Chef Scott Crawford was already a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist when he opened Crawford & Son in 2016. French bistro Jolie followed shortly. Crawford is among the cadre of chefs putting Raleigh, North Carolina, on the dining map. But for his most recent project, the chef left the bustling capital for Clayton, a satellite town of Raleigh. Crawford Cookshop features a wood-fired grill and showcases a fresh take on American eats.
Although the restaurant was hardly Crawford’s first rodeo, the omicron spike and supply chain issues brought a new set of challenges. But the chef remained undeterred, noting that a bit of perseverance goes a long way.
A bumpy start
Equipment lead times went from basically four weeks to about 16. So, we figured we’d allow for double, even triple, the amount of time. Well, it turns out we needed to quadruple it. We almost had to open without our garage door until it arrived at the 11th hour. The goal was to open in late summer 2021. With long lead times and everything else happening in the world, we realized we couldn’t. By fall, we decided to do our best to open by the holidays, which we did. But that time between November and January was tough.
One of the biggest challenges was still dealing with the pandemic. Right when we opened, omicron hit and we had to open, close, and send people home. We couldn’t seat the whole dining room because our staff couldn’t come in. It was a logistical nightmare, and the general public was not having it. They blasted us online with one-star reviews.
Turning the tide
All you can do is try to do your best and explain the situation to people. I get it from a customer standpoint; I can understand their frustration. We explained to people the situation we were facing as far as staffing, and then it eventually kept getting better and better. People wrote nice reviews, and the bad ones went away. We prevailed through perseverance and hard work.
We’re feeling really good at this point. We just rolled out takeout, which was a big deal for us. We have online ordering, too. We have other things that we intend to roll out, possibly lunch, possibly brunch. We try to do one thing at a time to make sure it’s smooth before going onto the next. It’s going really, really well now.
Word to the wise
Restaurants are always challenging, and each time you open one you think you’re getting better at it, and to some degree we do. But there are challenges every time. Each opening has its own unique challenges, and sometimes I don’t have any idea what they’re going to be until you’re so far in it; you just have to quickly learn to navigate that specific challenge. The challenges are temporary. Keeping that in mind is how we get through them.