My impressions from the first seven weeks of the Dawn on the Amazon Cafe.
The Dawn on the Amazon Cafe has been open for 43 days, closed on Sundays. These are my first impressions.
Running a restaurant is hard work. I knew that. Now I know it better.
We served 32 icy juices and smoothies today.
The best part of hosting from my restaurant is meeting new people and making new friends. Travelers trickle through here every day. I would never know most of them except when they choose to relax in the shade along our sidewalk cafe to drink a smoothie or beer and strike up a conversation. Most of the people that get this far have an interesting story to tell and I am a good listener so we get to know each other a little, and next thing you know, it can be the beginning of a new friendship.
Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises has a team that works together toward our common goals. I want similar teamwork at the Dawn on the Amazon Cafe but it’s too soon. My cafe crew are nice, smart, friendly, polite young people, brimming with potential, but teamwork doesn’t come automatically. It’s forged over fire. A few weeks ago , two out of 4 on the morning shift were late, so they experienced my fire. I’m a gringo. I hate late. I woke up around 5:30 in a great mood, and only got to enjoy that happy mood for a couple of hours. We lost a breakfast guest because we opened 5 minutes late. That has not happened again. Forged over fire.
I take full responsibility for training my staff and turning them into a team. I don’t want or need a staff. I want and need a team. I must do more, faster, and better to enhance the teamwork that will make what we want to become possible.
I’m satisfied with the quality of the food. The service is good. The chairs are comfortable. The view is great. The neighborhood is interesting.
The system needs work. We’ve hired 7 kitchen cooks, choppers, or washers to help our Chef Judy, fired 4 or them, and 2 quit. I will probably have fired a fifth one by the end of this week. You can’t be sick more than you work and hold down a job. Judy, Marmelita, and Mayka can’t do all of the work. I fired one waiter. A waitress worked one day and never came back. Mediocre will not cut it here. We are trying for remarkable. Turnover is high. We need more stability.
Several times a day someone says “My compliment to the Chef”, or “This is the best food we’ve found in Iquitos”, or something similar, which I always pass on to Judy or Mayka, or Marmelita. Occasionally a mistake is made on an order. Sometimes it’s the servers, sometimes the cooks. I’ve been accused of being too hard on them. Maybe so. I expect a lot. We’re trying for something special here. It’s the system. Follow the system and there can not be a mistake. Follow the system and there will only be compliments.
We met one of my modest goals on the 24th day. We grossed over S/ 1,000 soles. Since then we have only totaled six 1,000 sole days. Another modest goal is to average 1,000 for a week. We’re new. I must not establish goals that can not be met. I need to stay modest. A 1000 soles isn’t much, but it’ a start.
We added a delicious pasta dish to the menu, and great roast garlic bread. We call it Italia-Iquitos Pasta, Better Than Marinara, With Fettuccini. The combo comes with Garlic Bread, olives, and a mixed salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil. We created this vegetarian meal with toasted Brazil nuts as one of the surprise ingredients in the tomato based sauce, and more fresh basil than any chef outside of New York, San Fransisco, or Rome would ever add. I’m having the combo again for dinner tonight with a glass of wine. Better Than Marinara will soon become one of our most popular meals.
Right now our most popular dishes are the Mex-Iquitos, Better Than A Fajita, the Chef’s Choice Steamed Fish, the twice baked stuffed potato, and the cornbread.
Because of the popularity of the Mex-Iquitos Better Than A Fajita, I was inspired to create the complimentary Charred Chicken Fajita Fiesta, topped with crisp fresh greens, chopped tomato and a dollop of sour cream. I highly recommend the Charred Chicken Fajita. It’s one of my new favorites.
I did not plan to add a Chinese stir fry or fried rice because I doubted we could do better than the Long Fung Restaurant. After much experimenting, I’m proud to say I was wrong. You’ve got to try the Stir Fried Sweet Snow Peas and Quail Eggs in Garlicky Soy Sauce, on our Special Fried Rice, with Chinese Egg Rolls, and Pungent Mustard Soy Sauce for dipping. There is nothing like it in Iquitos.
We are going to unveil more new additions to the menu this week that I am excited about. We are testing and tweaking the recipes now. I’ll let you know when we get them right.
My impressions from the first seven weeks of the Dawn on the Amazon Cafe
Bill Grimes is the host at the Dawn on the Amazon Cafe