Mark Handman tells everyone to try the same experiment the next time they dine out.
Instead of letting the server clear empty plates with usual alacrity, hang onto them instead. Politely shoo the server away, and see what happens next.
“What you’ll probably find is that you’ll sit there longer, have a better time, and your attention will turn from being solely focused on the food, to your dining companions,” says Handman, co-owner of ridiculously successful Wild Wheat Bakery & Café in Puget Sound, Washington.
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Handman explains the European ideals that he and his wife Marja bring to their 18-year-old eatery that has them knocking it out of the park all these years.
Q: You and your wife have a successful history baking in Seattle.
We got our start after moving from Holland in 1988. We started out by buying a bakery called the Greenwood Bakery, and then we built the Ballard Baking company. We sold them both, took a few years off, had our twins, and then we bought the building (on 1st Ave. in Kent, Wash.) we’re in today with Wild Wheat Bakery & Café. And we’ve been here for 18 ½ years.
Q: How did you chose your building?
After we sold our businesses in Seattle, we had a non-compete clause that governed the distance that we could be from our old businesses. When we started looking for a new space again, I saw an old Greek restaurant in Puget Sound, which wasn’t for me. But the building across the street was. It’s in a busy area and very convenient to get to. Our customers say our sidewalk dining is like a European Café. It’s very laid back, very casual, and the food is delicious.
Q: Your one-two punch is the food & pace. Please tell me about that.
We’re an artisan restaurant so we make everything fresh, daily. We roast our own coffee, make our own corned beef pastrami, and we make every baked product we sell. We’ve won many awards for offering the best breakfast in the Puget Sound. Our great food is a big part of our success.
But the other part of our success is our nice, relaxed atmosphere. Here, when you sit at a table, you won’t be rushed out. We won’t take your plates unless you ask us. This way, people can enjoy their meal, and their company.
This is the way it’s done in Holland. And I always tell people that the next time they dine out they should try a little experiment.
Q: Have there been any challenges staying true to your concept?
No. We haven’t had any challenges with our concept. The hardest thing for us is our employees. We have a restaurant and a wholesale bakery to staff. In Seattle, there’s full employment, so it’s a challenge to attract staff. And many people who come to work in a bakery do not have formal training as bakers. My solution has been to just be as nice as possible to our staff.
Q: What advice for someone who wants to open their own bakery?
Go work in the industry first and learn how to do it. — Wild Wheat Bakery & Café uses Boxerbrand menu covers in their table presentation. Thank you!