Don’t Let Perfect Get In The Way of Good.

Wabi-sabi Kitchen Design: Flawed Beauty

The title above is comprised of words attributed to 18th century French philosopher Voltaire. They still apply.

For us, instead of constantly struggling to obtain perfection, which is, let’s be honest, unobtainable, we should settle for the good. A reachable good is more acceptable than an unreachable perfect.

The hospitality industry is struggling with staffing shortages, major supply chain issues, and an inpatient and unforgiving clientele. The solution to these and other dilemmas is to have reasonable expectations for your operation. Trying to make something perfect can prevent us from making it good. Perfection is elusive, at best. It’s like trying to catch a leprechaun. It’s never going to happen.

Hospitality companies were unable to obtain perfection even before the trials of the Covid pandemic. This constant goal for perfection led to many of the problems the industry faces today. Staff and management were forced into long hours, were underpaid, and had no quality of life. Why? The constant striving for perfection, especially when it came to service. Owners and upper management pushed and pushed for perfection. Now mangers and staff are pushing back, and they have the upper hand.

Most everyone one in this industry has read James C. Collins book, Good to Great. Readers learned that good is the enemy of great. Every company pushed to be great. But most of the time the approach was wrong. For most in the industry they strove for perfection overnight. They constantly rethought every system. Many of them changed systems several times to be great.  But that is not the lesson of Good to Great. In the book, the companies that made it from good to great did it in small increments over a long period of time. It wasn’t overnight. And they did something else as well: they took care of their people. Something at which the hospitality industry has failed miserably.

Does a restaurant or hotel have to be perfect to satisfy its guests? No, of course not. The key is to meet the guests’ expectations. Lunch can be a great example. Does lunch service need to be the same as dinner service? In most cases, no. Many operations are using QR codes for ordering these days. Why not take advantage of this technology, that guests are widely accepting, and rethink lunch service? The main expectation at lunch is usually speed and quality. The guest wants a good meal, quickly, and at a reasonable price. Many places could cutback the menu to make it easier and faster to prepare, have everyone order with a QR code, and use food runners instead of servers. The service would not be full service, but does it need to be? That depends on the level of service you normally offer. If you’re a fine dining establishment, this idea is not for you. But if you are casual dining, it very well may be. It’s lunch. Most people want to dine and dash at lunch. You could reduce labor and food cost while giving your guests a good experience. They’ll appreciate a good experience much more than a mediocre one that can easily come from trying to obtain perfection.

The hospitality industry is in the middle of an upheaval. Holding on to old school ways of operating will not move your business forward. Start rethinking how you run your operation. Get your staff and managers involved. Listen to them and involve them in any changes. And start viewing success as a gradual process, not an overnight achievement.

The Japanese have a of point view of known as wabi-sabi. It is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of appreciating beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” in nature.

Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” *

In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to “wisdom in natural simplicity”. In art books, it is typically defined as”flawed beauty”. Wabi-sabi aesthetic is further confirmed by the way the color of glazed items is known to change over time as hot water is repeatedly poured into them (sabi) and the fact that tea bowls are often deliberately chipped or nicked at the bottom (wabi), which serves as a kind of signature of the style.

You do not have to be perfect, just be good. There is an appreciation for flawed beauty. Be good. Be flawed. Be beautiful.

*Source: Wikipedia

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