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Managing expectations at brand new restaurants

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

A word on restaurant openings: New restaurants have been appearing on the Austin dining scene at a historic pace. Their arrivals are often accompanied by a frenzied buzz among those hungry for the next big thing and folks simply looking for a trusty addition to their roster of preferred restaurants.

In our rush to welcome these new places into our lives, we sometimes let our excitement and fear of missing out (FOMO) trump our prudent and better judgment. With so many restaurants opening in recent months, I wanted to give a reminder that people should expect missteps in service and execution at restaurants that have been open only days or weeks.

There’s a reason professional restaurant critics usually wait at least two months before visiting a place for critical assessment.

Some people might argue that if you’re paying full price for a service or commodity, you should expect a solid experience regardless of the length of time a place has been open. That works in theory (one doesn’t want to see an actor forget his lines on opening night or a pilot blank on how to land a plane following his maiden voyage), but the fact of the matter is there are countless moving parts that go into running a restaurant, and few restaurants have the luxury of lengthy full-scale practices before opening. Besides, the National Football League charges full price for tickets to watch rusty veterans and wide-eyed rookies and third-teamers perform in the preseason.

I say all of this not to dissuade anyone from early visits to a place about which they’re excited. (The new is fun, and these places still need our money to stay afloat.) But go with a measure of caution and room for empathy and understanding. Rare is the restaurant that can deliver on opening week with a confidence and flawlessness seen in month four.

None of this is meant to excuse any particular restaurant or give a pass for amateur service and food that doesn’t stand a chance even on its best night. But when you head out to a place still striving to find its footing, know that you can likely expect a few bumps along the way. Such is the price you often pay for being one of the first to plant your flag on Mount Next Big Thing.