Awww! Look at those two! So cute. Partners in life...and now, in business. Would you work with your sweetheart or spouse every day and night? We have some great examples of restaurant couples on the Seacoast--Evan and Denise of Black Trumpet Bistro, Josh and Michelle from STREET, Mark and Clark from MCPerkins Cove and MCSpiedo...Well, when Ben and Jennifer wanted advice on how to work together as a couple, they went to a couple who've been working together in the restaurant biz for a long, long time--Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh. The former owners of Hugo's and then in 2005 Duckfat in Portland, Rob and Nancy were married after Hugo's opened, so they certainly knew that it was all working by then. Ben worked at Hugo's for a time so he and Jennifer asked Rob and Nancy what to expect and how they can best work together.
"When Rob asked me about the business he said, 'So, you're going into business with someone you're in a relationship with...it's awesome.'"
Rob told Ben that it's good to have two people moving in the same direction,with a common goal. He said it strengthens the business and gives perspective. You can grow together he told them and it is like being married. It can have its challenges.
Like Ben and Jennifer, Evan and Denise, Michelle and Josh, the women are in charge of the front of the house, the men the chefs (there's a topic right there). An ambitious chef and and ambitious business person, noted Rob, can be quite the combination. It's important, he said, to keep the communication open, to always talk, and be patient. Be kind to each other, he advised. There will be things that come up when opening a business and they don't always come at idea times, he said.
"He was very happy to hear I was opening a restaurant with Jen," Ben said. "He said it's cool to see couples opening businesses together because it's enriching. Just make sure there's time for other things."
What do you think? Have you or are you in business with your spouse or sweetheart? What advice would you give?
Rachel Forrest is the food writer and restaurant critic for The Portsmouth Herald, Seacoast Online and many other publications. She is the co-author of Maine Classics with James Beard Award winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier.