Quinn Taylor, a 2001 Emmy Award-winning producer of ABC’s miniseries, “Anne Frank: The Whole Story” and the current owner of a busy restaurant on Cape Cod says that making movies and TV shows is not unlike running a restaurant. “In both cases, we’re trying to provide entertainment and enjoyment,” says Quinn. “With food and TV, your job is to make people lean in and want more.”
From entertainment to hospitality: A natural transition
After a stellar 27-year career in television in Los Angeles, Quinn set sights on his favorite breakfast restaurant, Cafe Heaven in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In early 2019, the restaurant came up for sale, and Quinn’s greatest fear was that someone would buy it and irrevocably change it.
“Cafe Heaven has been a part of my marrow since I first started coming to Provincetown in 2003,” he says. “On every trip to the Cape, I’d have my last meal in town at Cafe Heaven: the corned beef hash and blueberry pancakes. I’d tell myself that if the plane back to LA crashed, I’d die having my favorite things in my belly.”
Quinn traces his love for amazing food and the hospitality industry to his first-ever job as a dishwasher in a lakeside resort town in his home state of Arkansas. “They hired me to be a busboy, and I told them I would wash dishes,” he says. “I’ve always preferred to work behind the scenes.”
The scene: Watching a plate come out of the kitchen
Work behind the scenes he did, producing television movies and events for tens of millions of Americans for almost three decades. “People think I’ve changed my entire life from one career to another,” he says. “But I really haven’t. I love watching it all come together; it’s like watching a show or movie come together. Watching a plate come out of the kitchen is a scene. The front of the house is my cast and the kitchen are the crew. And it’s always about the customer experience.”
Photo from Unsplash+
The key gap between movies and restaurants: Customer reviews
When asked how his two careers are most different, Quinn says it’s the nearly instantaneous reviews in the restaurant business. “We’d work on a show or movie for years,” he says. “Then it comes out, and the reviews come in. I’d read every one. In restaurants, sometimes people are writing them on their phones will they’re still eating! So I don’t read them anymore.”
Learning to let go: The challenges of running a restaurant
As a television executive in charge of a movie, Quinn exerted a great deal of control over his projects. In his new career, he’s had to learn to let go of that a little.
“When owning a restaurant, you realize there are so many things over which you have no control,” he says.
“You have neighbors, the health department, the town sewer system—all these things come at you that have nothing to do with the food, the ambience, or the staff. I’ve learned that what you consider to be the things that make up a restaurant—the food, the wine, the atmosphere, and artwork—are a scintilla of what it actually means to run a restaurant.”
Stewardship versus ownership: Quinn’s vision for Cafe Heaven
Now in its 37th year, Cafe Heaven has changed hands only a few times. Quinn takes his job as the restaurant’s fifth owner seriously. “I don’t call myself an owner, though” he says. “I’m the current steward of Cafe Heaven. I hope that long after I’m gone, somebody else will keep it going. I hope it’s always around.”
The final word: Advice for aspiring restaurateurs
What advice would Quinn offer someone considering going into the restaurant business as a second or third career?
“You have to love entertaining and you have to love people,” he says. “You get to create an environment and an experience for people, whether it’s 8:00 in the morning or 9:00 at night. It’s not easy. This is the hardest work. But I love it.”