Optimism is Worth the Effort

So far, 2022 feels like quicksand. Stocks are frowning, my crypto wallets are shrinking into a pile of worthless electronic blips, mask mandates are back, restaurants are asking for government assistance, and Russia seems poised to invade Ukraine.

Last year at this time we felt like we were blasting out of the Death Star after photon-torpedoing the reactor thingy. The election was finally over (so we thought), the Pfizer vaccine had been announced, Spring was coming, and all looked rosy. Love him or hate him, Biden was supposed to bring normalcy and balance. Cryptocurrencies provided the next new thing and rewarded risk takers with triple digit returns. The world (and I mean everyone) learned what NFTs were. Restaurants were being allowed to increase occupancy, breathing life back into themselves and their socially starved guests. Tech stocks stayed strong, and PPP money flowed for a second time. I felt like Nostradamus in January when I said, “restaurants are coming back!” …and for a time, they were.

Society’s malaise returned just before Thanksgiving and today, the media fills hour after hour with the usual doomsday dribble about COVID, gridlock, Trump vs. everyone, and China’s Viagra binge. As my wife and I shopped for Christmas presents at Lenox Mall in mid-December, I felt a little depressed from it all. Then an amazing thing happened when we went to J. Crew. I shoved some sweaters aside and sat on a fixture (tired from walking…even in Crocs) while my wife looked at coats for my daughter.  A floor salesperson came over to me as I tried to two-star an attack in Clash of Clans and asked if she could get me a bottle of water (?). A moment later, my wife boomeranged back to my area to show me and the salesperson something. It was clear the two of them had already been in touch elsewhere on the floor. The saleswoman had already gained my wife’s trust “out there” and had quickly made a friend of me. She recommended other stores for other stuff, talked about her experiences with the jacket in question, and even discussed football… all while tuning into how much or how little we actually wanted to talk with her. We drank up her empathy and kindness, walking out with the perfect jacket and a new friendship.

Off to Macy’s and we had a terrible experience. We were so annoyed at the Macy’s experience that it polluted our recent great experience at J. Crew. We paused in the mall corridor: “Wait,” I said to my wife. “Think back 30 minutes ago to J. Crew. On a scale of -3 to +3, how would you rate that experience?”. “+3!” she said without hesitating. “Ok, on the same scale, how would you rate our Macy’s experience?” “-2”. “Ok cool,” I said. “We’re up 1!”. We did that the rest of the day and over the next couple of weeks as we shopped. I realized how easy it was to dwell on the negative experiences without properly giving credit for really positive experiences. Crate + Barrel: +3 (where a cashier on the OTHER SIDE OF THE STORE found me in the long line at the main cash register to pull me to her register …then proceeded to have a wonderful conversation with me about …me!). Nordstrom: 0. Bloomingdales: +2 (dude shipped me a suitcase in time for Christmas with only two days to do it!). High Country Outfitters: -1. On Christmas Eve we tallied our scores – collective and independent shopping experiences – and found we were up by +10! Without the score we might have moaned about bad experiences and forgotten the good ones, but instead we moved on to Christmas morning declaring the world wonderful and full of hope.

For 2022 I’ve decided to apply the same philosophy. On New Year’s Eve I dared to tally the good things with the bad things that happened throughout the year, afraid of what I might find as I may have been. My mother passed away in February, but my sister and I reinvigorated our relationship; I graduated from graduate school (a bucket list thing); we went to my daughter’s college graduation ceremony in Virginia that had been postponed due to COVID in 2020; my son graduated in December with a degree in Mechanical Engineering; and, we didn’t make as much money in 2021 as we did in 2020 but our client tally was greater than at any point in our 16-year history. It’s so easy to rate how you feel about a year or about where you are by over-weighing the negative or listening to what others (ahem newscasters) tell you – or quantify for you via grim statistics – how you should feel about last year and this new year. The truth is the only thing that counts in your assessment of your situation is the inventory you take of your own little piece of the world and to measure success based on how YOU are this year …versus how YOU were last year. Maybe I’m finally discovering what it means to “count my blessings”. Maybe the answer for others is the same as it is for me.  When I do it, I find I have a lot of positive momentum heading into 2022 and I get excited about the journey – last year’s and this year’s.  Maybe things aren’t as bad as “they” say. Maybe this is the year you ignore the Grinch and sing Fah Who Foraze anyway. And I’ll say what I said last year at this same time: it’s a great year to open a restaurant!

Ray Camillo – Founder & CEO, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting

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Blue Orbit Hospitality Consulting can work with you to create your dream concept through financial modeling, a business plan, and a concept book. From there we can help you with everything from training manuals and menus to craft cocktail programs and layout.

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