September 23, 2021

You’re the Boss Blog: My Restaurant Adventure: Gone Fishin’

The owner: Chris Koszyk The owner: “If time is money, it was a miserable investment.”

Start-Up Chronicle

Getting a restaurant off the ground.

Editor’s Note: For more than two years, Bruce Buschel chronicled his experiences creating a restaurant on this blog. In a series of posts this week, Mr. Buschel explains why Southfork Kitchen will not be opening in Bridgehampton, N.Y., this season.

Not knowing is most intimate, the Buddhists say. Not knowing is also most nerve-racking. A week went by, and then a second. March marched on. Todd Jacobs assured me that a deal was imminent.

It felt like a stall. I gave him until the end of the month. I couldn’t get a straight answer. Was it a lack of money? Of chutzpah? Of counsel? The chef’s lawyer was a solo performer from Sag Harbor and had to be in court one day and at a funeral the next. His caseload was overloaded. If the past four years had taught me many things, chief among them was to count no chicken before it hatched, organic or otherwise. So when I got a text on April 1 asking if we could meet the following week, I stopped smiling and nodding and pacing. There is no next week, I texted back, there is now and there is never.

Two days later, five of us were sitting around a conference table with a stack of contracts and riders; the chef, his lawyer, my broker, my lawyer and me.

At one point, someone asked, “Are you going to miss the place?” and my restaurant life passed before my eyes: the late nights, the daily dramas, the joyous weddings, the miscalculations, the staff D.W.I.’s, the noble essentialness of the dishwasher, the antisocial social media, the lost treasure, the dizzy flirtations, the gas leaks and bright lights and kitchen fires and superstorms and a lot of spilled milk.

I will miss the bliss of those services when everything clicked like clockwork. I will miss the family meals, the relaxed pregame ritual when the cooks stretch and the staff dishes on the previous night’s customers, on each other and on themselves. I am missing all of the people already, the new friends as well as the vagrants, the noisy whiners and unassuming diners, the angry bartenders and bargaining farmers, Lucy Liu, Lou Reed, Bobby Flay, Mark Feuerstein, the artists, the con artists, aficionados, oenophiles, families, foreigners and the millennials who spend so much time frozen before their screens that their need for human contact deepens every dusk. Starbucks macchiato by day, sunchokes by night. It’s a crazy mixed-up world. A lot of good people had good nights and good food at Southfork Kitchen.

What I will not miss are the last-minute cancellations or the 20th guest of the night who wanted to redesign our system or augment our menu, as if we had just thrown it together mindlessly. I will not miss the gloomy winter Wednesdays when no one showed up, or worse, when one party of four would come to dine and you felt bad for them and your staff and yourself. I will not miss the voodoo hold the place had on me. You don’t run a restaurant, it runs you — if you let it. Just keeping up with the craft cocktail craze can drive you to drink. I will not miss my own inability to find a balance, to navigate a middle path, to delegate, to find people in whom delegation would blossom. I could never step back the way Jerry Della Femina had stepped back.

Chef Jacobs handed me a check. In a perfect world, it will be the first of 180 monthly rent checks that will allow me to pay off the loans and leave me with the property. It was not the financial cushion I had hoped for, the establishment of a tasty annuity as well as a local culinary legacy, but it will pay for itself in the long run. Still, if time is money, it was a miserable investment. Entrepreneurs may have a different sense of time and risk, sprinkled liberally with patience, stubbornness, foresight, high-wire walking and a safety net of resources. Those who make it to the other side have worked for years, stumbling, swaying, bouncing around with debt and uncertainty.

Did I waste precious time or money? The only real waste would be regret. Which does not gainsay learning from mistakes or enjoying (and suffering from) the adventure. If my next meal depended on a successful restaurant, I wouldn’t get into the restaurant game. It is a house of mirrors. Crowded places are not necessarily flourishing. Bankrupt places were not necessarily poorly run. Variables are wild: rents, location, capitalization, management, reviews, public relations, social media, timing and luck, if you believe in that sort of thing. Did I mention food? Food counts too. But two stars may be better than three — expectations are lower, satisfaction higher. And your second establishment might carry and justify your first. Or not.

Chef Jacobs is calling his place Fresh. I wish him nothing but success. For obvious reasons. I gave him a list of employees and purveyors and plumbers and gardeners who will serve him well. If he is discerning, he will find the foodie world populated with sweet people and lovable characters.

When I got home from the lawyer’s office, my wife greeted me with a cup of tea. Our conversation went something like this:

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“The lawyer’s office.”

“I mean for the last four years.”

“Oh, I was seeing how the world works.”


“Food is the new rock ‘n’ roll. More kids want to be David Chang than Bruno Mars.”

“Who’s Bruno Mars?” she asked.

“See what I mean?”

“And I suppose Brooklyn is the new Liverpool?”

“Exactly. Bourdain is Jagger.”

“Either way. Welcome home.”

Indeed. I had been M.I.A. for four years. Only after you open a restaurant do you realize why the first few nights of existence are called “Friends and Family” — it’s the last time you’ll be dining with those two groups for a very long time.

The phone rang before I finished my tea. It was Jennifer Keil from The New York Post.

“I need a comment about your restaurant sale.”

“A comment? Sure: Jennifer Keil is very fast.”

“No time to waste.”

“Who told you about the restaurant?”

“My sources are confidential,” said Ms. Keil.

“There were only five people in the office. I know it wasn’t my broker, wasn’t the lawyers, so it had to be…”

Fresh Restaurant had hired a public relations firm, the same firm I had fired when Southfork Kitchen first opened to scant coverage. Someone had learned a lesson. Small world, isn’t it, and crammed with ironies.

The story in The Post the next day said, “Southfork Kitchen, a foodie destination known for its local produce and sustainable fish, closed amid lackluster sales.”

“Our sales were not lackluster,” I defensively e-mailed Jennifer Keil. “They were nonexistent. We had been closed for five months. Before that, we were pretty much booked all the time.”

Her e-mail response was: “Bruce: I did not write ‘closed amid lackluster sales.’ That was an addition from the copy desk that should not have happened and I was upset to see it in the copy. If there is a way to make that up to you in a following story, I will.”

Dear Jennifer: A follow-up story? You just read it.

Article source:

Top Down: Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?

The most affluent of the major religions — including secularism — is Reform Judaism. Sixty-seven percent of Reform Jewish households made more than $75,000 a year at the time the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life collected the data, compared with only 31 percent of the population as a whole. Hindus were second, at 65 percent, and Conservative Jews were third, at 57 percent.

On the other end are Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists. In each case, 20 percent or fewer of followers made at least $75,000. Remarkably, the share of Baptist households making $40,000 or less is roughly the same as the share of Reform Jews making $100,000 or more. Overall, Protestants, who together are the country’s largest religious group, are poorer than average and poorer than Catholics. That stands in contrast to the long history, made famous by Max Weber, of Protestant nations generally being richer than Catholic nations.

Many factors are behind the discrepancies among religions, but one stands out. The relationship between education and income is so strong that you can almost draw a line through the points on this graph. Social science rarely produces results this clean.

What about the modest outliers — like Unitarians, Buddhists and Orthodox Christians, all of whom are less affluent than they are educated (and are below the imaginary line)? One possible explanation is that some religions are more likely to produce, or to attract, people who voluntarily choose lower-paying jobs, like teaching.

Another potential explanation is discrimination. Scott Keeter of Pew notes that researchers have used more sophisticated versions of this sort of analysis to look for patterns of marketplace discrimination. And a few of the religions that make less than their education would suggest have largely nonwhite followings, including Buddhism and Hinduism. Pew also created a category of traditionally black Protestant congregations, and it was somewhat poorer than could be explained by education levels. These patterns don’t prove discrimination, but they raise questions.

Some of the income differences probably stem from culture. Some faiths place great importance on formal education. But the differences are also self-reinforcing. People who make more money can send their children to better schools, exacerbating the many advantages they have over poorer children. Round and round, the cycle goes. It won’t solve itself.

Article source: