Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book him Dano:

A fun story from Reuters about a restaurateur that used social media to track down diners that had bolted on the check:

“Peter Leary from seafood restaurant Seagrass on Melbourne's Southbank was fuming when the diners ate their way through the menu, pairing oysters, trout and red emperor with some expensive wines, slipped out for a cigarette -- and never returned.

But Leary, left with an unpaid bill of A$520 ($340), remembered one of the diners asking about a former waitress, whom he then contacted and she suggested they check through some contacts on Facebook.

"We searched a few names and there in front of us his face came up," Leary told Reuters, referring to one of the diners.”

There is an old axiom that “one should live their lives as if every decision winds up on the cover of the NY Times”. In this social media crazed world every action is chronicled for the world to see.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Make your customers shine:

Maybe it is the season, maybe it is the cold, maybe it is just that I am more aware, however quite a few articles lately are dealing with foods that help your skin stay fit and shine.

Help your customers shine by providing them with the benefits of salmon, berries, cinnamon, walnuts, almonds, low fat yogurt, extra virgin olive oil and green tea. Incorporate these items as choices in your menu and highlight the benefits they provide.

Emphasize benefits not ingredients:

Alright the Holiday Season is now in full swing, people are spending less, however they are still spending. You as a restaurateur have an opportunity to create customer advocacy with every one that crosses your path. You will have plenty of friends and people who will be your friends visit your establishment over the next five weeks. Maximize that exposure and create a customer for life.

No one cares what ingredients your chef uses, no one cares about the painstaking efforts that went into the perfect design for the your space, no one cares about how you provide your staff with every tool in order to provide exceptional service, no one cares about the infrastructure you have created to provide an unequaled dining experience. All that any of your customers care about is what benefit you are offering them. Brian Tracy defines selling as:

“the process of helping a person to conclude that your product or service is of greater value to him or her than the price you are asking for”

Simple enough, the benefit you are providing your customer must be of greater value than the price you are asking for. I can sense your mind crunching numbers right now, “if I lower my price that increases value” {Wrong, wrong, wrong! I have only one absolute rule “never discount regular prices.” If your prices are too high then change your price on the menu, never discount your price. Discounting is a death spiral. Sorry for the rant now back to post}. The value needs to be greater than the price. Increase the value or more precisely the perception of the value. “Context is Life”, nothing is good or bad except by comparison. Focus on the benefits, the problems you are solving for your guests. Ignore telling people about all the great things you have done for them, tell them how they are going to feel by dining at your establishment. Focus on how the customer feels and you will be happy.

Emphasize benefits not ingredients!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Law of Thanksgiving:

The Law of Thanksgiving has three principles:

1) "Everything is a gift and we are but humble stewards of those gifts."

2) "The secret to happiness is to accept all that comes along with Thanksgiving and want for nothing else."

3) "The secret to wealth is to give away the first ten percent of all you earn until you can give it all away."

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Patterns in the Flatwater

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do” Goethe

Chicago is a world class city with a vibrant restaurant scene, twenty miles of gorgeous urban lakefront, currently the political center of the United States. There is a river that runs through it, the flatwater known as the Chicago River. One of the beauties of the river in an urban center is the bridge. Bridges are wonderful inventions, not only to they allow transport between the shores, they also provide perspective that is often lost as we traverse the concrete jungles. 

I was crossing the eastern side of the Clark Street Bridge this morning in the early twilight. I looked upon the flatwater and noticed a pattern.. The pattern was that of boat wake. I did not see a boat, nor did I hear a boat. I continued to look upon the pattern and I surmised, that the boat must be under the bridge or just short of the  horizon the on western side of the bridge. My belief in the existence of a boat was absolute. The pattern in flatwater had to have a cause because it was not random and it matched perfectly the pattern of a boat wake. Something caused that pattern. I did not see the cause only the result. The river continued to flow and as the ripples of the pattern reached the awaiting embankments the boat emerged on the western horizon of bridge and the theory became reality.

Opportunities abound in our life, sometimes they come disguised as unsolvable problems, sometimes they leave patterns in the flatwater and always they provide an advantage to those with the wisdom to discern and act decisively. What patterns have you noticed in your flatwater?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Coffee and Insurance really go together:

Lloyds of London started out as a coffee house. According to Wikipedia

The market began in Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse around 1688 in Tower Street, London. His establishment was a popular place for sailors, merchants, and shipowners and Lloyd catered to them with reliable shipping news. The shipping industry community frequented the place to discuss insurance deals among themselves. Just after Christmas 1691, the coffee shop relocated to Lombard Street (a blue plaque commemorates this location). This arrangement carried on long after Lloyd's death in 1713 until 1774 when the participating members of the insurance arrangement formed a committee and moved to the Royal Exchange as The Society of Lloyd's.

Restaurants are amazing places for those with the courage to seize the day.

Hard Choices:

Matt Boyle’s article at BusinessWeek on dealing with the downturn.

What advice does Finkelstein have for managers coping with the downturn? Rather than hunker down, he thinks they should act boldly. "People are more willing to accept change during a crisis," he says. "This means it's an opportunity to make hard changes that you need to make that may have been resisted before."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why am I doing this?

Every entrepreneur asks themselves how they are spending the time and energy?

Chaitanya Sagar’s post places emphasis on the management of time and resources.

“Why am I doing this? How does my customer benefit from it? Should I not be working on something that enhances value to my customer?”

Time is the most precious commodity of all, if what you do in your business does not provide the greatest benefit to the customer than why do it?

Start again NOW!

Anna Farmery, always a insightful read at “The Engaging Brand”, has a post about the magic of life allowing us to begin again NOW!

”Leadership and management are not easy, we will make mistakes yet when we realise that the very next moment is a brand new chance to succeed, then taking risks and having the odd failure just doesn't seem as bad..”

You have a choice every moment, either accept your business as it is or change it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

See you next week:

I had lunch at a new restaurant today. As I was leaving the hostess said “see you next week.” I had no contact with the hostess prior to that exchange. What struck me most was that, 1) there was an implicit “ask”, 2) she had total confidence in the experience that the restaurant had delivered, 3) she put a time limit on my response.

Every negotiating guidebook on the planet tells you that the secret to acquiring anything is to “ask”. This restaurant and this hostess clearly have the “ask” part down very well. The dining experience was fine, nothing extraordinary, however the “see you next week” comment reframed the entire experience in a positive fashion. By being specific “next week”, they are creating an obligation on my part. If I don’t visit next week I will be letting the restaurant down so of course I’ll visit.

Perhaps you need to reframe your guest experience, rather than close with “thank you for dining with us” or “see you soon”, close with “see you next week.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Paddle hard, but keep your eye on the big wave:

Interesting little vignette by Bob Massie about the need to seek opportunity in every situation:

to place ourselves in the rising and falling swells, paddling forward while glancing occasionally backwards, so that we will be ready when the big wave comes. If we do that, we will stand up at the right moment, establish our balance, take a deep breath, and ride the exhilarating force of history all the way to shore.

We live in interesting times. Much of what was thought as reliable has revealed itself to be no more than dust in the wind.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Focus on your greatest opportunities:

There is a well worn axiom in business, to focus all your energy on your greatest opportunities and let the rest take care of itself. The implication is not to forget about the rest, rather give the rest to those who are best able to deal with it. An entrepreneur’s energy should be directed toward activity that results in the highest generation of cash flow and profit (incidentally not the same concepts).

Denise O’Berry’s post reminds us all to focus all of our energy on generating cash flow.

“Your primary focus, if your business is living on the edge between a red or black bottom line, should be cash flow. And to increase cash flow you have to sell. Anything that takes you away from selling is a threat to your cash flow.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Courage in a pill:

What is it that makes entrepreneurs risk takers? A new study in Nature magazine might provide an answer:

this ability to make quick decisions under stress "may have evolutionary value as a means of seizing opportunities in a rapidly changing environment".

It also suggested that as risk-taking and quick decision-making were linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine, there is a possibility that drugs could be developed that the naturally risk-adverse could take.

Professor Barbara Sahakian, lead author of the research, said the findings "raise the question of whether one could enhance entrepreneurship pharmacologically".

She added: "This study has shown that not all risk-taking is disadvantageous, particularly when combined with enhanced flexible problem solving. In fact, risky decision-making is an essential part of the entrepreneurial process and may be possible to teach, particularly in young adults where higher risk-taking is likely and age-appropriate."

If you’re an entrepreneur, you have a natural adaptive advantage, USE IT!

Repricing of Assets:

When prices collapse in the financial and commodity markets like they have in the past three months, it is called “repricing of assets.” Friday’s retail sales figures were not bad they were horrific. The price of oil has dropped 60% from its peak five months ago. Other commodity prices including dairy, wheat and corn have also trended lower. The conditions are changing so fast that business is unable to keep up. Menu prices tend to be sticky, that is when you set them they tend to remain at that price for a while.

Have you checked you vendor invoices recently? Are you still being charged a fuel surcharge? What has happened to flour and dairy prices? Look at your lease, if traffic counts have dropped off the end of the table, renegotiate your lease. The work that you had gotten a quote on five months ago, get another quote, I am guessing the price has been ratcheted downward.

There has not been such a huge “repricing of assets” in eighty years. No one seems to know how to respond, leadership is sorely lacking. There is a massive crisis.

There is also the opportunity of a lifetime!

8 second rule:

In eight seconds tell me what the essence of your business is?

Strip away all the fluff, what is your business all about in eight seconds? Here is the process, start with a 3 minute narrative, reduce the story to 2 minutes, reduce the story to 1 minute, reduce the story to thirty seconds, reduce the story to twenty seconds, and finally reduce the story to 8 seconds.

Now go out and play!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is US Cash the best hope for your business?

A NYTimes article chronicles the struggles of GM

“Without immediate government assistance, G.M. said its cash position “will fall significantly short” of what it needs during the first six months of next year.”

Every restaurateur in the country right now is feeling that way also. “I need government cash to survive” has become everyone’s mantra. What is lacking is accountability. “The Oz Principle” an excellent book on getting results through individual and organizational accountability recommends that everyone own up to their personal responsibility and stop looking outside of themselves for resolutions.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Aspiration v desperation:

The human psyche can be divided into two very distinct halves. Our actions reflect our aspirations, what we hope to become or our desperation's, what we hope we will not become.

What every entrepreneur needs to ask themselves today is, “Am I aspiring to great customer service or am I desperate about the state of the business?”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The journey begins with a single step:

Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama : Election Night

Chicago, IL | November 04, 2008

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends... though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection." And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote, Eat and Drink:

Many enterprising restaurants are offering complimentary food and drink specials to anyone who can show them a valid ballot receipt signifying that they voted.

Voting is the one responsibility of a citizen in a republic.

Vote Today!