDish. Re-reading my Restaurant 101 posts is a pretty amazing look back at a year in turmoil for our industry. Here's an update on the six subjects:
Lesson 1 - Texas' Revised Franchise Tax. It was revised again this year, but while changes this year help the smallest earners (up to $1 million in sales), it still does not address the high costs our industry cannot deduct from sales to arrive at this tax amount. As sales fall, our deductible variable costs also fall, giving very little franchise tax relief to our industry.
Lesson 2 - Staffing. I tried to make this a positive post at a time when many restaurants were failing, little did we know how many were to follow. Not only have counter service restaurants thrived in this economy, some chefs have become "mobile entrepreneurs" taking their restaurant on the road with NO servers. In this economy there is a readily available workforce, but an unwilling capital market to invest in the traditional restaurant.
Lesson 3 - Club Memberships. Still a throttle around the neck of growth of the restaurant industry in Dallas proper. Too bad, because the tax implications can be huge. Until given the same competitive advantages of a restaurant located in a wet area, you will see limited restaurants opting for the higher costs and extensive requirements of a Private Club license. Especially when there is plenty of available "wet" lease space waiting to do a great deal in the 'burbs. IJS, Mary Suhm - Addison (Southlake, Frisco, Plano) is calling.
Lesson 4 - Minimum Wage Increase. Last July it went from $5.85 to $6.55 and on July 24, 2009 it goes from $6.55 to $7.25, or a 24% increase in one year. Mphmphmphmph (hand over mouth).
Lesson 5 - The Necessities of a Good Accountant. Admittedly a boring post - so, so, business. But the difference between a restaurant surviving these economic times and not can sometimes come down to these boring matters. I credit "mlh" in the comments section with providing me the spice to create TDCB (that and my son telling me I could set a blog up for free, and then doing it for me in less than 15 minutes).
Lesson 6 - Investing In A Restaurant. Co-written with my husband Jim, it was my favorite post (do Jack and Suzy Welch have this much fun?). It brought back the feel of what we had accomplished 13 years ago when we got the last investor to "cash in" on our dream of Sevy's Grill. Several brave new souls were looking at entering the industry (I'm lookin' at you H&M), and the ten points are succinct and timeless.
While this is an unpaid venture, you can't discount the satisfaction of producing something others will read. It's pushed me to expand my life beyond the unsmiling, "Why is petty cash short", numbers role I play at work. I don't just observe, I now participate in food and in Dallas in ways that don't necessarily require me to cook. And I like to think of it as practice for my very-naughty-chefs wives-FICTIONAL book, working name: "Good Kitchen Bitches".