Sunday, September 28, 2008

You have their attention:

Roger Dooley’s post offers an aromatic idea;

“Dr Florian Koppelstatter of the Medical University Innsbruck, Austria, found that caffeine affects distinct areas of the brain. This study is beleived to be the first to demonstrate a visible impact on the brain from caffeine. Subjects who had been given caffeine showed significantly more activity in the frontal lobe and the anterior cingulum - areas of the brain associated with memory and attention. Subjects who received a placebo showed no such impact.”

When your customers drink coffee you have their attention, what do you want to tell them?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Leaders are Storytellers:

Kristi Hedges’ article reminds us that leaders are storytellers and that is why people connect with them:

• They are storytellers. People don't remember lists of facts. We remember stories. Humans are innate storytellers. We use stories to create understanding for ourselves. Stories transport us and form a lasting connection. Great leaders share their stories to make their points come alive and to motivate others.

What is the compelling story you tell to your staff and your customers?

Buying Local:

The romantic notion of buying local fruits and vegetables from your friendly farmer down the red dirt road might makes excellent fodder for a marketing campaign, however it has little basis in fact. Walmart and others have announced an initiative that whenever possible they will source local. If you have a distribution system better than the federal government it is easy to make that type of pronouncement. It is more carbon efficient for Walmart to move produce than for a local farmer to bring a product to the weekly farmers market. The problem is if Walmart is sourcing all the local produce, you Mr. & Ms. Average Consumer have no chance. The supply simply is not there. Also, the whole point of this exercise is to reduce the total carbon footprint on the planet, it is not at all clear that buying local helps the environment.

Marketing of buying local is a great driver because it makes everyone feel good that they are helping the merchant down the street and reducing pollution along the way. It is ironic that Walmart is now seen as helping local merchants. Walmart has done more to put whole sectors out of business than any organization in history. (that however is fodder for another post, think pizza from Walmart and be very afraid)

The feel good notion of buying local has caught on and will be with us for a while.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Garden in the Autumn:

I was walking around the neighborhood the other day and I noticed a lot of overgrown gardens. Gardens that were inspiring in the spring, beautiful in the summer, had now become overgrown and unruly in the autumn. Restaurant outdoor cafés take on that haphazard unattended look as the autumnal equinox approaches. Gardens are also a metaphor for your capital improvement projects. Too often a restaurateur will put off changing the design, colors or furniture of a restaurant until the place looks old, tired and totally uninviting. Look around today, is your restaurant clean, updated and fresh?

You can’t blink:

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

Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin said recently in an interview, that when she was asked to be the candidate she said yes because “you can’t blink” when faced with an opportunity, she added “you need to be hard wired to respond”. Entrepreneur by definition is someone who responds on instinct. There are a lot of business books that deal with taking a risk, launching without any hope of success, not blinking in the face of opportunity. All great successes occurred because someone took a risk. Now, understand that not all risk takers succeeded, however no one ever succeeded without taking a risk.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Riding the trend:

Kara Nielsen’s article on trends offers insight into how they develop and how to best utilize them to resonate with your customers:

“The Center for Culinary Development (CCD) has developed a proprietary Trend Mapping process to spot and track these kinds of trends. Emerging culinary trends appear in fine dining and ethnic restaurants, or Stage 1 on the map. Stage 2 trends show up in gourmet food magazines, on the Food Network, and in specialty food stores like Sur La Table or Dean & Deluca. Casual-chain restaurants and cookware stores like Williams-Sonoma are home to Stage 3 trends while Stage 4 trends surface in mainstream women’s magazines such as Better Homes & Gardens. By the time a trend hits Stage 5 it is essentially mainstream, found on grocery store shelves and quick-service menus…

… Clearly it still takes years for culinary trends to reach mainstream. Yet not all new food items or ingredients on menus even become true trends. This is why it is vital to constantly monitor activity in Stage 1 and 2, tracking potential culinary trends to catch them when they start moving up the map….

… Considering all this new information about food, how can you tell what’s a fad and what might be a legitimate trend? Fads tend to spike high and fast but have no longevity. Typically, niche groups discover and promote fads such as low-carb diets. Media hype then spreads the word. But because consumer drivers behind many fads aren’t strong enough, they eventually fizzle. Who can really give up carbs long term?”

Special focus on beverages:

McDonalds sales rose 4.5% in August, a press release offered the following:

McDonald's Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner said, "We're connecting with customers worldwide by providing a convenient, affordable and relevant restaurant experience. This ongoing commitment to customers continues to drive our momentum in every area of the world."

U.S. comparable sales rose 4.5% in August driven by McDonald's popular breakfast menu, the Olympic-themed Southern Style Chicken Sandwich and Biscuit promotion and everyday affordability with a special focus on beverages.

Earlier this year I was skeptical about the plan to integrate upscale coffee into the McDonalds business model. Clearly the marketplace had different ideas.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mayo is Back

Several people recently, quite independently have regaled me with stories of how they make homemade mayo. Amy Scattergood’s LA Times article offers another take:

Back in the day of 19th century French chef (and sauce expert) Antonin Carême, mayonnaise was made by stirring vinegar and egg yolks with small increments of oil -- relentlessly, with a wooden spoon, for upward of 15 minutes -- until the sauce slowly came together.

The oil droplets bond with the water-based liquids -- traditionally just the yolks and vinegar -- and as the droplets become smaller and smaller, the mixture combines, or emulsifies, until the mayonnaise is thick, custardy and as yellow as butter.

When you make mayo in a blender, the principle is the same -- oil is slowly added to the yolk-vinegar mixture -- but the whirring blades make the process far easier.

Menu’s of late are starting to feature mayo in creative ways. How do you use mayo?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Step back and test:

Mickey Meese’s article in the NY Times suggests that restaurateurs take a break, here’s how:

Learn to take a day off during the week. Start out by staying away on the slowest day and analyzing how the staff handles the business, the food and the problems. This will also build a trust and responsibility factor for employees.

Very good advice.

Collaborative innovation:

Irving Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s article offers this bit of wisdom:

But perhaps even more important, a collaborative approach to innovation helps provide the energy and emotional support that new ideas need in their very early stages. New ideas are almost always rough and ill-formed at first. In my experience, nothing works better than bouncing ideas off other, supportive people. This back-and-forth dialog is crucial in helping to shape the idea into something more concrete, understandable, and actionable. Then it is more ready to face the tougher challenges and criticisms from line management and others in the organization.

Traffic counts are down, costs are up, pricing pressures are unbelievable, what’s a restaurateur to do? Innovate.

A calendar, a calendar, my kingdom for a calendar

How much confidence do you have in a restaurant that issues a summer menu on September 2? The southern hemisphere is entering spring and the northern hemisphere is entering autumn, this organization is in need of a calendar.

"The Cheesecake Factory Introduces Summer 2008 Menu Additions

Take a break from the summer heat and visit The Cheesecake Factory® to experience 12 fantastic new menu items ranging in price from $7.50 to $20.95. This summer’s menu additions follow nearly a dozen new items that were introduced this past winter, including such hits as the Wasabi Crusted Ahi Tuna, Maple Pork Tenderloin, Turkey Pastrami Reuben, Vegetable Chopped Salad, Pasta Carbonara and Chicken Sliders. Highlights include the expansion of The Cheesecake Factory’s popular Weight Management category with the addition of a Weight Management Grilled Chicken™ featuring a lightly pounded chicken breast charbroiled and topped with a tomato and arugula salad, garnished with steamed white rice and asparagus.
Business Wire 09/02/08"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Howard, stop already:

The latest Starbucks incarnation is beyond desperation. I could wax endlessly about how Starbucks created market segments, revolutionized the coffee experience and launched a multinational phenomenon.

Adversity reveals the essence and the fundamental nature of the person or the enterprise. I am disappointed that lower traffic counts have produced such unimaginative responses from Seattle. First, coffee brewers, then smoothies and now Protein Power Plate, Please. Stop Already!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Character of your restaurant:

Mary Ellen and I walked into my favorite breakfast joint the other day and I felt the energy in the space was different. The owner greeted us with his usual smile and escorted us to our table. The physical space was the same, the owner was same, the menu was the same and the morning coffee was the same, what was different? The servers, some were faces I recognized others were new. It occurred to me that the servers more than anything else you as a restaurateur can influence affects your customers relationship to the restaurant.

I have posted discussions about the competitive advantages of your people, however this is different. I am talking about design today. The people in your restaurant are part of your design. How they work together, how they mesh with each other and how they compliment each other affects how people feel about the dining experience.

Monday, September 1, 2008

1908 World Championship Update

On a different note, the One Hundredth defense of the Chicago Cubs 1908 World Championship continues. As September dawns the team has the best record in baseball. The autumn sky awaits.

Summer lease has all to short a date 2:

My earliest recollection is that dusk on the first Monday in September ended summer. A rite of passage occurs. I knew there would be no more trips to the beach or the picnics in park. I knew that dreams of summer would be put away until the mythical next year. The lazy carefree days would soon be replaced with homework, study, and research projects. Though we at times wish some things like summer last a little longer, we know that for summer to come again it must first end now. Movement is magical beyond understanding, “keep on moving forward”, the preacher exclaimed and all will come to pass.