Monday, March 31, 2014

Thank You, Pa and Athena for Helping Us Follow Our Dreams

I never imagined that at 23 years old I would be the owner of a restaurant and I know I can speak for Gwith when I say that he never expected to own a restaurant by 25 either. The trials and tribulations we've already been through to get to this point is amazing. We've learned a lot of lessons over the years about respect, management, and obstacles.

There's a lot of people who are incredibly excited for us, which means the world to us. We're incredibly busy too and we love every moment of it. There are only two frustrating things about being young and starting a business: the multiple comments about "it's a lot of hard work, are you sure you can do that?" and the implied comments about where the money is coming from. It's disappointing to hear people doubt that two young people are capable of starting and running a business.

It's true. We've been given an amazing opportunity at a young age that not everyone gets. However, this opportunity didn't come without pain and heartache. Two very supportive and loving people in our lives passed away during the same week last year. My grandfather and Gwith's mother. My grandfather, Pa, was always supportive of becoming your own employer and starting a business. He even opened his own bakery back in the day. When we talked to him about one day starting our own business, he would smile at us. He had full confidence that Gwith and I would be successful. Before Gwith's mother, Athena, passed away, the last thing she told Gwith was: "Be proud of yourself. Don't worry about me being proud of you, just be proud of yourself." We both can say with absolutely certainty that both of them are watching over us and smiling knowing that they're the reason we can follow our dreams.

Pa and I
 Pa taught me about life. He had countless stories and countless adventures to tell. From his time in the war, his time in the circus, his time as a baker, his time as lawyer, and the list goes on. He believed in working hard, following your heart, and smiled at any past misfortunes because they led him towards other adventures. He was one of the most compassionate people I've ever known and he had a confidence in his two children and each of his granddaughters that was indescribable. Shortly before he passed away, he was looking through an album my sister Raishel had made for him about his life. After looking through the album, he looked up with an incredible grin on his face and said, "I really did have a wonderful life." He taught me to have my own adventures, to work hard, and follow my dreams.

Gwith and his Mum, Athena
Athena always believed in Gwith. She never had many means but she always wanted to buy Gwith a quality chef's knife. I didn't know her very long but each time she talked to him, she lit up with pride. He told her last February that he and I were planning to open our own restaurant. Although she was already very ill, we could see in her eyes how proud she was. Her son had become the man she always knew he could be. She believed in standing up for who you are, being strong, and pursuing your goals. She never got the chance to buy Gwith his chef's knife but she gave him an opportunity so much greater than that in the end.

In life, age is only a number that changes every year; a number that marks different experiences and new adventures. There's no such thing as work that's too hard. If it's something you love and you're passionate about, you can achieve anything. The hours in the coming months may be long and they may be tedious, the stresses at times will undoubtedly make us crazy every once in a while, but at the end of the day, we'll be happy. When you're doing what you love and you're doing it for all of the right reasons, there's no reason you shouldn't be. Stress and sadness are both a part of life. They help us empathize with others and they eventually build our strength and our confidence. The key is, to understand which stressful experiences you can grow from and which stresses to back away from. Throughout our struggles, between employers, teachers, etc., we've both learned that the one stress we don't want is lack of respect. Respect is very important to us and unfortunately, many work places lack this very important aspect. Instead of being in a poorly run management scenario where the employees are taught to disrespect each other and push each other down, we want to be at the top of our business so we can teach each of our employees to respect each other and help each other rise.

This business is not just for us to pursue our dreams. With this opportunity, we want to help other people pursue their dreams as well. We want to change other peoples lives and we want to help them succeed. We want our future employees to know that we believe in them and to teach them to believe in themselves. Someday down the line, we hope to help people beyond our business and begin a fund and community for those who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity like this.

Pa and Athena gave us the opportunity to follow our dreams at the ages of 23 and 25. There is no greater gift in the world and we can't wait to be able to use that gift to help others follow their dreams as well.

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30990 Russell Ranch Rd Unit C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
© 2014 Aroha Restaurant.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Many Tales of Our Customer Service Experiences (as the Customers)

I woke up this morning to a fantastic reminder to talk about our experiences with customer service and why one of our top goals is to provide the ultimate dining experience for our guests.

That reminder was an email from The Bay of Palms Resort along the Gold Coast in Australia. In 2010, Gwith and I went there to celebrate our one year dating anniversary. The pictures looked great online and we were very excited for a week at the beach. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to expectations. Far from it. Upon arriving at 5:15 pm from the airport, we were informed that our access to food would be nearly impossible in about 15 minutes and the person at the front desk could not offer any suggestions on where to go. We were also informed that we'd get the first roll of toilet paper for free and have to pay after that. On our way to the room, we walked beside the pool which was beautiful in the pictures online! In person, not so much. There wasn't any water in the pool and the lounge chairs didn't exist. When we arrived at the room, we took a quick look around. The room was never updated and the bed felt like a ton of bricks. Even the tile floor was more comfortable (we know because we lied down on it to rest our backs the next morning)! In the morning, we had to use a coin computer in the lobby to arrange for another hotel. Of course, with 5 minutes left to book, we ran out of coins. There wasn't a single person at the front desk to exchange change. In the end, we made it out of there. Ironically, this hotel sends me an email twice a year reminding me to come back. I suppose I haven't complained because I enjoy the twice a year giggle and rolling of my eyes.

While this experience was at a hotel and not a restaurant (I have plenty of those stories coming up), it taught us both a lot about how poorly a place can be managed. During that time the front desk proved to lack knowledge, be non-existent at times, and the management put their money before their customers (the toilet paper is a clear sign). In our experience, successful businesses do not run when you sacrifice customer service by cutting costs. Just look at all of the shows like Hotel Impossible and Restaurant Impossible. The reasons those places are failing is because the owners just don't care. If The Bay of Palms Resort owners had provided toilet paper, had a comfortable bed, a filled pool, and helpful tips on where to eat, we'd probably return there some time. Instead, their yearly emails are a joke for us to sit around the dinner table and laugh about.

On the discussion of cutting costs, sadly, we had an experience in Colorado where our favorite sushi restaurant (we were weekly regulars there for a couple of years) decided during the recession to cut down on the size of sushi pieces to thin little non-existent strips, raised the prices, and changed fish companies to a very fishy tasting supplier. As Gwith knows, it's not about the sizes you serve, it's about the amount you order. If you order more food from suppliers than you serve, that's when you're going to lose money. Also, if you need to raise the prices, raise them slowly and don't cut down on the portion sizes at the same time! Besides the changes in food, the once friendly staff began complaining about the owner who was letting his frustrations out on all of them. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of these unpleasant experiences, we switched sushi restaurants. I doubt there's a single business that wants their most loyal customers to switch restaurants and never return. On another note, the reason we found that first sushi restaurant was because the one near our house refused to offer gluten-free soy sauce; just another example of the lack of customer service.

Besides the obvious lessons learned from these experiences, as a person with life threatening allergies, I've also had my fill of allergic reactions due to incompetent restaurant staffs. The only place that I ever put up with was Pappadeaux in Colorado.

Gwith and I at Pappadeaux during his first visit to the USA, (April 2010)
Our favorite restaurant, Pappadeaux, had a horrible habit of putting pepper on my steak. A few years ago, eating pepper on my food would result in my throat starting to close up until I took a Benadryl. I can say with absolute certainty that this was always the kitchens fault. Why? Because we had two favorite waiters who waited on us for years and knew my allergies. One time the manager informed us that my meal was done without seasoning, but a kitchen staff member saw it, thought someone forgot, and just poured it on. Clearly the communication in the kitchen was the problem. You may be wondering why, after having multiple reactions at this restaurant, we kept coming back. Two words: Customer service. While the kitchen may have been messing up plenty, the management knew how to handle the situation. The manager would come out every time, apologizing. Then, they would not only comp my dish, they would bring me a free appetizer/salad and dessert. In the end, they even had someone come to the restaurant to train their staff on allergies.

Other restaurants we've been to haven't handled the situation nearly as well. We've had everything from them denying they did anything wrong, not comping the dish, or just shrugging it off as if it was a fluke. In my opinion, a restaurant staff is either competent in allergy control or they're not. As Gwith would agree, it's all about communication.

At The Counter in Colorado, the manager was incredible. My burgers were always cooked correctly, the staff was happy and friendly (the staff even had monthly bowling nights), the restaurant was booming with customers. Even in the off hours, it was filled. Fast forward to a year later, the manager wanted a raise and the franchise owner didn't give it to him. The manager left and the new person in charge had no idea what they were doing. The waitresses would roll their eyes at our orders, the burgers came out bloody and rare or burned to a crisp, and within a year, the restaurant was closed.

Another poor management experience we've had was at Red Robin in California. Now, this was probably one of the most ridiculous stories we've ever had. Gwith (who doesn't have any allergies) ordered the Caramel Milkshake with Red Hawaiian Sea Salt. That sounds simple enough, right? When they brought out the shake, Gwith looked at it, didn't see a caramel color, but tasted it nonetheless. Of course, after he tasted it, he knew it was just plain vanilla. He let the waitress know who argued with him that there was caramel in it, he just clearly couldn't taste it. Now, this is where it gets really bad. The waitress took the milkshake to replace it and then came back to the table to inform Gwith that they couldn't add the whip cream and sea salt on top because they ran out of whip cream. Then, Gwith saw the bartender pouring whip cream on another milkshake at the bar. Gwith asked for the whip cream and sea salt that was part of the drink, and with an annoyed roll of her eyes, the waitress took the drink and returned announcing they had found the whip cream. Of course, she still couldn't get this drink right, as it returned without sea salt. When Gwith asked about the sea salt, she responded: "Oh? You want that too?" By the shock in her voice, you would think this drink wasn't on the menu and he created it himself. Gwith tasted the drink and it still didn't taste like caramel. Gwith asked to speak to the manager. Normally, the manager should come over and clear up the situation right away. Instead, the manager came over and I kid you not, argued with him for 10 minutes about this milkshake and why he clearly just couldn't taste the flavors. They eventually brought out more caramel for Gwith to mix in himself and snarked, "It's always had caramel but I guess you just need a lot of caramel to actual taste it." As a chef, Gwith wasn't pleased that his ability to taste flavors was being questioned. We have never returned to that Red Robin location since that experience.

Our last night in Colorado at the restaurant Ocean Prime (November 2011)
 On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there's the restaurant Ocean Prime in Downtown Denver. This restaurant flourished in customer service when we lived out there (and hopefully still does!). Not only do I hold this restaurant near and dear to my heart because Gwith proposed to me the night we dined there, the managers and owners also went above and beyond. Besides giving us a lovely letter congratulating us on our engagement the following visit, they also did something completely unexpected before we moved to California. Our last night in Colorado, we went with my mom to dine there. When we sat down, the manager came over to us and we told him we were moving. In response, he took away our menus and proceeded to give us each a 6 course surprise meal (avoiding all of my allergies, I might add!). What happened next, was the most shocking of all. They paid for the entire meal. In my eyes, normally when an owner or manager hears that their customers are moving and may not be returning for years, the last thing they would think of is to give a free meal. But they did, and that memory will stick with us for a lifetime.

While I could go on with countless stories, I hope I've given everyone an insight into why we feel so strongly about opening a restaurant that provides customers with a relaxing, allergy safe, and friendly experience. Of course no one is perfect and I can't say there will never be one error, but in the end, it's how we handle that mistake that counts. The most important lesson is that as long as you treat and train your staff well and respect your customers, there is no reason they shouldn't return. Respecting customers and employees should be the number one priority in any business and if an owner or manager can't understand that, they shouldn't be in business.

Reserve Now

30990 Russell Ranch Rd Unit C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
© 2014 Aroha Restaurant.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The First Day of Construction at Aroha

Yesterday was the first day at our restaurant, opening the doors and letting the construction process begin.

The day before, Gwith had a locksmith come to the location who quickly saw the "For Lease" sign and asked him, "Are you sure this is your spot? There's still a for lease sign in the window." Gwith looked at the sign, turned to him and said, "Is it? Not anymore!" and ripped it from the window. I'm a little jealous I wasn't there for that moment but unfortunately I have had the flu all week and wasn't able to go.

I was on my way to recovery yesterday and decided to go the space with Gwith to meet Ashour and take some photos. I've never seen something built from the ground up before so I'm excited to watch this entire process unfold. Once we were there, we walked through with Ashour and he drew up the chalk lines for each of the walls. Gwith and I both had some fun posing in the "rooms". We also picked up the "For Lease" sign and tore it in half together.

After our meeting, we got the chance to meet the CEO and Vice President of The Counter, as they were stopping by next door. Gwith and I are firm believers in making positive relationships with the local businesses. Besides, we're really not competing for their customers (our restaurant will not be offering burgers and french fries). Not to mention that ever since we got this property, we seem to be eating at their restaurant, A LOT. What can I say though, I've always been a fan of The Counter! My mom and I used to dine there regularly in Colorado and we even filmed our TV show pilot, "Little Blossom" at the Park Meadows location (when it still existed). I have to admit: it's incredibly peculiar to me how many of my career milestones all connect to The Counter in some way! Even at my last job, we dined at the Studio City location regularly and a past co-worker was/is best friends with the CEO. It seems incredibly fitting that our first restaurant would be located right next door to them!

Once we left our location, we headed to the Chamber of Commerce. It was great hearing about what they can do for us. I, of course, was most ecstatic about the ribbon cutting ceremony when we open. I mean, honestly, who doesn't want to do that??

Back at the office (aka our home), Gwith has been coming up with recipe and menu ideas, while I've been working endlessly on our social media. It's amazing that we just announced Aroha on Wednesday and we already have 187 likes. We are incredibly lucky to have so many amazing and supportive friends and family members! We also got a shout out in the Kiwis in LA newsletter!

We've known about this and been preparing for the restaurant for months but it didn't feel real until this week! I'd like to thank everyone for letting us include you in our journey! Sharing this experience with all of you has made it even more meaningful.

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30990 Russell Ranch Rd Unit C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
© 2014 Aroha Restaurant.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Finding Our Location! (Aroha Restaurant)

These past couple of months we have learned A LOT and there is no doubt there's much more to follow.

First of all, although we've only been working on finally starting Aroha (pronounced Uh-Row-Ha, in case any Americans were wondering!) for the past two months, we had drawn up our business plan  notes over a year ago. So in some ways, we already had a majority of the ideas done and out of the way. However, there's a lot that goes into starting a restaurant. To say the least, we've been busy and we've been moving fast.

At the very beginning of February, after Gwith left his last job, Gwith and I decided together that it was time to start Aroha. After years of working endless hours for other people and barely seeing each other, we decided that if either of us were going to work long hours, it should at least be for us and with each other. We've always seen eye to eye with our management styles and as long as he cooks the food and I taste it, we'll be fine. Me cooking on the other hand would be a terrible, terrible mistake. Crockpot, anyone?

On February 4th, I was already drafting up the entire 16 page business plan and our projections for the first three years. It was done by the next day and we were ready to start scoping out properties. Amongst our search, the one thing we were certain about was we did not want to be in the heart of Los Angeles for two reasons. One, LA's restaurant scene is very trend based. What's popular is popular (such as the current gastropub scene), what isn't isn't, and by next year, it will all flip to something else. The other reason is traffic. We didn't want to commute on the 101 or the 405 for three hours every day. To us, this only meant one thing, moving further from LA and more towards the coastline.

On February 11th, we brought a broker on board but continued to search on our own as well. We were primarily looking for turn-key operations or locations with the basic restaurant equipment and plumbing included. Amongst our search, we set our sights on Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. We saw a lot of locations. Some of them were in fantastic spots (and were already taken) like the spot next to The Melting Pot in Westlake. Some of them were in questionable locations, like the one in an industrial park that we couldn't quite figure out why anyone would travel there for dinner. Then there were the restaurants that just have you scratching your head: like the one in the beautiful town of Santa Barbara that looks run down and is somehow on the only street in Santa Barbara that doesn't look taken care of.

By February 19th, we had set our sights on one location in particular. Of course, this location wasn't exactly what we were planning on. It's an empty shell. What does that mean? It means there's literally nothing inside. No bathroom. No grease trap. No ceiling. Of course, that also means this location can be turned into anything we want. Our vision can be created. In terms of the spot, this place couldn't get any better. It's in the first center off the freeway exit on Lindero Canyon and it's surrounded by notable restaurants including burger restaurant chain The Counter and Westlake's #1 restaurant Lure, as well as plenty of surrounding businesses. Upon visiting this location with a friend of ours (a residential real-estate agent who lives in Westlake), we became ecstatic about the space! He mentioned to us that just up the street, Westlake is building the largest Target west of the Mississippi. In other words, any one going to this Target, will be driving past this restaurant location. Did I forget to mention that this restaurant space also has the corner spot and is the first place any traveler will see walking or driving down the street?

After balancing out the pluses and the minuses of this location, we realized we had to go for it. While discussing the lease for the past month, we've been meeting with everyone from contractors, food company reps, insurance agents, to permit lawyers. As of this week, we have finalized the lease and we're ready to move. Our business cards are complete, our website is almost done (although you won't be seeing anything other than the Coming Soon page until we open), and our social networking is just beginning!

Our amazing contractor Ashour (Ashour Construction) had a completed floor plan for us over a week ago and we are excited to be working with him. We will be starting construction within the week and we are excited to share the process with all of you.

Reserve Now

30990 Russell Ranch Rd Unit C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
© 2014 Aroha Restaurant.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

We're Opening Our First Restaurant!

As you have probably noticed, my blogs have been pretty much MIA since the end of January, and now I can finally explain why!

Since the end of January, something very big has been in the works and we've been waiting for it to be "official" to announce it.

In about 6 months time, we will be opening the doors to our very own restaurant, Aroha, located in the beautiful city of Westlake Village, California. Our location is amazing! It's in the same center as Westlake's #1 restaurant Lure, right next to The Counter, a Marriott Hotel, and across the street from The Four Seasons.

Our restaurant name means "Love" in Maori, the native language of New Zealand. Here is the official "About" for our restaurant:

Aroha (ˈɑːrɒhə) — love, compassion, or affectionate regard. [Māori] 
Aroha is a classy casual restaurant founded by award winning chef, Gwithyen Thomas, and his wife Justine. Gwithyen and Justine met and fell in love through his cooking while she and her family were vacationing in New Zealand. 
The menu specializes in New Zealand Cuisine and draws inspiration from French, Italian, Japanese, and Singaporian cuisine. The food is locally sourced and changes seasonally to provide the freshest and highest quality. The menu is allergy friendly with many gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Justine's many food allergies drives their dedication to providing a safe environment for all customers with allergy restrictions. 
The opened layout restaurant is designed to provide a relaxing atmosphere for customers looking for a flavorful and beautifully presented meal without a formal setting.  
Aroha will be opening in Q3 of 2014 in Westlake Village, California.  To stay updated, "Like" us on Facebook and "Follow" us on Twitter
For Gwith, owning his own restaurant has always been his dream. He's a chef and he's opened multiple restaurants between New Zealand and the US but he's never actually owned it. I, on the other hand, have always wanted a business of my own to manage. Between the Entertainment Industry in LA and the Restaurant Industry, I've been incredibly disappointed and appalled by how people are treated. There's a strong attitude of taking advantage of people out here; lack of non-exempt overtime pay, ridiculous hours, and no understanding for having a personal life. Gwith and I both believe in efficiency and fair treatment which we're ecstatic to exercise in our new restaurant. We want our employees to feel like they're respected by giving them a regular work schedule and legally pay them for overtime. It's sad that legal pay feels like an accomplishment but more companies get away with it out here than most people probably realize (or research).

This isn't the first time I've managed. Back when I was 18, my sister and I managed an entire group of 60 people for our TV pilot, "Little Blossom". It was an eye opening experience and I loved it. At the time, I believed I loved it because of the entertainment-filming aspect. However, looking back now, the reason I turned to my dad one day after an 18 hour day and said, "I could do this for the rest of my life," had nothing to do with the show itself. It had every bit to do with being a manager. I was molding this amazing new creation. I enjoyed dealing with 60 people from all ages and various departments: from actors, to crew, to makeup. Even when someone gave me a massive headache, I still wanted to continue. In the end, we had a great working relationship with the majority of our employees, and I thrived on being able to create that balance. I've seen a lot of poor management styles in the recent years and I feel like it's time to prove in one of the most challenging industries that you do not need to take advantage of people and treat them wrong to be successful.

I look forward to writing more blogs about our journey with Aroha. It will be a long one! We have 6 months to do a full buildout of our empty shell location!

Please check out our website and keep your eyes opened for the hottest new restaurant coming soon to Westlake Village in Q3 of 2014!

Reserve Now

30990 Russell Ranch Rd Unit C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
© 2014 Aroha Restaurant.

Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Raise a Perfect Pet Rabbit

Anyone who knows me or reads my blog enough knows that my husband and I have our own pet rabbit, Willow. Here are some things you should know about Willow: she is loved very much, is happy 95% of the time, and is more than a little spoiled...but if you can't spoil your pets who can you spoil?

If you are thinking of owning a pet rabbit, here are ten things you probably didn't know.

1. Rabbits Can be Easily House Trained
We've had Willow for over two years now and in those two years, she's only had three accidents outside of her cage (and one was ironically in our bathroom!). Rabbits are creatures of habit, which is why once they've settled on a spot to use the bathroom, they never go anywhere else.

2. Rabbits can have full run of the house (just protect a few things!)
We started Willow off with her cage and a very small corner of the kitchen we gated off. During that time, she learned to use her cage for the bathroom. She also learned to hop to new heights and we would find her lounging on the top of her cage. We put a floor mat on top so her feet wouldn't be injured from the wires. After a few weeks, we opened up the entire kitchen and hallway to her. A month or so after that, we opened up a segment of the lounge. Before we knew it, we were the ones gated in! So, we covered all of the wires and plug outlets in the lounge, maneuvered objects so she couldn't get behind the entertainment center, and voila. She had 50% of the house. We slowly let her into our guests rooms. Our bedroom is the only room she is rarely allowed in, which is probably why she scratches underneath the door and sneaks around the hall to get in before we can close the door! The office is gated so she can come in a little but can't reach the computer area.

3. They Can Run Around When You're Not Home
When researching rabbits, I've read a lot of people say that even if they let their rabbit roam the house, they cage them when they leave. In our experience, this is pretty much unnecessary. Rabbits are most active in the early morning and in the evening. By 11 am, Willow will have found her "spot" for the day and sleep there until about 4 or 5. The rest of the hours, as long as you keep your house rabbit safe, aren't a problem. The only time we cage Willow up is when we go to sleep. This is mainly because she'd scratch on our bedroom door all night if we didn't...and it's always good to have some boundaries and restrictions with your bunny!

4. Watch TV with Them (They May Love It)
When we sit and watch TV, she lays down and watches with us...well, as long as it's a show she likes! She never missed an episode of our Dawson's Creek marathon (she loves James van der Beek and nearly boycotted the show when Dawson and Joey broke up; okay, no one's perfect). She puts her ears down every time there's a commercial and then brings them back up for the actual show. The weirdest thing may be that she knows what's a real sound and what's a TV sound. For example, if there's a shootout on Castle, she yawns and stretches out further. However, if I cough during the episode, she jumps up and holds still for a moment to make sure there's no immediate danger!

5. They Are Fiercely Independent
At least our rabbit is! Don't get me wrong, she loves being snuggled up to on the rug and stroked for an hour but she's also just as happy prancing around the house and sleeping in her cardboard maze. Her sleeping habits and independence makes it easier for us to have our own life as well. For example, when we traveled to New Zealand, I Skyped the house on a regular basis just to watch her hoping around! I missed her like crazy but she was as happy as could be.

6. No One Can Give the Cold Shoulder Better, But Darn They're Cute When They Do It!
If you're thinking of getting a pet rabbit, know one thing: if they're annoyed at you, they'll make it clear. Our rabbit doesn't bite or scratch when she's angry. No. She flops on her side and flops on her back, continuously. Normally, she does these things when she's really happy. However, when she's annoyed, she does it every time we walk within view. I mean, she flops, gets up, and flops again...and repeats, as if to say, "See. I'm happy without you!" The other day, she flopped in every room of the house just to give us a hard time while trying to lead her to her cage for the night. She also refused her treats when we tried to hand them to her but they were all gone the second we left the room.

7. Your Grocery Shopping Is Also Their Dinner
Rabbits eat many things from the vegetable section at the grocery store. For dinner, Willow always has a couple leaves of green leaf lettuce (never give a rabbit iceberg lettuce, it's deadly). We then throw in some of her favorite herbs and rotate them, some fennel, and give her a small treat for the night (ex. one blueberry or a tiny baby carrot). Look up various official websites for rabbits to find out exactly what a rabbit can and can't eat, as well as rotating their diet. For breakfast, Willow eats about 10 individual Oxbow Adult pellets. Rabbits don't need pellets to survive and can gain a lot of weight from them so be careful. We give her just enough to make her happy without gaining weight. Of course, she's never completely satisfied and lets us know by nudging her bowl out of the way EVERY morning when she's done. The best part of her diet is hay. Rabbits need a lifetime supply of hay at their side all day, every day. This comes in handy for us on days we sleep in or arrive home from work late. She's always grazing and she'll never go hungry.

8. They Define the Word "Cute"
Until you see a rabbit clean their ears, stretch & yawn, binky, beg, or perform the bunny 500 up and down the hall, you've never seen "cute". Willow keeps us laughing all the time because of all of the silly, adorable things she does.

9. Treat Them Well and They'll Treat You Well
The one thing our rabbit absolutely hates is being picked up, so we don't do it. Rabbits like to feel in control and when their feet aren't firmly on the ground, they freak out. We let her come to us and we lead her to her cage at night. My favorite thing about having a pet rabbit is her kisses. Yes, rabbits lick. After quite a few months of bonding, Willow started grooming me while I stroked her. She would lick me up and down my arms and legs. She doesn't do it all the time but when she does, it melts my heart. The more you regularly show affection to your rabbit, the more likely they will show affection right back to you.

10. They Are the Most Awesome Pet You Could Ever Own (and They're Trainable)
Not enough people are aware of just how amazing and fulfilling owning a pet rabbit can be. She greets my husband every time he comes home from work, she snuggles on the couch with me, she's extremely sweet, and incredibly intelligent. Rabbits are very trainable and they will associate sounds with actions...such as upon walking into the kitchen, Willow will run from anywhere in the house expecting food. She'll come when called but only if she expects to get something out of it. We like to say that she's always listening, she just decides when to ignore us. However, when she does come over, she'll climb our laps and put her little paws all over us.

If you're thinking about getting a pet rabbit, I strongly encourage you to go to the pound and adopt! When treated correctly, rabbits can live up to 10 or even 12 years. Don't miss out on one of the greatest pet experiences of your life!