Play it again, Sam 13 December 2019 Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
In this week's issue... Play it again, Sam Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
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Nothing dampens our enthusiasm

01 January 2000
Nothing dampens our enthusiasm

June was a good trading month despite the weather being generally against us. However, the exceptionally high rainfall did restrict the amount of passing tourist trade that we picked up, and on one particular Saturday evening had a more drastic impact on the business.

Picture the scene: a busy Saturday night, the restaurant fully booked. At around 8.30pm, the restaurant and bar are starting to swing, the kitchen is running like a well-oiled machine, pots and pans rattle, and the buzz of sparkling conversation permeates the occasionally well-organised chaos.

Then disaster strikes.

The first sign that something was amiss was the gentle trickle of water beneath the back kitchen door. I knew that the rain had been incessant, but in the happy isolation of a busy service did not realise how heavy it had been.

Thinking that the drain outside might be blocked, I opened the back door to rectify the situation, realising my mistake only at the last moment.

The reality was that the drains could not cope, and a tidal wave of murky rainwater swept through the kitchen and into the restaurant as water from two roofs cascaded down drainpipes and steps.

Dustsheets were rooted out to block the ingress, a large brush was used to sweep as much as possible through to the cellar drain, and a collection of cloth and cardboard was scattered across the floor to stabilise feet.

Squelch factor

After a 10-minute interruption, service continued, with plates being passed to waiting staff standing at the restaurant door to minimise the "squelch factor". Fortunately, only guests close to the kitchen door noticed our plight - probably alerted by the growing piles of the Daily Telegraph and Racing Post used to soak up water from the carpet.

Gradually, my fears of impending financial disaster were replaced - initially by optimism that we might get a new restaurant carpet through the insurance (unfortunately, we were a little too efficient), and eventually by satisfaction with the service under difficult conditions and pride in the way that all of the staff acquitted themselves throughout.

As I look back at the incident, it reinforces a deeply held belief that we have, in the catering trade, a dedicated, flexible and resilient workforce, and we must continually value, nurture and develop this asset.

All too often, profit and product are given priority. The right people are the key to the health and prosperity of our business, and we received a reminder of this last month.

PS. Rumoured sightings of a family of ducks paddling through to the cellar are grossly exaggerated, and have no connection whatever with the reappearance of confit of duck on the menu.

Next diary from Ian Vipond: 20 August

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