Thursday, January 31, 2008

Donation Policy:

As a restaurateur you are deluged with request for donations.

Jeffery Summers at Building Better Restaurants highlights a restaurateur who has written a nice policy:

“Promote your benefit, and tell everyone the date of your event. Get family, friends, neighbors, business associates, etc. to eat at the restaurant on your day. Inform your patrons to let our staff know you are here for your specific benefit. You receive 15% of the sales from the people from your benefit who dine with us. As a result, the more people who come, the more money you make! In an effort to be sensitive to our other guests we can not allow signs or soliciting at the restaurant.”

Another version of this is Guest Bartender Night. A patron actually tends bar for one or two hours and invites all there friends. All the tips and a portion of the sales proceeds go to the charity. The bar / restaurant gets exposure to new customers and the charity receives funding. Sports and Entertainment venues have elevated this idea by having charities actually operate a food stand during an event, the charity will typically receive 10% of total sales. Given that the venue commissary operator saves on the payroll of operating the stand, the arrangement is profitable for all concerned.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Critical Mass, a tipping point:

I have discussed Critical Mass before, the mythical customer that comes into your restaurant, sprinkles the magic dust and your restaurant becomes an overnight success. Critical Mass of course refers to the point where a restaurant goes from simply surviving to being, it refers to the tipping point, the inflection point or whatever metric you wish to use to describe the transformation.

Malcolm Gladwell’s landmark book, “The Tipping Point says (excerpted from

“For example, Paul Revere was able to galvanize the forces of resistance so effectively in part because he was what Gladwell calls a "Connector": he knew just about everybody, particularly the revolutionary leaders in each of the towns that he rode through. But Revere "wasn't just the man with the biggest Rolodex in colonial Boston," he was also a "Maven" who gathered extensive information about the British. He knew what was going on and he knew exactly whom to tell. The phenomenon continues to this day--think of how often you've received information in an e-mail message that had been forwarded at least half a dozen times before reaching you.”

Duncan Watts new research highlighted in Fast Company this month, essentially says that ideas spread because their time has come, not because of who spreads it.

Seth Godin take on the brouhaha is very salient:

It spread because passionate people did.

One more reason not to obsess about the A list in any media category. Worry instead about people with passion and people with lots of friends. You need both for ideas to spread.”

My point about the hypothetical Critical Mass is that you need passionate users to create customer advocacy. That passionate user is Critical Mass. Your restaurant needs to connect with customers, it needs to treat every interaction as a relationship, not a transaction. Critical Mass will visit every restaurant, however if it does not find you worthy, it moves on without sprinkling the magic dust. Your mission should you decide to accept it, is to have a restaurant that creates customer advocacy. Passion should reside in your restaurant, passion that will be instantly recognizable to Critical Mass when it visits.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Carbon Footprint:

Restaurants having to contend with labor shortages, recessions, lower traffic counts, can now add carbon footprint to their to-do list. The process of bringing a meal to a table requires the expenditure of energy that pollutes the planet. The concept of carbon footprint seeks to identify and then mitigate as much of the footprint as possible.

Produce from Chile is fine however it most likely requires more energy to deliver than local produce. Since the energy in the production is also factored into the equation, it becomes quite a challenge to determine which process actually produces the smallest footprint. What building materials are used in the construction and maintenance of your restaurant? How is the restaurant heated or cooled? How much energy does the restaurant use on a daily basis in preparing and delivering the menu?

I do not have any ready answers, however you will need to start having discussions with your staff, purveyors, suppliers, landlords, architects and customers about the carbon footprint of your restaurant.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


"Audacity, audacity-always audacity." Fredrick The Great

What can a Unicycle teach you about business? Simple, to ride a unicycle one needs to lean forward and keep moving. Restaurants are very much like that, lean forward and keep moving!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

100 Meter:

"There is no security in life, only opportunity."

General Douglas MacArthur

There is a lesson I learned after watching a 100 Meter race some time ago. The difference between first and last can be less than a second. The difference between the rewards of someone who finishes first and someone who finishes last can be hundreds of millions of dollars. A great deal goes into that race. Preparation, physical skills, attitude, experience and luck all play a role. In whatever endeavor you undertake understand, that the little extra effort at the precise moment holds immeasurable value.

Health Coverage:

The most vexing benefit issue for any restaurateur is health coverage for employees. Julie Appleby’s USA Today article “Employers put health coverage into workers’ Hands” provides a new direction that small businesses are taking.

“As health insurance costs continue to rise, some employers are adopting a controversial new approach: ending group coverage and giving employees $50 to $200 or so a month to help them buy their own.

The shift is touted as a lower-cost way for employers to offer workers some kind of health coverage, while making smaller and more predictable financial contributions toward that coverage. Like other companies considering the switch, Ilios will pay a portion of employees' medical costs into tax-free accounts that workers can tap. It also will provide a link to an independent website where workers can compare price quotes from a variety of insurers. “

One main advantage of course is that the employee selects which plan to purchase. The policy belongs to the employee and they control their health care spending decisions. This relieves the employer of burden of selecting a policy that is cost effect across a wide spectrum of employees, with varying health concerns and needs. The market is searching for appropriate solutions because the current group insurance structure is flawed in so many ways.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slow Down:

The National Restaurant Association newsletter today points to an article in The Guardian by Tim Hayward.

“Slow food isn't just a matter of taking years to rear and days to cook; it's also about taking hours to appreciate it. It's about taking our time to eat and about calm, unrushed and appropriate service.

This is a joint problem. Diners need to demand the right to take their time, and restaurateurs with ambitions beyond mass catering should be falling over themselves to encourage slow eating. If we don't, we'll see the idea of "going out for dinner" lose its relevance. Going out for a meal will be about taking on nourishment on our way to the pub or the cinema, or worse, something we can't afford to do. We need to slow down and work out how we can turn a meal back into an event.”

When was the last time you inhaled your food and thought it was a great meal? Slow Down!


“let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

The Federal Reserve cut interest rate by 75 basis points, Starbucks is selling coffee for $1.00, Apple I-pod sales in December were slow, consumer debt is increasing, disposable income is receding and restaurant chains are shuttering under performing units. Yes, we are in a recession.

The recession isn’t the problem however, how you think about recession is the problem.

Recessions are opportunities to clear the chafe, prune the branches, scrub the decks, enough of the business clichés. Focus on what your customer wants. Once you determined those wants, structure your restaurant to provide them. The rest will take care of itself even during a recession!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Customer Latte of the Week:

Becky Carroll’s post at Customers Rock!, describes a window sign at a Starbucks touting Mary’s Latte as the feature of the week.

“This signs does two things. One, it acknowledges Mary and her repeat business, making her feel great! Two, it tells other customers that the baristas here know their customers well, so well that they can recommend the best drink combos they see on a daily basis.”

Continuing our Starbucks theme today, a genuine connection with customers creates a bond. By featuring Mary’s Latte you’re acknowledging that your restaurant is about relationships and not transactions. You are already featuring “the Customer of The Month” perhaps you should feature the “Customer Latte of the Week!”

Joy of Work:

Michael Gates Gill whose book “how Starbucks saved my life” offers a lesson in living in the moment.

“working behind the counter I discovered the joy of work…When I prepare a cup of coffee, I don’t worry about past mistakes or future challenges. I just do what I am doing right now to the best of my ability”

The present moment is the only one that is real. The past has returned to the abyss and the future has yet to spring forth. Stay in moment and experience the joy of work!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

SWOT Analysis:

“I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts.” Albert Einstein

January is generally the time executives and managers get together for some team building exercises, review the past year, flesh out the objectives for the coming year. This retreat should be somewhere off site that mixes business, social, and personal growth into a two or three day sojourn.

A method of analysis called SWOT, “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats” is very helpful. The retreat is a high level examination of the opportunities and challenges the business will face in the coming year and laying a solid foundation moving forward into the future. Too often in the day to day of running a restaurant, the management team loses focus and needs to step back and take a breath. What are our customers telling us, what is our concept, what need are we filling, what are tomorrow’s customers asking for?

SWOT analysis is an ongoing process that restaurateur’s should incorporate into their schedule if only to step back in an organized fashion and critically exam everything.

Track your Marketing:

Greg Balanko-Dickson’s post “Marketing: Improving your odds of success” offers insight of how to develop and access your efforts.

Track Results: create a master list of all your marketing and advertising expenditures. Track the response, revenue generated, and Return-on-Investment.

Upright Marketing = Knowing Your Customer: To upright your marketing start with the customer first, create an ideal customer profile.

I am not suggesting that people can be duped, conned, or should be taken advantage of - rather I am suggesting that developing a Persona of your ideal customer will help you gain a greater understanding of what “makes them tick”.

You must understand who your customer is and what drives their buy decisions.

Marketing efforts will avail you not unless you are able to track your marketing!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cloned Beef:

The FDA has now approved “cloned meat”:

“After years of detailed study and analysis, the Food and Drug Administration has concluded that meat and milk from clones of cattle, swine, and goats, and the offspring of clones from any species traditionally consumed as food, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals. There was insufficient information for the agency to reach a conclusion on the safety of food from clones of other animal species, such as sheep.”

I do not pretend to understand the process, however why not lamb?

Restaurants will need to really understand their suppliers because the issue will become a hot button with customers. If you serve them cloned meat you will no doubt have some responsibility to inform them.

On a more positive note, the cut of beef you serve on the plate today will be exactly like the one you served on the plate yesterday, and maybe the one that will be on the plate tomorrow.

Anyone for Cloned Beef? :)


Seth Godin’s post “the problem with perfect” delves into the texture of the experience:

“As the quality of things go up, and competition increases, it's so easy to sell people on perfect. But perfect rarely leads to great word of mouth, merely because expectations are so hard to meet.

I think it's more helpful to focus on texture, on interpersonal interaction, on interesting. Interesting is attainable, and interesting is remarkable. Interesting is fresh every day and interesting leads to word of mouth.”

Restaurants are training grounds for things not going according to plan. Perfection is not attainable in an environment that is inherently ambiguous. That’s ok! Focus on fulfilling a customer need in such a way as to be remarkable, even interesting!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Capturing newly available Customers

John Foley’s post at The Restaurant Blog “Fools Rush In” explores a source of new customers:

“Pay close attention to the "For Lease" signs in your neighborhood Analyze why the space is vacant? was it menu selection? Price? Service? Quality? Atmosphere? All of these have an effect your business. And when that sign does sprout up… Develop a marketing plan to attract the customers that your neighboring competition once served.”

Businesses that do not provide the exceptional experience that customers demand will not succeed. There is an opportunity for your exceptional restaurant to garner new customers.

How are you making your customers successful?

The previous post dealt with making your employees successful. Now imagine this question, “what can I do to make my customers successful?” What need do my customers have that my restaurant is currently not meeting? What other services can we provide that will make our customers successful. Remember, your customers come to your restaurant to resolve a need they have. Fill that need and make your customers successful.

How are you making your customers successful?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How are you making your people successful?

Restaurateurs need to ask only one question, “How do I make my people successful?” The amount of customer advocacy created will be a direct result of how well you answer that question. People are your competitive advantage. A restaurateur’s main job is insuring that the individuals that work for your restaurant are very successful. If your employees are successful, your customer’s experience will be exceptional.

How are you making your people successful?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Big Bet:

Chris Dannen at Fast Company’s blog post “Competition” offers:

“McDonald's has nearly 14,000 stores nationwide, all of which will be equipped with full-fledged coffee bars and baristas by year's end. Having already begun adding plush seating, gentler lighting and subtler colors to their franchises, the big M is looking to steamroll the limping Starbucks on its own turf. Starbucks, however, isn't going anywhere; rather, it's McDonald's that will be maimed most by its own campaign to destroy the Seattle super-brand.

Admittedly, McDonald's is one of those monolithic brands that will likely have a longer half-life than radium -- but that hardly makes it invulnerable. By adding the "theatre" of a coffee bar (as one McDonald's VP has phrased it), the company has gained little more than the potential to alienate customers, confuse its menu and open up a black hole for capital.”

The mixture of food and coffee is the norm in Europe, though it has not been perfected in the states. McDonalds tried the café experiment several years ago with mixed results. Will its counter customers migrate to the coffee bar? Can it scale to 14,000 coffee bars by year end? Even for McDonalds 14,000 units in a short period time has to be a logistical nightmare! Will the concept be muddled? Has it run out of ideas for expanding the food menu?

Warren Buffet’s investment strategy is to analyze, find opportunities where there is a margin of safety in a great investment and then make big bets. McDonalds is clearly making a Big Bet.

Because that’s the way it always was:

Seth Godin’s recent post “Vestiges” offers this insight:

because that's the way it always was.

If you're working hard to work around a vestige, maybe it makes sense to work just as hard to get rid of it all together”

Have you reviewed your menu mix recently? Your customers are telling you which of your menu items they are interested in. Are you listening? When you and your culinary staff devise new menu items are you anticipating a need, reacting to menu mix or remixing items because that’s the way it always was?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sample the Menu:

The other evening while having dinner at a quick casual restaurant, the manager approached the man sitting at the table next to ours. The man was eating one of those gut busting, caramel drizzled, three ice cream scoop desserts. The manager’s approach was, “How are you enjoying the dessert?” The man responded “that the dessert was just so-so.” The manager then responded, “Oh thank you for your input, I myself have not had that item and was curious about it?”

Imagine this, you are guest at a restaurant and a management tells you that they have not sampled the offerings. Would you want to go back to this place? Maybe if the management had sampled the menu, they would not serve a so-so dessert.

The same manager later approach our table and asked “Is Everything OK?” Creating customer advocacy is really simple, it involves starting a conversation with your guests that has some heft, some depth, some emotional involvement. There will be times when a server has not sampled the entire menu and can be excused, however there is never a time when a manager has not been able to Sample the Menu!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Acronym for Listening:

Anna Farmery’s post “A Thought on Listening” has an acronym for the process of listening:

L = Look directly at the person
A = Ask questions periodically
D = Don't interrupt the speakers train of thought
D = Don't change the subject
E = Empathise with the feelings of the speaker
R = Respond both verbally and non verbally

Remember LADDER and use it everyday.


Aaron Wall of SEO is discussing search engine optimization business models, however the tidbit of wisdom is easily transferable to any business model.

Everything that is not a memory, brand, or experience is becoming a commodity. What prevents you or I from becoming a commodity?

You become what you surround yourself with, and when you push out you attract the right people or the wrong people.

If your restaurant is indistinguishable from your competitors, change needs to be your new business model.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rekindling the Old Magic:

An AP story on Starbucks “Starbucks replaces CEO” suggests that you can go home again.

Starbucks Corp. Chairman Howard Schultz is reclaiming the chief executive's chair as part of a major restructuring initiative to slow the company's U.S. growth, ramp up expansion overseas and improve offerings for its customers.”

Starbucks is probably the best example of creating customer advocacy. Here is an organization that created the “word of mouth” mantra. The explosive growth of the company was tied directly to creating customer advocates. Those customers then created other customers by evangelizing the benefits of the Starbucks experience.

That experience has become diluted of late. The results of that dilution is seen in decreased customer counts and stagnant growth.

Here’s hoping that Schultz can re-energize the brand and rekindle the Old Magic.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Help is a call away:

Jeffery Summers’ post “How top Hospitality Professional Increase Profits”, explores the use of business coaches.

“Imagine a place where unbelievable achievement is the norm. This is where the hearts and minds of some event and meeting professionals are. Whether you have a specific issue you need to resolve or a goal that seems unattainable, coaching creates a clear connection between where you are today and where you want to be.”

Specialization of Labor is what helps a business scale. To repeat an old cliché “many times you can not see the forest through the trees.” If you do not have someone within your organization or your circle of advisers with whom you can bounce ideas or receive genuine feedback, then follow Jeffery Summer’s advice and bring on a business coach. The investment will reap rewards for you and your restaurant.

Single Step:

Jim Somchai’s post “Impossible is just a word”, offers some wisdom on accomplishing goals.

“Try this exercise. Take a piece of paper and write down some goals in your life. Under one header, list down things ‘you know you can do’. Under another header, write the things ‘you might be able to do.’ And under one more, list the things that that are ‘impossible for you to do.’

Now look at all the headers strive every day to accomplish the goals that are under things ‘you know you can do’. Check them when you are able to accomplish them. As you slowly are able to check all of your goals under that heading, try accomplishing the goals under the other header-the one that reads ‘you might be able to do.’

As of the items you wrote under things I could do are accomplished, you can move the goals that are under things that are ‘impossible for you to do’ to the list of things ‘you might be able to do.’”

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

People are your Competitive Advantage:

Creating customer advocacy is a process that relies entirely on social interaction. The moment a restaurateur hires their first employee, the competitive advantage of your organization shifts from residing with the restaurateur to residing with your employees. Your people, not your menu, not your presentation, not your design, are your competitive advantage. Competitors can copy every aspect of your business however they can’t copy your people.

The restaurateur designs the space, creates the menu, provides the necessary tools, however the execution of the customer experience rests with your employees. That execution, more than any other factor is responsible for your success.

Restaurateur’s at times look upon employees as another element in production, another cog in the wheel and do not focus enough on bringing in excellent people into the organization. Small restaurants have this notion that they can get by with less than perfect people. That notion needs to be dispelled immediately. Hiring behavior is critical to your survival and without great people providing an exceptional customer experience, the process of creating customer advocacy will not flower.

Your people are your competitive advantage.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Are you a Cliché Boss?

Tim Berry’s post about real life The Office bosses is worth the read:

“You have legions of former employees, but they rarely give your name as a reference for new jobs. Either they don't trust you to give them their due, or they worry that because they were so miserable working for you, your recollections will also be dismal.

You have legions of former employees, period. If your staff falls away like linty Post-it notes, ask yourself: Is high turnover the problem? Or am I?”

Are you a type of boss depicted weekly on national television? Is that something to aspire to? Perhaps some sensitivity training in the new year? Nah! :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Breathing in, I calm my body.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment!

Thich Nhat Hanh

Chu Shen Tan

S Novim Godom

Feliz Ano Novo

Happy New Year

Enjoy the 2008 journey around the sun!