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The Bear Necessities

Clock with a sign underneath that says every second counts.

Anyone who knows me knows I love weaving pop culture references into my work. A few years ago, I wrote a blog on the Best Idea Wins philosophy and how a classic moment from an episode of Seinfeld sums up this mindset better than anything I could ever write.

One of my latest obsessions is The Bear, a show about a young chef who returns home to Chicago to run his family’s sandwich shop after his brother’s death. It’s a funny and heartwarming show, but it is also brutally honest about the challenges of running a restaurant and the personal struggles of its characters. It is a show that will make you laugh, cry, and think.

This is the part of the blog where I mention spoiler alerts. If you haven’t watched The Bear, but you have it in your queue, you can stop here. If you’ve seen it (or don’t plan on watching it), please proceed!

In season two, episode seven, titled ‘Forks,’ Richie is sent by his cousin (not by blood), Carmy, to stage at a Michelin-star restaurant in New York City for a week. He’s initially resentful, believing Carmy’s trying to get rid of him or push him enough to leave the new restaurant they’re about to open. 

Jeremy Allen White Cooking GIF by The Bear - Find & Share on GIPHY

Richie’s supervisor, Garrett, is a no-nonsense front-of-the-house employee who expects Richie to work hard and learn quickly. Initially, Richie struggles to adapt to the demanding workload, but he eventually comes around.

The first task Garrett asks Richie to do is polish forks. At first, Richie does it half-heartedly, to say the least. At one point, he compared it to a prison sentence. He doesn’t see the point in taking the time to make sure they are perfectly clean and shiny. However, Garrett takes the time to explain to Richie that the little things matter. “It’s the Super Bowl every day,” and he demands that Richie respect the job, the staff, the customers, and himself.

Jeremy Allen White Cooking GIF by The Bear - Find & Share on GIPHY

Later in the episode, a table of customers asks for a Chicago-style pizza. Richie is surprised, as the restaurant is known for its fine dining cuisine. However, Garrett tells Richie to go get a deep-dish pizza from Pequod’s, a famous Chicago pizza restaurant.

Richie delivers the pizza to the table, and the customers are delighted. Richie is surprised by the reaction, but he also starts to see the value of going the extra mile for customers.

Another great scene in this episode comes when the restaurant learns that two teachers, who had been saving up for years, are coming that evening to dine at the Michelin-star restaurant. Garrett knew that this was a special occasion for them, and he wanted to make sure that they had a great experience. Before the teachers arrive, the restaurant tells the staff not to send them a bill.

The research that Garrett did on the teachers shows that it’s important to understand your customers. What are their needs and wants? What are their interests? The more you know about your customers, the better you can serve them.

By the end of the episode, Richie realizes that the little things can make a big difference in how the customer feels. When customers see a clean and shiny fork, they feel they are being taken care of. When the customer receives an unexpected Chicago-style pizza, they know they’re being heard. They feel like the restaurant is paying attention to them and that they matter.

Feeling Good Cooking GIF by The Bear - Find & Share on GIPHY

Caring about the little things can correlate to any customer-facing business. In today’s competitive K-12 education environment, it can put you over the hump in attracting a new family that’s recently moved to the area or a recent college graduate looking for their first teaching role. Or, it can be your undoing if your reputation in the community is not caring about the little things, aka, dirty forks. 

If a current or prospective family can’t count on you to do the little things, why would you expect them to count on you for the big things? To quote Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden: “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Most of us will fall short in striving to reach the same level as a Michelin-star restaurant. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. 

Jeremy Allen White Cooking GIF by The Bear - Find & Share on GIPHY
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