Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day:

Today is a rarity on the calendar. Every four years the journey around sun requires a fix. We need to bring the calendar in line with sidereal days which are 23.9344696 hours long.

Because of its rarity, it has an essence and as such offers a marketing opportunity.

What special is your restaurant offering on Leap Day?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Restaurant Membership! has a story about the Riverdale Garden trying to raise $250,000 by selling free diners for a year for $5,000.

“Approximately $100,000 of the money will go to the landlord to secure a 7 year lease and $50,000 of the money will go to the frontage of the building awning and French doors ( and likely a sidewalk cafe). The other hundred thousand will be utilized for working capital. If by chance we can make a profit, profit sharing with our "investors" will be discussed."

Asking customers to finance new projects is an old tradition, however asking them to finance an existing location is fairly novel.

What me worry about a recession!

"to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." Carl Sagan

President George W Bush today reassured all Americans by stating that we are not headed for a recession. Quoting AP sources

“Bush's view of the economy was decidedly rosier than that of many economists, who say the country is nearing recession territory or may already be there. "I'm concerned about the economy," he said. "I don't think we're headed to recession. But no question, we're in a slowdown."

“we’re in a slowdown”, and they say our president isn’t eloquent.

Restaurants are audio/video inputs!

Is it me or have restaurants tended to become louder and louder? We are surrounded by a myriad of audio inputs constantly throughout the day. Back in my day when I went to a restaurant there used to be a respite from that stream of audio. Not any more! Restaurants concepts of varying ilk have adopted a loud plasma TV, music feed mentality that interrupts basic conversation. The moving images on the TV distract your eyes because we have inherited a survival trait to observe movement. It is fine if you’re on the savannah and need to determine whether to fight or take flight, however the same trait is very distracting when your eating lunch at a restaurant and your gaze continually shifts to the moving images on the TV.

Municipalities have noticed and some are enacting laws to lower the volume in eating establishments. Eating as a process does not require high decibel accompaniment, or does it? Perhaps we have evolved further and now we are not capable of eating with continual audio/video inputs.

Free as a marketing tool!

Seth Godin’s post “may I have your attention please” asks entrepreneurs to question how they use “free”.

“You can do that by creating a remarkable service or product. You can do it by paying them with cash. Or you can do it with free. Free undermines the typical human's proclivity to ignore every offer. Even if it's a penny, we'll ignore it. Free changes that. In other words, buying attention is a marketing expense, and one way to budget for that is to deduct it from the cost of your product. As Tim O'Reilly says, piracy is not the enemy, obscurity is.

The interesting thing about most products and services is that we won't buy them until we know what they are and what they do. And often the best and only way to do that is to use them... You can view that as a problem or you can see it as an opportunity. Up to you.

Marketing is not advertising, not any more. It is often found in the way you make something, talk about it and yes, price it.”

Free is the most used word in marketing, or it is tied with the word “love” in an effort to get you to notice a product. Restaurateur’s have vast experience with giveaways. Restaurants as a matter of course often give away samples to generate interest in a new menu item or to introduce a new restaurant concept. There is a huge difference between giving something away free and offering a complimentary introduction to a new product. Restaurants need to be very aware of how they give away “free”. Free is of no value if it does not connect with the customer. When it does connect, free is a wonderful marketing tool!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Peer Interaction!

Chris Portella’s post at Digital Design Blog explains your motivation when you make a purchase.

“Think about the last five or so products you purchased; how many of them were influenced by recommendations of friends or even random strangers? If you are like most Americans, the vast majority of your purchasing decisions involve some form of peer interaction.

It comes as no surprise that Nielsen reports that 78% of consumers trust their peers opinions.”

Creating customer advocacy is the path!

Characteristics of Success:

Todd Harris’ article in the Financial Post outlines some traits that successful entrepreneur have.

“As a researcher and practitioner in the field of personality, I have seen first-hand that the personal characteristics of those who view entrepreneurship as a feasible career choice, persist at it, and succeed at it, can be distinctive. Nascent entrepreneurs are often relatively comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty and risk, strongly influence events (what psychologists refer to as self-efficacy), and have high levels of work motivation.”

That about covers it! If you can not handle ambiguity, you need to hire someone who does. Entrepreneurship is all about blazing a trail where there are no road markers. It is just you and the elements.

Value as a competitive Advantage:

The bearish sentiment in the press, the decreased customer counts, and the declining check average is leading many to the altar of value. The belief that customers will spread advocacy about your establishment if you provide them with a value proposition is starting to sink with many entrepreneurs. WOW creating customer advocacy, what a concept, do you think it will catch on?

Businesses that thrive moving forward will be ones that understand the value of the customer experience. Businesses no longer operate in a vacuum where they are immune from the forces of the marketplace. Creating an exceptional customer experience is the only path to success.

What path are you on?

Changing Spending Habits:

Bruce Horvitz’s USA Today article highlights a sea change in how consumers are evaluating purchases. For all the negative press, the US is still a 13Trillion Dollar economy. People are still out there buying however restaurants have to give them a reason that alleviates their pain when visiting.

Most consumers actually feel more pain from these small cuts than from big ones. You miss your daily java jolt a lot more than, say, a new car you'd only hoped to buy sometime this year.

Small cuts can also have a big effect on the economy. If cutting back becomes a cultural mind-set, it can be very hard to turn around.

"The new status isn't how much you've got, but your ability to show what you don't spend," says futurist Watts Wacker, who advises businesses on trends.

"This is a seminal moment. It's not a fad that will die out when the economy picks up."

Trends guru Faith Popcorn puts it this way: "It's cooler not to spend."

When it’s cooler not to spend many businesses will feel pain if they do not heed the wisdom of providing an exceptional customer experience.

Close a few doors!

John Tierney’s article in the New York Times should really resonate with entrepreneurs.

“Xiang Yu was a Chinese general in the third century B.C. who took his troops across the Yangtze River into enemy territory and performed an experiment in decision making. He crushed his troops’ cooking pots and burned their ships.

“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities.

General Yu closed the door on his troops. He enabled them to succeed because he left them no other option. To often options paralyze decision making in entrepreneurs.

Close a few doors!

The Starbucks retool!

Starbucks took the bold step to close at off peak times for a few hours to retrain, refocus and re-energize the customer experience. It was more sizzle than steak however that is the magic of marketing. Everyone no doubt will go in over the next few days and see if there is a new customer focus. The move was a grand gesture and from a marketing perspective pretty good! Competitors took advantage as well by offering specials during the time that Starbucks was closed.

All in all it was a textbook experiment in marketing.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Beer Here!

Peter Romeo’s post at The Scoop highlights the beneficial aspects of a new beer. Drink beer and look younger. Sign me up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Asking Forgiveness is more effective than asking permission!

If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission. ~ Admiral Grace Hopper

One of the major factors in entrepreneurial success is that the entrepreneur often does not know that something can’t be done that way. Everyone and everything tells you how things can’t be done. Seth Godin’s post highlightsa simple secret of success: ignore the sticker.” By not knowing the entrepreneur is not laden with other people’s limits.

Go ahead and do it. You can always ask forgiveness later. I suspect you will find that having accomplished the task, no one will seek your contrition.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Drive Up and the Carbon Footprint:

Julie Sturgeon’s QSRWeb article brings front and center an issue that will increasingly demand more dialogue.

“For starters, most Burger King units generate between 50 and 60 percent of their daily total sales averages at the drive-thru. That’s just the tip of the iceberg: The National Restaurant Association’s 2007 Quickservice Restaurant Survey reveals that 89 percent of operators believe their drive-thrus will represent an even larger portion of sales in 2008. That alone speaks volumes for its value to the American consumer, insiders argue. Don’t forget, these are the same consumers demanding car manufacturers install more cup holders,”

Drive by a Quick serve concept at lunch and you will no doubt discover a line cars queuing up to purchase at the drive-thrus. Those vehicles unless they are hybrids are burning fossil fuels and creating greenhouse gases. Some municipalities are banning drive-thrus, others are starting to discuss the concept.

The carbon footprint of restaurant is a discussion that needs to be started. If you wait long enough, municipalities will tell you what you need to do. Perhaps you would rather participate in the discussion?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fear Not!

“All Troubles Arise, Suffer Change, and Pass Away” Ashtavakra

The latest retail sales figures for January indicate that consumers are curtailing restaurant expenditures, Fear Not! Here is a restaurant that has survived, revolution, insurrection, war, war, war again, kings, emperors, depression, countless recessions, outdoor plumbing, lack of electricity, renovations, time and time again and a seemingly infinite amount of dining trends Check out Botin Restaurant, Madrid

Dinner in the Sky:

Has eating out lost some of its fun, pizzazz and excitement? Tired of the same ho hum? Looking to get to a higher plane? Check out this restaurant company, Dinner in the Sky

(tip: Nevada Smith)

For other ideas check out Forbes' list

Every delivery is a sales opportunity:

I am continually surprised when breakfast or lunch is catered at a meeting or seminar by the lack of information about the caterer. In far too many cases the presentation is impeccable, the food is excellent and nowhere is there the slightest hint of the origin of the meal.

Delivery to your client’s office is an opportunity to market your services to your client’s guest. Take advantage of it. Always bring some extra menus and tastefully intersperse among your offerings. Leave business cards on the table or with the receptionist.

Restaurants offering pizza delivery have perfected the art form by leaving menus and coupons for your next order. The next step however should be to call the customer back after an appropriate time and ask how the meal met their expectations.

Never forget every delivery however small is a sales opportunity.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Pamela Slim’s post “The secret to a fun and thriving business? Be a matchmaker” offers another option in creating customer advocacy:

“good matchmaker as someone who constantly looks for ways to connect good people, ideas and institutions without the expectation of payback.”

Valentines Day is a good time to remember that a restaurateur has a unique ability to bring people together, whether it is business or pleasure. If your privy to the needs and skill sets of your guests, it is your responsibility to help them connect. Some restaurants actively market their status as a networking hub, or a place to have a power lunch. All restaurateurs have the ability to connect people.

Who have you matched up recently?

Directed Smiling:

Have you noticed some building elevators now have a cute picture and the word SMILE on the inside door. Looking at the word and the picture of a jar of cookies or a child playing with a yoyo one can not help but smile.

How can you incorporate the concept of directing smiling into your restaurant? The benefits are as big as a smile

Monday, February 11, 2008

Prejudging Customers:

When a customer walks in, we judge them. There is a human need to judge regardless of how much we discuss, teach, educate and instruct. The trait is no doubt adaptive as our ancestors survived because they were able to determine if friend or foe was approaching based on their looks, dress and carriage. The skills that were very useful on the eastern plains of Rift Valley are a hindrance in modern day restaurant settings.

It does matter, you can not know who that person is by what they look like, how they walk, talk or with whom they journey. Not everyone needs to be your customer however everyone is crucial to the viability of your restaurant. The deal that you have bought into when you created the restaurant was that you would give everyone exceptional services. Being aware that you prejudge helps to mitigate some of the notions you have and a great deal of the minutia that hampers your restaurant from providing exceptional customer service every time.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Growth Theory for Restaurants:

The ancestor of every action is thought – Emerson

Paul Romer explains his New Growth Theory in an interview and uses the example of coffee cup lids.

“There are huge numbers of little recipes that all add up to create wealth. To illustrate that point, I use the example of coffee shops in the US where they have three different sizes of coffees that they sell and three different sizes of lids for the respective cups. Then someone came up with the idea that you could design the cups such that one lid fits all the three different cups. That idea saves time at the coffee shops. etc. It’s such little ideas, recipes which add up to help people have the things they like, like hot coffee a little bit more efficiently and at lower cost.”

Ideas, not physical assets are the new coin of the realm. Ideas create wealth and they do so in a non rival fashion, Only one person can eat a piece of bread, however and infinite number can make bread from the original recipe. Restaurateur’s need to view their ideas and not so much their output as their true contribution. The idea of the single lid has minimized storage and increased efficiency in coffee shops. What other ideas can be integrated in the restaurant every day?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sad Customers Spend:

Roger Dooley shares new research in his post:

“Most merchants would include “happy customers” as a key part of their mission. Oddly, new research shows that sad customers are likely to spend more money when shopping. Merely watching a sad video clip caused subjects to pay nearly four times as much for a water bottle than subjects who watched an emotionally neutral clip…

this research suggests comfort food is a part of a broader phenomenon in which individuals reward themselves when feeling down. “Comfort shopping” is apparently part of that same group of behaviors.”

Sad customers spend more money, interesting. The goal is still to make the customers happy. The goal is to create an exceptional experience that they will tell their friends about. It is nice that sad customers spend as long as your restaurant is not making them sad.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Kung Hei Fat Choi:

The new moon ushers in the Lunar New Year.

According to Wikipedia some actions that portend a good year!

Good luck

  • Opening windows and/or doors is considered to bring in the good luck of the new year.
  • Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to 'scare away' ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the new year.
  • Sweets are eaten to ensure the consumer a "sweet" year.
  • It is important to have the house completely clean from top to bottom before New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year. (however, as explained below, cleaning the house after New Year's Day is frowned upon)
  • Some believe that what happens on the first day of the new year reflects the rest of the year to come. Asians will often gamble at the beginning of the year, hoping to get luck and prosperity.
  • Wearing a new pair of slippers that is bought before the new year, because it means to step on the people who gossip about you.
  • The night before the new year, bathe yourself in pomelo leaves and some say that you will be healthy for the rest of the new year.

Advocate’s Spin:

Jackie Huba’s post at The Church of the Customer Blog provides insight on how to deal with a customer advocate who has a spin on your restaurant that you are not quite sure about.

“If the customer's information is technically correct but incomplete, or uses her own words and not yours, get over it. A word-smithing scold is old.”

Creating customer advocacy involves a sense of participation and ownership by the customer. Correcting someone over a word-smithing faux pas is a horrible return on investment. Allow the advocate to put their own spin on things. You may find that it helps to evolve the concept.


Donald Latumahima’s post about not finishing a book or project you’ve started is worth the read:

“So, when we do something and realize that it’s no longer worth our time, we should decide to stop. Don’t hesitate to leave it unfinished. Just because you start doing something, it doesn’t mean that you must finish it. Save your time and get more value by doing something else.”

Too often because we have invested time and energy in one direction, it becomes very difficult to let go. Seth Godin makes the same point in his book “The Dip”, sometimes there is much more value in stopping what you are doing and investing your energy in a more productive undertaking. Give your self permission to sometimes leave projects unfinished.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Primary: Go out and Vote:

“Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds”

Albert Einstein

If your state is having a primary, go out and vote today. If your state is not having a primary, go out and vote anyway. I am from Chicago and we never let little hiccups like the lack of an election, stand in the way of voting. People in elected office have a direct impact on your business. They are the ones who come up with all those great laws that drive you to distraction. If you do not exercise your vote, you have to no right to complain when your business is legislated into oblivion.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Life as a Dance:

Dr Wayne Dyer’s new book “the Wisdom of the Tao” offers this little nugget.

“Think of life as a dance, the goal is to enjoy each step, not reach a certain spot on the dance floor by the end of the song.”

Too often in business we are so focused on a particular outcome that we neglect to enjoy the steps, the actual living that occurs in the moment. The journey is the destination. "Think of life as a dance!"

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pizza and Chicken Day:

Today in the Valley of the Sun a football game will be played, who cares? What is really important is the prodigious amounts of pizza and chicken that will be consumed in homes, taverns, backyards and tailgates all across this land from the Pacific to the Atlantic!

More pizza dough is rolled, more cheese is layered on the dough, a greater variety of toppings are applied to that dough, more chickens are legged, quartered and winged, more delivery persons are working today, then on any other day of the year.

Beer here! Enjoy!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Groundhog Day; The Movie:

Bill Murray’s comedic tour de force Groundhog Day is a great movie. View it tonight, again, and again, and again for the first time!

“Didn’t you just say that?”

The Prognostication:

The Groundhog Day Website

Phil Says Six More Weeks of Winter!

Phil's official forecast as read 2/2/08 at sunrise at Gobbler's Knob:

Here Ye! Here Ye! Here Ye!

On Gobbler's Knob on this fabolous Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2008
Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators,
Rose to the call of President Bill Cooper and greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.

After casting a weathered eye toward thousands of his faithful followers,
Phil consulted with President Cooper and directed him to the appropriate scroll, which proclaimed:

"As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.
Six more weeks of winter it will be!"

Groundhog Day:

The chill of midwinter grips western Pennsylvania. In most of the little hamlets that populate the rolling hills of this beautiful area, citizens are snug in their homes happily sleeping. Not in Punxsutawney, its 3:00am on the morning of February 2, shuttle buses are lined on Mahoning Street to take the assembled multitude up to the temple of the believers. Others walk the mile or so out of town up the winding roads to the home of the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of Prognosticators. All of these believers have one destination this early morning, Gobbler’s Knob.

The members of the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle make their yearly trek to Gobbler’s Knob on the morning of February 2. Here amid the revelry, good cheer, hot chocolate, fireworks and camaraderie is the serious business of weather prognostication.

“PHIL, PHIL, PHIL”, is the shout from the assembled believers.

“We Believe, We Believe, We Believe”, they exclaim!


“look what light through yon horizon breaks, hark it is the east and the sun rises!”

Friday, February 1, 2008

Certified Green:

There are ways available to help with the carbon footprint of your restaurant. Green Restaurant Association provides certification and ideas to begin the process of making your restaurant environmentally friendly.

More gloom and doom:

The National Restaurant Association released the December Restaurant Performance Index:

“The Association's Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 98.7 in December, down 0.3 percent from November and its lowest level since February 2003.

The reading indicates that restaurant business activity is now at the horrible trough levels of January and February 2003. The fundamentals have not changed however, your customer is seeking an interesting experience and you need to deliver. In this type of environment review your expenditures however resist with every fiber of your being the temptation to cut expenditures that impact the customer experience.

Munchable Ice:

Who would have thought? The Wall Street Journal reports that a hot menu item is Munchable Ice:

“Generally, more ice is sold during the summer, but people who compulsively chew ice do so whether it's hot or cold outside.

Credit Card Fees on tips, who pays:

There has been a ongoing debate among restaurateurs regarding whether to charge the employee the processing fee on the tip portion. The argument is simple enough. Restaurants pay 2%-3% of the transaction amount when a customer uses a credit card. That is a cost of doing business and everyone is ok with that. The restaurant also pays the same percentage on sales tax collected and on the tip piece of the transaction amount.

Let’s look at an example.

Meal cost: $100.00

Sales Tax cost (10%) 10.00

Tip (20%) $20.00

Total Charge $130.00

The net fee using a 2% credit card processing fee is $2.60, that translates to a net fee on the transaction of 2.6%. The restaurant’s transaction costs have just gone up 30%. There is nothing you can do about the sales tax cost, however the tip piece becomes low hanging fruit. By passing on the credit card fee (in this case let’s assume the entire amount $.40) to the server the restaurant reduces it total transaction cost to $2.20 or net cost of 2.2% per transaction. The server receives 19.60 in tips from this $20.00.

The main arguments why every restaurant does not do this are

1) The move is seen as miserly and anti employee and in the end the employee will find another way to extract their pound of flesh from your restaurant.

2) The belief that servers will encourage customers to use cash or will frown on customers who use American Express which is a higher transaction cost (3%) card

Both of these arguments are flawed, one you need to create an environment where your employees are valued members of the restaurant and the reason for the charged is explained and transparent. Two, any employee that places the customer experience secondary to their needs should immediately be asked to find another line of work.