This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Examples of successful places where the man and his efforts amount to nothing, but the location is everything, are plentiful enough. Here is a sample of a curious kind of business dependent only upon the time and place, mentioned by a foreign correspondent:
" One of the minor industries in the Parisian catering trade is that of the vendors of milk in the early hours of the morning, who are to be found under the portes-cochere of a house in almost every street, and who supply the public with cafe-au-lait, chocolaie, hot milk, crescents and rolls, besides cold milk. The hot drinks can be consumed on the premises, a bench or two and a table being at the customer's disposition. In some parts of the town these enterprising ladies do a rattling business in spite of the short hours allotted to them, and the comparatively high rents they have to pay. In the house where I live, the laiticre pays ten pounds, about $48.50, per annum for the use of the doorway and entrance for two hours every morning, from 5.30 to 7.30, and yet I believe she does a famous business. In other parts of the town the rent is still higher, rising to twenty pounds per annum in very crowded thoroughfares. The prices are id. a cup of hot milk, and 1 1/2d. for a large bowl of hot coffee and milk, or chocolate".
But that is very much like our southern "French market" stands, the rents in the market stalls being high enough for the few morning hours they are occupied.
On the other hand here is a present instance of a man changing utter disaster into remarkable success in spite of the place. When prohibition struck Atlanta with the usual inevitable effect of breaking up many a prosperous man's business, it extinguished for a moment the proprietor of one of the best, most respectable and most profitable bars on the main street of the city, and, likewise, his popular head barkeeper, whose occupation certainly was gone completely. The building, like scores of others, seemed to be of no further use, was dismantled of its bar fixtures and stood deserted. But an idea struck the proprietor to open a merchants' lunch and restaurant in the place, and his popular barkeeper should be the steward. Neither of them had had restaurant experience, but the owner had capital and business capacity, the amateur steward had a pleasing face and a real interest in making everybody feel well, and their success has been amazing. The city is spoken of far and wide as one that will not support a good restaurant; the business has been tried time and again, before and since, and everybody fails except these whilom liquor sellers.
Their place has progressed from stove to small range; from that to large range; from that to hot-water tanks and steam-cooking and a hot carving table; from that to renting a run-down sort of boarding house up stairs and changing the whole thing into a fine " European Hotel." When the prohibition legislation was repealed this place did not go back to the old bar business as others did with a rush, but keeps on in the new line of success. Natural adaptation to the business is the secret of success in this case, both men know what is good themselves, and buy only what is good, and if the jolly ex-barkeeper, now steward, is the cheerful giver, the owner is the careful manager, and they are both in love with what they are doing. It would be space wasted to print their bill of fare - their show window is their best card, nor would it profit to repeat the stories told of the large amount of money made, such are always exaggerated, sufficient it is to know that their success is of the substantial kind that satisfies them.