What do the final few days before a restaurant opening look like? Sometimes, it may feel like controlled chaos. There are dishes to tweak, computer systems to adjust, opinions to solicit, and menus to print. Opening a restaurant on a macro level seems hard enough—just think about the micro details that have to be attended to before a space physically opens for business.
Just ask Mark Smith, partner in the Honest Man Group and co-owner of Amagansett’s Coche Comedor, the buzzed about Mexican soon-to-be-hotspot that opens today: Wednesday, May 15. After an exhaustive, two-year renovation, Coche is finally rolling toward a perfectly timed opening, right on pace with the Hamptons summer season. This past week, the restaurant opened its doors for “friends and family,” which is an industry term describing a soft opening intended to help the owners and staff see strengths and weaknesses. “The restaurateur is inviting people that are family, and people that we respect in terms of their food knowledge base, that will tell us and give us honest feedback,” Mr. Smith said. “That’s exactly the reason you have it.”
With a few nights of soft service under his belt, Mr. Smith was happy to discuss what he learned through the trial runs, as well as what he’s working on in the final hours prior to opening. “Certain items look better on other plates,” he said. “Certain items slid around too much, so we’ll be changing some. Some fine points of service. It’s the first time people are sitting at tables. It’s an opportunity for people to get comfortable. It’s really a way for the restaurant to go through the motions of what a regular night would be, whether it’s food issues, timing, music issues—anything to do with the running of the restaurant.”
An example of a concrete lesson learned during the soft open? Water glasses, Mr. Smith said. Originally, Coche Comedor’s tables were set without water glasses. But with a high number of people requesting water at dinner, the restaurant is changing their table setting to include water glasses. “It might seem insignificant,” Mr. Smith said of the adjustment, but this particular attention to detail is what makes great restaurants great.
The final 48 hours will focus on nuts and bolts. The staff will review the comment cards left on tables during “friends and family,” which are essentially surveys allowing guests to articulate their first impressions. Some of the feedback will help the restaurant prepare for its first official night of service, on May 15. The rest of the pre-opening work can feel microscopic. Items need to be input with prices in the point-of-sale system, so that servers can accurately send orders to the kitchen and print checks. Pricing must be finalized. Service stations must be stocked and servers must be trained to par so that they don’t run out of materials during service. There are, too, aesthetic details, like paint touch-ups.
As for Coche Comedor, Mr. Smith exudes confidence. “Generally, the food was really well received,” he said. “People loved the drinks. The frozen margaritas were killer. For every batch, we juice two cases of lime, and we use a really good tequila. The nice thing about the frozen margaritas is that you can add a flavor to it. We have prickly pear, sour cherry, black currant.” The gleaming bar, with its floor-to-ceiling glass sliders, is sure to be a centerpiece at Coche Comedor.
As the opening looms, expect Mark Smith to continue chasing perfection. “Overall, the restaurant flows really nice,” he said. And now, the general public will have their chance to weigh in, too.
For a behind-the-scenes look at Coche Comedor’s #oneweekout from opening, please follow Edible East End on Instagram.