The bar was full but not actually busy. A good bartender can make a huge crowd seem effortless, and a bad bartender can make three people seem like a deluge.
Everything had a place and everything was in its place. In the restaurant business set up is crucial. If you wait until you are busy to get set up, it’s already too late.
The salt and pepper shakers were paired and available, the olives were picked, the lemons for zests were clean, cocktail napkins were nearby and the mixing apparatus were readily available.
I was waiting on four groups of people, three sets of two at the bar, and one set of two at a nearby table. It was in between lunch and dinner so allowances had to be made.
Or they didn’t.
The couple at the table had a problem. More like one continuous set of problems.
“Can we get different water?”
Not sure what that means, but it meant something to them.
“Can we get different cutlery?”
Eventually the problems became so overwhelming that a manager had to get involved. And then the chef. And then the managing partner.
The man at the table caused such a scene that eventually the manager just comped his meal. Over nothing really. But primarily just because he wanted him to shut up.
What the manager didn’t see, was the reaction of the three other couples.
“Did the manager just comp his meal,” asked one of those people.
“Why didn’t you just throw that jerk out?” asked another person in another couple.
“I can’t believe that you guys did that,” said a member of the third.
Meteorologist and mathematician Edward Lorenz coined the term, “The Butterfly Effect” in which he theorized that something as small as the flap of a butterfly’s wings affects everything around it and can have far reaching and as yet unknowable consequences. “If a butterfly flutters its wings in Brazil, could it cause a tornado in Texas,” he famously said. His theorem touches on chaos theory and nothing resonates more with a bartender than chaos theory.
Lorenz used the example of a tornado, which begins with just a small vibration and then turns into a majorly destructive force. What Lorenz later said is even more telling, “If the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado.”
Behind every good bar, is a good person. Be that person the owner, the manager, the chef, the bartender or even the server. Sometimes it is all of them, and sometimes it is just one of them. But that person has to be there, to pair the salt and pepper shakers, to pick the olives, to put out the cocktail napkins. That doesn’t just happen.
You can tell a good bar by the persons standing behind it, and by the people sitting in front of it, they are directly linked. Bars are about connections more than they are about drinks. The drinks help, for sure, but people want to go where they feel comfortable. So, it is vitally important whom you make feel comfortable.
I never saw those three couples sitting at the bar sitting at that bar ever again. The guy at the table, however, came every other week. He, his companion, and their myriad of problems too.
Years later one of those couples sat at a different bar, in front of me.
“We just never could go back there,” they said. “We tried once, but we saw that guy, with the manager at his table, again, and we left.”
Things don’t happen in a vacuum. Everything is interrelated at some point.
That couple became two of the best customers that second bar ever had. They came in every week. They ate, drank, and tipped every week. They waited their turn, they were always polite and they never caused a problem, ever. Soon enough they met other couples. And other people. Those other couples and other people also started to come, until that bar was filled with good people.
“Thank you so much for introducing me to that couple,” said a solo gentleman to me one day. “They are good people,” he added.
“Yes, they are,” I said. “And so are you.”
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-You reap what you sow, whether what you sow is on purpose, or accidentally.
-If the person behind the bar is a jerk, odds are, that so are the people in front of it.
-Lorenz originally used a seagull in his metaphor but changed it to the more poetic butterfly later on.
-The Butterfly Effect is distinct from the Butterfly Affect. Just as distinct as those couples sitting at the bar and that one sitting at a table.
-Maybe Lorenz should have used a fly, just saying.