You've probably heard about these type of restaurant openings a ton, but what exactly is the difference between a soft, hard and quiet opening?

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Soft, Quiet or Hard: How Do You Like Your Openings?

You've probably heard about these type of restaurant openings a ton, but what exactly is the difference between a soft, hard and quiet opening?

I thought I knew the answer; I thought a soft opening is what a restaurant held in order to work out the kinks before a hard opening (aka grand opening). But I wasn't exactly correct. At the urging of Jonathan Kauffman (if he's not sure of the answer, there's a good chance a lot of people are confused), I asked a friend of mine, chef Tom Black, to explain it to me. This is what he had to say:

"Soft openings are usually used as a vehicle to run the whole staff through their respective paces prior to the paying customers ever coming in. Quite often this is used on families and friends of the owners and employees. There are usually just enough (food) items to make sure the kitchen can handle a variety of dishes at once, the wait staff can practice coursing guests, and management can evaluate all employees in a somewhat controlled environment. We have all experienced the other method — the soft opening — where the restaurant invites the media in to kind of practice on, often with disastrous results."

As for hard openings, chef Black says:

"This usually happens because the date to open has come and gone and now backs (and wallets) are against the wall. This is when the restaurant just opens and does not really tell anyone. They want to learn how to operate while bringing in some money, which is usually the number one reason. They will essentially use the first guests to come in as guinea pigs for their staff. This has somewhat of a success rate if the restaurateur is well seasoned and has opened a few places prior."

Chef Ethan Stowell (of Union, Tavolata, How to Cook a Wolf and Anchovies & Olives), on the other hand, tells me he considers all openings hard:

"I think that every time that you make someone dinner they are forming an opinion and making up their mind if they want to come back. It does not matter if you are charging them or not."

"How I do openings is very simple. I usually have a party before the restaurant is open for our families, wives, husbands and staff members of the other restaurants. Then, starting the next day, we open and run our normal schedule from then on. I'm usually overstaffed for a couple of weeks before I start pairing back the staff we are intending to run with on a normal basis. It usually takes the restaurant a couple of months for the kinks to get worked out and have the restaurant running with just the normal maintenance required."

So, there you go. Hopefully, this fills any holes in your opening questions.

 
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