Witnessing how one man’s passion fuels others’ pleasures.
When The Flats opened in the quiet Cape Cod town of Brewster, we were excited. At first glance, it seemed to offer high quality food, and had some interesting meal and drink options. It also seemed right for us, given that Brewster is nearby and doesn’t have the same summer crowds as, say, Hyannis; we’re also willing to pay a little extra for a dining experience that has quality built into every aspect of it, yet does so with a casual feel. But in all candor, we’d forgotten about them for a little while.
As The Flats started to build a fuller social media presence, we began running across them more. And they caught my eye when they had a creative donation as part of a the annual Figawi Ball charity event we’d attended, and that I unsuccessfully bid on. (In fairness, it was a rookie mistake. I should’ve waited until five minutes before the end of the silent auction and then outspent the prior bidder.) But our interactions after that event led me to take a closer look, and I learned a lot from what Mason Pryme, executive chef and owner, shared about his experience of opening this restaurant.
One of the things I really enjoy about Cape Cod is how many small businesses exist, and the closeness of the locals, who routinely give me ideas for places to check out. What I didn’t fully appreciate is what it’s like being someone on the receiving end who’s also just starting a new business. There are always going to be the random hiccups, events out of your control, and lessons learned. But that learning curve has to be quick, given that word-of-mouth will spread quickly among locals, and tourists are counting on you to help deliver a great vacation.
So, imagine running across a thread in a local Facebook group about your restaurant. I’d be instantly nervous as I pored over the feedback. Then, imagine finding so many positive comments. And with widely public forums like Open Table, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, your performance is under a microscope for all the world to see. When a new restaurant such as The Flats launches, there are people to hire and train, systems to implement and refine, menus to test and tweak, so it’s almost impossible to go off without a hitch. It seems intimidating. But as Chef Pryme noted, “cooking is a very rewarding career because food brings people together.” That perspective coupled with about three decades of experience, created a willingness to brave such challenges required to open The Flats.
With Chef Pryme’s emphasis on the excellent quality of both the ingredients and how those are put together and then delivered by staff, it’s easy to understand the excitement when customers respond. I hadn’t considered the added scrutiny that would come when another chef eats at your restaurant, but can appreciate how great to leave that person equally happy.
More poignantly, Mason discussed his and his wife’s parents coming in. It’s another example of the difference between small businesses and Corporate America: my parents never sat in one of my meetings, appreciating the flawless PowerPoint deck I’m walking a team through (which is fortunate for all of us). But to have your parents sitting in a full room buzzing with the excitement of happy customers, and seeing the very tangible culmination of your vision and dedicated execution of it, would be an emotional moment you’d carry with you, as would your parents.
As the second summer has now wound down, The Flats appears to be settling in well. Regardless of how good the food and drink is it’s still a business, with permits to obtain and maintain, HR functions that need to be smooth, and numbers to routinely crunch. But the staff has seemed genuinely happy and clearly well prepared, which is a subtle window into the business. The Flats will now stay open year round, aside of a brief timeout in January. Locals should file that nugget away! And with the shoulder season starting, they’ll rotate in some seasonal comfort food and a prix fixe weekday menu for the last three months of the year. In addition to availability for holiday parties, they’ll also build on last year’s New Year’s Eve event, with a four-course dinner, live music, and champagne toast. There aren’t many New Year’s Eve options on the Cape’s Route 6A, as we well know, so this could be a good option for anyone in the area.
I really appreciated the firsthand sharing that allowed me to see how someone can take a passion and turn it into a success. It gave me added perspective on how much goes into a flawless dining experience. Many small businesses on Cape Cod and in a lot of tourist towns hustle hard during the busy season, and then hustle in a different way when it quiets down. To get a fuller understanding of everything Chef Pryme, Co-Chef Tim Ames, and the team put into the restaurant leaves me with a fuller appreciation of the next meal I'll get there.
New England dishes up more than just amazing food.
New England's restaurants include chefs and people pursuing dreams; and the farm-to-table movement drives home the value of our local farmers.