Most restaurants are elated when they get a positive review. It can be a revelation for a restaurant flying under the radar. It can mean validation for a place that has done all the little things to get better.
It can also be a nightmare for restaurants that aren’t not quite ready for what can follow.
That’s what happened to the folks at Iron Grill, a restaurant at 13th and Broadway that slowly but surely has improved over the years. When I gave the restaurant three stars overall two weeks ago, plenty of readers were curious and inspired to act.
Crowds started showing up the Sunday the review was published and continued throughout the week. But things got really bad toward the end of the week, and it wasn’t long before the pressure – and some unforeseen circumstances – caused a good bit of chaos.
I knew nothing of this, at least at first. Then someone tweeted that I was to blame for his miserable experience. Then the emails came. Same with voice mails. The place was packed. The service was uneven. It took way too long to get the food.
This sounded like nothing I encountered during my three visits. So I contacted owner Bill Taylor (who also owns Willie’s Burgers) to find out what happened.
“The restaurant has a certain capacity,” Taylor said. “We had so many people show up that it just got out of hand. Our volume was up more than 100 percent. Things happen and it causes a lot of stress on the system. You find out where the weak links are.”
He noted that the pressure on the staff began to mount and not everyone handled it well. Two employees wound up getting fired. To make matters worse, the executive chef I had praised, Keith Swiryn, had to attend an out-of-town wedding. The timing could not have been worse. One night, Taylor said he had to spend three hours supervising in the kitchen as the cooks struggled to keep pace.
Swiryn is back at the helm, and he tells me that he and his crew are ready for the surge in business. While a positive review can bring in plenty of new faces and give Iron Grill a chance to gain plenty of new regulars, the restaurant has to perform under pressure.
“I think we have everything back under control,” Taylor said, noting that wait times for food have been trimmed to a maximum of 15 to 20 minutes.
Call The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.