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On Sunday night, restaurateurs Jeff and Barbara Black were riding a high. Their BlackSalt Fish Market and Restaurant, the Palisades operation that delivers the freshest fruits of the sea, won the 2006 RAMMY award for best local new restaurant. What’s more, the couple was looking forward to reopening their Black’s Bar and Kitchen on Wednesday after a massive $2.6 million overhaul to the Bethesda location.
By Tuesday, however, the Blacks were riding something else: They, like many other restaurateurs, were riding out the aftermath of the late-June storms. The three-day deluge caused some water damage not only at BlackSalt, but also at the still-unopened Black’s, threatening to push back its reopening date. At the Bethesda restaurant, rain crept under the front door and ruined some carpet; it also leaked through a small hole in the roof and caused ceiling damage in the main dining room.
The good news for the Blacks was that since the contractor had not been released, it was “still on his dime to fix it,” Jeff Black said. “The contractor said, he goes, ‘You know, it stinks that it’s happening, but you know, you’re not open and we’re finding all these problems now…and we’ll fix all of this.’”
The ceiling proved relatively easy to fix; another surprise problem did not. Last week, as the Black Restaurant Group (BRG) was preparing to download some software for a new DSL line, the managers disabled the firewall to the computers at Black’s Bar and Kitchen. By Friday, June 23, Jon Linck, director of operations for BRG, realized he had a problem when Black’s computers wouldn’t boot up. A virus had infected the restaurant’s network, preventing the operating system from loading.
The crash essentially crippled Black’s before it had even opened, shutting down its “point of sale” (POS) system that tracks orders and prints tickets for the kitchen and bar staff to fill. “I’m older,” Jeff Black says. “I’ve been in the business a long time. I started in the hand-written ticket days, and for me, it’s not difficult. But for anybody that’s never had to do it on a regular basis, it’s as if you’re asking them to climb Mt. Everest.”
BRG called in a technician who cleaned the two computers and six wait-staff terminals, and by Monday, the problem…still existed. According to Linck, the virus was self-replicating; it kept “recreating itself over and over again” even after the file cleaning. So BRG had to reformat the entire hard drives at Black’s. Then they had to reload all the POS software as well as their electronic menus, which, fortunately for Black’s, Linck had backed up. By late Tuesday afternoon, the system had been restored.
Black’s was able to open as scheduled on Wednesday with only one obvious problem: the staff didn’t have time to get fully trained on the POS system. But, as Linck says, “That’s what managers are for.”