When traveling I tend to skip the hotel restaurant and instead seek out a local diner. Here I’ll find simple, unpretentious food, local people, and a view into what’s happening in a particular community.
There’s usually seating at a bar where you can get a single seat with a view of the cook working over a grill. The orders are placed on a clip above the cooking eggs, hash browns, bacon, or pancakes. A few pots of coffee may be warming on one side of the grill. There’s usually more seating in the diner which might consist of tables for two or four people.
People flow in and out of the all day and night. The middle of the night is just as busy as during the day. You may find students, truck drivers, professionals, or shift workers dropping in for a meal. Plus the occasional tourists. Old timers may have a regular meet up daily or weekly at a particular table in the corner.
What’s appealing about a local diner? For starters, it’s likely reliable and consistent. The food is affordable and might remind people of home. The service tends to be with a smile and the people there bring it to life.
New businesses try hard to recreate a culture like this from scratch, but it’s difficult. It takes time, focus, and adjustments as businesses figure out who they are, what they are really selling, and who will buy their products or services. Being flexible is the key. Over time, a culture will develop and take on a life of its own.
[Photo: Bob and Edith’s Diner in Arlington, Virginia]