Keeping it small

In a recent article, the WSJ looks at the way many things are imported to Japan and then perfected way beyond the original quality.

The author asks Shuzo Kishida, chef and owner of Quintessence, one of Tokyo’s 16 restaurant adorned with three Michelin stars, about why the place is so small and Mr Kishida personally takes care of so many aspects of running the restaurant:

When the maître d’ pours a glass of sweet, crisp French white wine to go with the next offering, I ask him why he wears so many hats in a restaurant that could afford to take on more staff. “If I just manage this place but don’t serve dishes, then what’s the point?” he says. “I want to see exactly how each customer responds to what we put before them.” (…)

Later Kishida joins me for a coffee. Thirty-seven and slightly built, he carries himself in a way that manages to be both authoritative and humble. After we discuss the details of the dishes, I ask him about what the maître d’ told me. “I bought this restaurant myself just a few months ago from the group that owned it since it opened,” he says. “I did that for one reason: to cook how I want in a way that connects me to each customer. I refused to make this place any bigger. I need to personally taste every single dish that leaves my kitchen.”

I love this philosophy. It makes so much sense. Keeping the operation small it allows Mr Kishida to focus on quality over quantity and keep control in ways impossible in larger businesses. In a way, this allows to trade a certain financial margin for more personal freedom and a way to provide just the best experience possible.

It’s a philosophy I subscribe to 100%. It’s also why I wouldn’t want my company to grow substantially. If you want big money, you have to grow big; if you want to deliver the best, there’s something to be said for keeping things smaller, more nimble. And for making sure the person in charge knows in-depth every step in the process.

As a side note, after reading this article I can’t wait to see Bear Pond Espresso. Maybe I can even manage to score an espresso there. A godshot for sure.

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