Hoooooooo man, I could write a book about the ups and downs of the past few months, but I won't.
As of yesterday, we know for sure that we have a cheque in the mail, the final one of the round of government funding, and honestly, its barely going to put a dent in the next few months bills, but hey, its better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!
We have six months left on our lease.
Its nuts to think about the future without the level of anxiety we have all faced these past six months.
At some point the anxiety grew into full blown depression and I had a hard time being able to face each day without crying or curling up under my weighted blanket in my darkened bedroom, unwilling to face the world, let alone parent or support a team.
I am all good now, we all are. Morale was low, so low because there seemed no end in sight. And honestly, now that dining access has been "upped" to 4 people a table, its not like we have seen a sudden uptick in the number of diners, if anything, numbers seem to be staying painfully the same. Its weird, why?
None of this makes sense.
People are just scared to eat out, or have gotten into the habit of cooking at home, or they are worried about spending money, or they are worried about getting Covid19 even though you have more of a chance of being hit by a car then catching it...I don't know.
What I do know is that we are gonna make the most of the next six months, to do fearlessly what we have not been able to do prior to this point in our operation. We can slowly cut back on ordering processed items that people genuinely do love to order, and bring in more whole foods plant based items that we were worried about doing purely because we didn't have time for what was pretty labor intensive and we feared no one would eat it if they had no idea what it was, lol. Yeah, we are gonna roll our sleeves up and make it so.
Reality is, we may be short-staffed, but we also have time on our hands. Its simply not as busy as it used to be and I don't see that changing drastically any time soon. I see that many restaurants in our neighborhood are closing and bizarre as it may seem, many more are opening!
I shake my head in disbelief, really, I am not sure what they are thinking, and I have to hand it to them that they have the pig-headed optimism, commendable optimism, that has been steadfastly beaten out of me these last 18 months.
I am done, stick a fork in me, I am so legit when I say, we are done. We did it, we gave it everything we could, we built a good brand, we built a brand without spending a dime on marketing, we cooked from the heart, we served with dignity, and we formed some lasting bonds with people in the plant-based community, I think overall, we did what we set out to do. We wanted to bring a fusion plant-based menu to diners, we wanted to "confuse" people who eat meat, to show them what is possible and how delicious food can be without dead flesh on their plates. We wanted to make people feel emotional about food again, like memories of childhood, and I think we have been able to succeed.
I have nothing to prove, much like when I said, "Dammit, gimme the epidural already!" when I had my third son, yeah, I had nothing to prove by then! I always say, the only person I need to prove anything to is myself. I hope to always be learning, improving, constantly evolving and becoming a better version of myself.
If I have learned anything from the last 2.5 years, well, almost 3 years, if you count the seed of a dream all the way to where we stand now, with a fully operating restaurant that has been able to wrestle through the tough blows of political protests and pandemic, determination matters. Most importantly, Self-Determination matters! We did things on our own terms, the way we wanted to, committed to consistency and integrity, and under any other less trying times, we would have seen our little kitchen flourish along with our bank accounts, its just unfortunate Force Majeure shit that has made us think conservatively about the future of the house that plants built.
We are a team, most of the team has been with us from the day they joined, some of them from ground zero. My feelings about the end of the lease are mixed, yet for the most part, they are phenomenally positive and upbeat. The future is wide open. Not merely for me, or for my team, but for my family as well.
I have spent the greater part of the last three years committed to Confusion, committed to my team, committed to creating healthy, hearty, worthy-of-pride, plant-based dishes that would make good memories and fill hungry bellies. I have done all this at the cost of quality time with my children who were just 4 and 5 when I started and are now midway through primary school! I mean, one was in kindergarten when I started and he's in form three now! Wth! Where did the time go?
I can't waste any more precious time looking back, the future awaits. The future awaits the whole Confusion Familia, actually.
Clara & Jaime are moving to Scotland, they used to work with us for about a year or so. Even though they were both part-time, we were so blessed to have shared a journey with them and are beyond proud that they are heading off on a 2 year working holiday adventure to the rainy highlands, far away from the uncertainty that is Hong Kong right now.
Shan will hopefully move to Holland to start a new life with her beau, again, a move I think is a good one and well worth committing to.
Swati & Anh will likely enjoy being able to spend more time with their families, Confusion has been a wonderful place for them to contribute wholly of their experience and culinary creativity, on their own terms and with the hours they were happy to work, not many places offer this opportunity and we have been so fortunate to have found both of them and to have shared (and to continue to share) this life-enriching journey with them both.
Jakob, my son, he will head into his final year of University by the time we cease to be more than just a memory. To think he had just graduated high school when we first started! Its nuts!
Peter wants to get trained in Acupuncture! That is something we all think is the right path for him, he is often seen swilling awful TCM teas for one thing or the other, the guy loves that stuff, or maybe he loves to hate it, but hey, the shoe doth fit!
Maggie is still deciding what she will do with her future, and no matter what she chooses to do, we will support her wholly, what I hope more than anything is that she goes back to University and makes that happen for her, that or to get the hell out of Hong Kong, but hey, she's a grown woman with a strong head on her shoulders, she's got this! :)
Marianne got married and just had a baby, and so in so many ways, everyone is settled, everyone is sorted, and I no longer have this heavy weight on my shoulders as I worry about the future of my "kids" and my fellow "mums".
People keep asking me, "Why?" when I say, hey, we get to the end of the lease and we call it a day. It doesn't have to be forever, it could be for a few years, or it could be longer, but right now is not a great time for F&B in Hong Kong, the economy is hurting, once government funding stops, many small businesses will fold. I am not being negative, I am being realistic.
I don't have a crystal ball, I don't think I can see the future, all I can see is the numbers, the trends, the painful graphs of what the last year has been like in comparison to the year before and the numbers don't lie, especially the numbers on the bank balance.
To expand, you need money. To continue operation, you need to have money. To keep paying salaries and rent and buying provisions, you need money. Now you could have money, a pretty decent amount of money, honestly, but the longer you run at a loss, you don't even have to be a Nobel Prize Winning Mathematician, you will run out of money.
Its different if you are landed gentry, like, your parents happen to be bankrolling things, or if you are part of a big group that owns 20 restaurants, or if you happen to have started this after you won your billions playing the lottery, but nah, that ain't me. It hurts my heart enough to consider my business partner and the capital invested and to see business where it is and the numbers where they are. Like, dammit, why indeed!
I am realistic about the future. I see the numbers. Things may pick up in the next 6 months. Maybe they would even pick up enough that we see our numbers go back to the old days, but I ain't holding my breathe while that happens.
What matters is that we do the right thing by everyone, we avoid debt, we ensure we are on the right track, supporting our team and our community so that by the end of March 2021 (yep, mark that in your calendar) we are ending on a high note.
Its not really bittersweet, its a chance for each of us to be grateful, not just for the experience, but for each other, the time we have had together, the growth we have experienced, the people we have fed, the education we have had from the school of hard knocks, its all good.
I will do what I can to unplug from The Matrix once we get out, maybe I will maintain a blog, maybe I will make documentary videos of travel and food, there are many options for what is possible and I am excited about how much freedom awaits on the other side.
The key to all of this is that we make the most of the remaining time, six solid months of plant-based creativity and hard earned accolades, truly enjoy our time together, work hard at making money when we can, have fun doing it, and even if things never go back to where they were before, we will still make sure we enjoy doing everything we can to bring some life back to the Hong Kong F&B scene through our plant-based food.
Its been a good experience, all of it, Never say never aside, I think we've had a good run! :)
So until April 2021, we will continue to operate, continue to share the joy, continue to bring it, and know that we will be counting on your support to make the next 6 months the best ones yet!
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.