Monday, December 31, 2007


Congratulations, you have just completed your journey through 2007. Movement has power beyond understanding. Keep on going! Keep creating customer advocacy!

May 2008 bring peace, understanding and greater customer advocacy!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tableside tracking

Lindsay Paulson at stuff4restaurants, post, “New Apple Device WiFi to Cut Waiting times in restaurants” deals with wifi technology making inroads in restaurants.

“Orders could be placed through a media player, wireless PDA, or cell phone. The obvious benefit to customers would be in avoiding the wait in line to order their favorite coffee drinks or hamburgers.
But the system would also have benefits to restaurant owners beyond providing better service. Each customer using the system would get a unique identifier for tracking the establishments they visited and what they bought. The information would be stored in the devices and synchronized with the computers of participating merchants.”

An expectation has been created by parcel delivery services, that customers can track their purchases online. The natural outgrowth of the WiFi protocol is that restaurant customers would have the ability to follow their order from the moment the order is placed, through the preparation, until the food is delivered. This functionality will enable customers to time the experience at your restaurant. The discomfort caused by the ambiguity of wondering when their meal will arrive will be eliminated.

The technology exists today, however at price points that are not feasible. This vision however will quickly become the standard. Whether you are ready or not, customers will demand tableside tracking.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Opportunities Abound:

National Restaurant Association’s November Restaurant Performance Index reports the following:

Restaurant operators were also less optimistic about sales growth in their establishments. Twenty-nine percent of restaurant operators expect to h
ave higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), down from 39 percent who reported similarly last month and the lowest level on record. Twenty-eight percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, up from 25 percent who reported similarly last month.

Restaurant operators are also scaling back on plans for capital spending. Fifty-one percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, down from 55 percent who reported similarly last month.

National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index
Values Greater than 100 = Expansion; Values Less than 100 = Contraction

Source: National Restaurant Association

It would seem that some of your brethren are battening down the hatches. It is much easier to differentiate yourself and provide an exceptional customer experience when your competition is focusing on survival.

Seize them because Opportunities Abound!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Everyone does not need to be your customer:

Everyone who walks in does not need to be your customer.

In fact if everyone wants to be your customer, that is a problem If you are very good there will be individuals who do not like you, that’s Ok. For passion to be real there will be both a positive and a negative reaction. You have an obligation to treat everyone in the same manner, however everyone will not have the same reaction to you.

Everyone will not be your customer.

Why not be Great?

Seth Godin crystallizes a New Year’s resolution for your business:

“you have the power to change everything that's to come. And you can do that by asking yourself (and your colleagues) the one question that every organization and every individual needs to ask today: Why not be great?”

New Years is a time to reassess, I personally use the Winter and Summer Solstice. Whatever the metric, why not be great?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Venture Capital Lawsuits:

“The notion of litigation as a separate asset class is a novel one. It's hard to imagine fund managers one day allotting a bit of their portfolio to third-party lawsuits, alongside shares, bonds, property and hedge funds.

But some wealthy investors are starting to dabble in lawsuit investment, bankrolling some or all of the heavy upfront costs in return for a share of the damages in the event of a win.

Profiting from other people's lawsuits, a practice known as champerty, is illegal in some jurisdictions and risks accusations of ambulance-chasing, is concentrating on backing business plaintiffs, where the practice is better established and more accepted.

Pursuing legal claims can be frighteningly expensive. Plaintiffs have to commit management time and cash years into the future with no certainty of success. Getting an outside investor to share some of the financial pain can be very attractive. So can tapping their litigation experience. While most large companies are well resourced with in-house lawyers, few have litigation experience. “

An unfounded lawsuit can put tremendous strain on your restaurant, even if you are properly insured. The United States needs meaningful tort reform where genuine wrongs are righted and where cases brought about as a fishing expedition (cases taken on a flyer to see what shakes from the tree) are costly both to the plaintiffs and their attorneys.

(Link Marginal Revolution)

Cell Phone Strategy:

Quinn Bowman of QSR Magazine examines Cell Strategies:

“customers bring up the coupon on their cell phone screen and present it to the clerk to redeem the coupon.

With cell phone coupons, restaurants can learn a lot more information about who is asking for and redeeming coupons and can follow the coupon process from start to finish, as opposed to only keeping track of how many coupons go out and how many come back.

Cellfire shares demographic information with its merchant clients. Moore says it gives merchants the ability to almost look over a customer’s shoulder.”

The coupon is based on permission marketing where the customer has given permission to have coupon of restaurants marketed to them. Cell phone use is pervasive in the younger demographic that will grow into an older demographic and expect your restaurant to market to them in channels that they are comfortable with?

What is your restaurant’s Cell Phone Strategy?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play, 
    And wild and sweet 
    The words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom 
    Had rolled along 
    The unbroken song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day, 
    A voice, a chime, 
    A chant sublime 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South, 
    And with the sound 
    The carols drowned 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent, 
    And made forlorn 
    The households born 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! 

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said; 
    "For hate is strong, 
    And mocks the song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!" 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
    The Wrong shall fail, 
    The Right prevail, 
With peace on earth, good-will to men."


Monday, December 24, 2007

Twas the night before Christmas::

A visit from St Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Google Truths:

Google has a list of ten things they have found to be true. Three apply directly to any restaurant business.

  1. “Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
  1. Great just isn't good enough.”

Creating Customer Advocacy requires first and foremost a myopic focus on the customer. Nothing else matters, focus on delivering an exceptional experience every time.

Two it really is best to do one thing really, really well. There are not too many sushi Italian delis for a reason.

Third, great is not good enough. Here others seem to differ, however let’s exam that. The essence of not good enough is to test, measure, implement and improve

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Benefits of Community:

Anna Farmery at The Engaging Brand discusses the benefits of community in her post.

The spread of the pride of being associated with a brand that delivers consistently it's brand promise, with a brand that puts them at the heart of the promise, a brand that exists to create value for them....creates the community. A community is a powerful, free salesforce - all it asks for in return for all this wonderful free work they do on your behalf, is to be respected and for you not to break that trust.

Anna’s most salient point is that when you create customer advocacy, your advocates will tell your story with glee to whoever crosses their path. There is an exponential aspect to this type of word of mouth advertising. Over deliver on your promise and you will reap the vast Benefits of Community!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Deconstructing a Brand:

"Every Good and Excellent Thing Stands Moment by Moment on the Razor's Edge of Danger and Must Be Fought For” Ross Perot

Fast Company’s Chris Dannen article about Entrepreneurship in an entertainment family has implications in your business.

“…entertainers are. But no matter the niche, startup owners have to be almost myopic about preserving the integrity and reliability of their brand. Lose the trust and regard of your customers, and any further efforts your business makes will be laughably disregarded…

…they reinforce each other, compounding the knot of incompetence and rendering each of their brands' values -- and their common brand -- increasingly devoid in value. Rarely does celebrity news have too much to teach the business world, but in this case, take some heed: no one operates in a vacuum, especially a family. And personal life and business are rarely as divorced as anyone would like.”

Chris’ point is that your business is interwoven with your personal life, that of your employees’ and your business partners. Part of the deal that a business makes is to behave in fashion that encourages further interaction. The price of breaking that trust with your customers tends to be insolvency of the brand.

Eternal vigilance is the price to avoid Deconstructing the Brand!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Test, Measure and Implement:

The secret of Sam Walton and WalMart is that he conducted hundreds of small tests every day. He measured the results and made changes based on those results. Sam did not create huge all compassing tests, rather he would move a product from one aisle to the other and record the difference. He discovered what worked and what did not work. He implemented what worked and discarded what did not. No lengthy evaluation phase, no committee reviews, something either worked or it did not. He tested, succeeded and failed, and implemented. Do not be afraid to test. Small tests are much better than huge ones.

Great organizations have a culture where it is ok for everyone to test recipes, steps of service, menu and marketing placement. Give yourself and your team that freedom.

Test, Measure and Implement!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Passion is the Source:

"The only thing that predicts success is passion." Scott Adams

Life or business, it matters not, persistence is the vehicle however the source of limitless energy is passion.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Listen to Tomorrow’s Customer:

“Riskiest Strategy is to play it Safe!” Fred Smith, FedEx

Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan advises “listen to tomorrow’s customer.” The myopia that sets in when a concept is flowing is frightening. The restaurateur believes they can do no wrong. They believe that they have it all figured out. They are perfectly in tune with the customer and meeting every need. In this type of mindset the future looks pretty much like the past, so if it is not broke, do not fix it.

Life is non-linear. The past does not predict the future. If you are not listening to tomorrow’s customer, how can you be prepared to meet those needs.

Web 2.0:

Chris Muller at Restaurants & Institutions has a good piece about “Web 2.0

Here is a short list of some must know terms.

Blogs (short for Web logs) are online journals or diaries hosted on a Web site (you’re reading a blog now).

Online games include both games played on dedicated game consoles that can be networked and “massively multiplayer” games. These involve thousands of people who interact simultaneously through personal avatars in online worlds that exist independently of any single player’s activity.

Social networks allow members of specific sites to learn about other members’ skills, talents, knowledge, or preferences. Commercial examples include Facebook and MySpace. Some companies use such systems internally to help identify experts.

Web services are software systems that make it easier for different systems to communicate with each other automatically to pass information or conduct transactions. A retailer and supplier, for example, might use Web services to communicate over the public Internet and automatically update each other’s inventory systems.

Widgets are programs that allow access from users’ desktops to Web-based content.

Mobile marketing is direct cellphone text couponing and personal messaging.

Collective intelligence refers to any system that attempts to tap the expertise of a group rather than an individual to make decisions. Technologies that contribute to collective intelligence include collaborative publishing and common databases for sharing knowledge.

Mash-ups are aggregations of content from different online sources to create a new service. An example would be a program that pulls restaurant listings from one site and displays them on a Google map to show where they are located.”

Creating customer advocacy is integrated because there are many ways for your customers to tell others about you. The myriad of social networks offer limitless opportunity for your customers to interact with their friends and with you. It is possible to have your daily specials as a widget that updates the desktops of all subscribers. Smart phones will be Web 2.0 enabled. Online gaming is the fastest growth segment on the planet. Mash-ups are unbelievable, Google Earth street view will show everyone your front door and beer garden. Web 2.0 is here and you need to participate.

After you integrated Web 2.0 into your business and life here comes Web 3.0 followed closely by Web 4.0.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Communal Tables:

“If local restaurateurs have their way, Chicago diners may have to become a more social bunch, embracing a new level of closeness.”

People go out to be with other people and in the company of other people, however when they get there, they are shy! What if a restaurant starts seating complete strangers together at the same table. Yes there are going to be times where you will think this is not a great idea, however in order to grow human beings need to experience new things. It is no different than sitting next to complete stranger on a plane or train. If some authority figure, the host or hostess seats you next to someone, that is more comfortable than you picking a seat next to someone that you think might be interesting.

OK Chicago, starting January 1 every restaurant in the city will have a Communal Table, what do you think?

2008 Trends :

The National Restaurant Association releases 2008 Trend forecast.

“This growth is largely driven by consumer demand for convenience, eating on the go or elsewhere off-premise, and the trend toward changing meal-occasions and types.

Ranked as the number one challenge for restaurant operators, recruiting and retaining employees will be an industry priority in 2008 and into the future.

Today’s restaurant customers are more demanding than ever and expect more from their restaurant experiences than great meals.

The cost of food and beverages account for approximately 33 cents of every dollar of restaurant sales and is one of the most critical items on their income statements (along with labor costs, which also represent about one-third of restaurant sales).”

The forecast reinforces the need to provide your guest with an exceptional experience every time. Creating customer advocacy is your competitive advantage!

Gross Margins:

Gross Margins according to Wikipedia is calculated by subtracting Cost of Goods Sold from Revenue. Cost of Goods Sold include the cost of food and beverage and the labor necessary to produce and deliver that product. Though everyone’s focus is on top line revenue, Gross Margin is the workhorse because everything gets paid from that number. Maintaining Cost of Goods Sold in line with expectations is clearly necessary to the health of the enterprise.

Rent, advertising, decorations, promotions all get paid from the gross margin number. Top line revenue may be glamorous, however never forget everything is context.

Keep those gross margin percentages high!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Drilling for Oil!

Aditya’s postMantra for Entrepreneurs reminds us to just get out there and do it. Forget what the “experts” and well meaning friends tell you, just drill! Do not stop until you find that oil well.

This is so simple it sounds stupid, but it is amazing how few oil people really understand that you only find oil if you drill wells. You may think you're finding it when you're drawing maps and studying logs, but you have to drill. -- John Masters

That's why I said, if you have some idea that you want to start, just drill it. Don't worry about not having related prior experience or competency. Don't worry about the domain knowledge …. There are tons of ways to acquire that knowledge and get started.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Years Ritual:

Tom Peters’ has a suggestion on how you should spend New Years Eve Day,

“I spent eight or nine straight hours one New Year's Eve on my office phone. I called close to 100 people I worked with…to thank them for their help in the prior year. In addition to enjoying the chats, … I admit that I was purposefully engaging in an ADRE ... Act of Deliberate Relationship Enhancement.

While I fully buy "If you aren't sincere, it won't work," I nonetheless urge you to develop some similar ritual. Moreover, I urge you to do it in the next couple of weeks!”

Creating customer advocacy is about engaging the customer and doing so at a personal level. Restaurateurs have the ability to positively impact that advocacy by making phone calls to your best customers, vendors, even employee’s and thanking them for being the reason for the achievements during the last year.

Go ahead pick up the phone and start a New Years’ Ritual!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Untargeted Advertising:

Nathan Gilder of Restaurant Revolution quoted in a article offers some salient advise.

"It's remarkable that most restaurants miss out on a golden opportunity by failing to get to know their customers and, using a few simple tools, draw them back to their tables over and over," he says. "Yet, at the same time, they spend money on untargeted advertising that doesn't bring in new or repeat customers and drains their wallet."

Restaurants spend inordinate amounts in a misguided effort to get anyone through the door. The best ROI is always marketing to your best customers and having them create new customers for you.

(hat tip: Lindsay)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Save your Mop:

Guests are enjoying a wonderful dining experience at your restaurant, five stars, excellent service, fantastic libations, culinary delights abound and then inexplicably someone brings out a mop and starts the clean up process. Why, why, why? Save the mop, broom, and vacuum cleaner until all the guests have departed for the evening. No Exceptions!

(idea: Mary Ellen)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Surveillance Integration:

Valerie Killifer article at “Surveillance Integration”, highlights the latest in high tech.

“…a convergence program designed to enable single or multiunit restaurant operators to view real-time video of operations, point-of-sale transaction detail, employee time and attendance data, and temperature, weather and traffic information for each location…”

The article focuses on the cash management issues in the restaurant space, however this post is about how integration of surveillance and POS enhances customer service. You have the opportunity to view customer interactions, customer patterns and customer preferences in real time. This functionality enables you to remotely study how different promotions and initiatives translate into sales. This aspect of surveillance integration will yield far more information and translate into substantially more positive cash flow then whether a sale is registered properly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What Should I do Right Now?

The litmus test for any initiative in your restaurant is elementary.

What actions taken today will be important one year for now?

That is what you should do Right Now!

Cash Flows Rules:

Tim Berry has a really great post about Cash Flow.

“Profits aren't cash; they're accounting. And accounting is a lot more creative than you think. You can't pay bills with profits. Actually profits can lull you to sleep. If you pay your bills and your customers don't, it's suddenly business hell. You can make profits without making any money.”

Profits aren’t cash. That is the most difficult lesson for restaurateurs to learn. Even after three or four locations, the perception is still that if the restaurant is making “profits”, then everything will be ok. When auditors review your financial record, they do not care what your profits are, all auditors want to see is the cash flow. “follow the cash” is the popular mantra because that is the real lifeblood of the business. Income statements reports on trends in the business, balance sheets detail the actual health of the business. Please take Tim rules to heart, “you can’t pay bills with profits”

Cash Flow Rules!

Taking Notes:

Tim Ferris’ post about taking notes really applies to entrepreneurs.

“I trust the weakest pen more than the strongest memory, and note taking is—in my experience—one of the most important skills for converting excessive information into precise action and follow-up.”

Too often in the mania of day to day we forget what we should remember. Take copious notes and review them at the end of the day when life has settled down to a manageable chaos.

The Rise of Small Plates:

Kim Severson piece in the NY Times “Is the Entrée headed for Extinction?”, is very entertaining and I recommend you read the entire article.

“Influences from the global pantry have also had their effect. More exposure to meze, dim sum, sushi and tapas has changed how Americans think of the structure of a meal. As a result, chefs feel free to break out of the traditional French model of restaurant dining by offering small, intense tastes of global flavors, said Eve Felder, an associate dean at the Culinary Institute of America.

“It’s more of a reaching back into the way in which people celebrate the table,” she said.”

The American dining experience is changing, there is a lot more adventure at the dining table. Spicy foods, different ethnic flavorings and more of a global awareness to different cultures has injected variety into the menu. General ethnic concepts such as Italian, Vietnamese or Chinese are focusing on more specific regional areas further differentiating their offerings from their competitors as well as continuing to educate a customer base searching for the next delicious trend.

The reordering of the menu from the hierarchical entrée has implications on the revenue streams and theoretical costs to produce the menu. Those inflows and outflows need to be examined with a fresh perspective.

The “go large” mantra appears to be getting moderated by the $1 value menu items, the de-emphasis of the big protein entrée, and the Rise of the Small Plates

Monday, December 3, 2007

Every Experience Outstanding:

Fred Smith the CEO of FedEx was explaining his company’s philosophy in a recent interview, he said “Every employee is empowered to make every FedEx experience outstanding”.

The requisite culture is simple, put the customer first, give your front line associates the tools, authority and the responsibility to make every customer experience in your restaurant outstanding. Let them do it.

That is the formula for making every experience outstanding!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rewarding Inertia:

Jeffery Phillips at Thinking Faster is mystified why businesses take the difficult path.

“What I can't figure out is why so many decisions are made from panic or desperation, or in the face of an emergency, rather than as a reasonable decision considering the risks and returns. Inertia plays a big part I suppose…Most businesses reward the avoidance of risk and any heroic effort, even if the heroic effort was caused by a lack of decision making. Few businesses reward a good decision that was made with the correct information on a timely basis, so there's really no incentive to make a good decision without additional pressure or an impending problem.”

Restaurants have a well earned reputation for being reactive instead of proactive. Creating customer advocacy is all about meeting the customer’s expectation and exceeding it. That process requires effort and planning. Is your restaurant Rewarding Inertia?

Cialdini in his own words:

Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion” is truly a must read for any restaurateur. Lindsay Paulson at Stuff4Restaurants points to a link on You Tube where Robert Caildini speaks about his principles to an audience on video.

I recommend you invest the time to view the video, buy the book and refer to it often.


James Challenger’s article “Tattoos’ are here to stay, embrace them or risk talent drain” poses a very relevant question about body art.

“Employers faced with labor shortages will have to welcome the growing number of tattooed candidates with open arms.” … “why let some body art get in the way of hiring the best qualified candidate? A growing number of employers recognize the benefits of diversity in all its forms and are embracing the unique attributes that make people stand out from the crowd.”

Talented, energetic, customer maniacs with tattoos’ want to work for your restaurant. Will you welcome them with open arms or risk them taking their talent to your competitors?

Single Tasking:

“All the guide books say, don’t behave like a tourist” John Robie “To Catch a Thief

Single tasking, the forgotten middle child of business organization, has returned to vogue. Studies have determined that all the multi-tasking disciples are not more productive than their single tasking brethren. Actually “all the guide books say that should focus on one thing and do that better than anyone else”, with that as a premise it is easy to see how trying to multi-task is not all its crack up to be.

Less is more, forget about multi-tasking and return the serenity of single tasking!

The Collaborative Leader:

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it." Michelangelo

Nelson Schwartz’s article in the NY Times portends the rise of the team oriented leader.

“Now, management experts and longtime watchers of corporate America say the current environment demands, and is attracting, yet another kind of chief executive: the team builder.

“It’s someone who can assemble a team that functions as smoothly as a jazz sextet,”

The superstar leader is passé, the new paradigm is the leader who builds teams, who can assemble teams quickly. The successful restaurateur is one who has a team oriented perspective, who values the contributions from employees, who understands that customer advocacy is created when the all the aspects of the operations are executing cohesively. A restaurateur can not pontificate from on high and have his minions scurry about with any expectation that their restaurant will create advocacy.

Long live the Collaborative Leader!