Saturday, February 28, 2009
There are opportunities to market to your guests.
Friday, February 27, 2009
First the extra bag charge, then the first bag charge, then the overweight charge, then the beverage charge, then the pillow charge, now the potty charge, and I am quite certain that there will be a charge for pressurized oxygen (O2) in the very near future. If you can delineate the charges certainly that will lead to lower fares for everyone. From personal experience I know that I rarely use anywhere near the amount of O2 that other passengers use. Why should I pay for their extra O2. The concept is very similar to separate checks, why split the check if we can have separate checks. Actually, why not charge people based on whether their sleeping, talking to other passengers or better yet talking to an airline rep at the gate, being generally annoying or using electrical devices. All those situations use different levels of energy and O2 which I refuse to split on my next flight.
Any restaurant that were to use the "charge them for everything" mantra of that shining customer service beacon known as the airline industry would have a very short flight indeed.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Anya Kamenetz's post provides insight into the plethora of options to finance opportunities,
Starting today, a range of next-generation financial services companies, all of whom employ technology in innovative ways, have teamed up to market some much-needed help to consumers with the Uncrunch America campaign. Like a team of of financial Superfriends, Lending Club offers personal loans through a peer-to-peer model, Virgin Money (yes, a pro-social for-profit offshoot of the Branson empire) has peer-to-peer mortgage financing, OnDeck Capital offers small business loans with a proprietary holistic scoring model, CreditKarma has credit score tools, and Geezeo offers personal finance and budgeting tools.Since the beginning of the year, UnCrunch members have lent almost $75 million to one another.
The site has an overwhelmingly grassroots, patriotic feeling and look, as though it were a stray page from MoveOn.org or recovery.gov. "The American people will solve the credit crisis by helping each other," it proclaims.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Harold McGee's article on "green" pasta cooking offers hope:
After some experiments, I’ve found that we can indeed make pasta in just a few cups of water and save a good deal of energy. Not that much in your kitchen or mine — just the amount needed to keep a burner on high for a few more minutes. But Americans cook something like a billion pounds of pasta a year, so those minutes could add up.
My rough figuring indicates an energy savings at the stove top of several trillion B.T.U.s. At the power plant, that would mean saving 250,000 to 500,000 barrels of oil, or $10 million to $20 million at current prices. Significant numbers, though these days they sound like small drops in a very large pot.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.
Kelly Spors has some really good questions you should ask, such as:
Are you comfortable making decisions on the fly with no playbook?
With a new business, you're calling all the shots -- and there are a lot of decisions to be made without any guidance.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
My answer to Ben’s question is empathetically YES! My bias as I have posted before is that “the success of a business is based entirely on the relationships that business cultivates with its customers and by extension its employees.” Your customer has a relationship with your employees before they have a relationship with your organization. Your employee is the face of your organization to your customers.
The counter argument is that an employee could perform their duties in a mechanical fashion and still create customer advocates without being an advocate themselves. This argument falls apart for the same reason that Adam Smith’s argument about self interest collapses:
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages”
Without safeguards unchecked benevolence denigrates into unbridled self interest at the expense of the customer. Employees will not put the interest of the customer first unless they are advocates for your organization and thus fully invested in the process.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Erika Andersen’s post on staying strategic is a welcome respite
Here’s why: difficult situations make us afraid. When we’re afraid, we tend to narrow our focus. We hunker down, mentally and emotionally, and attend to protecting ourselves; we simply try to get through the day. And, so in the eerily applicable words of FDR, it seems to me that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
The alternative? Stay strategic; put aside fear. Take a deep breath and a giant step back; expand your view as opposed to contracting it. Once you do that, it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to see your current reality in a clear and balanced way, rather than through the distorting prism of fear. It’s also more likely that you’ll then have the mental bandwidth to think clearly about the future, and to envision the business or career you want to create, on the other side of this difficult passage.
“Everything is perception,” Roger Dooley’s post about how to market and cater to “tightwads” cautions us to the importance of language.
Watch Your Language! One rather startling finding in the CMU research was that changing the description of an overnight shipping charge on a free DVD offer from a “$5 fee” to a “small $5 fee” increased the response rate among tightwads by 20%! This is hardly inventive copywriting and didn’t involve any fancy neuromarketing, but the mere reminder that $5 was a small amount of money had an important effect on tightwads.
“Work expands so as to fill the time allotted for its
completion." C. Northcote Parkinson
Josh Kaufman’s description of Absence Blindness has implications in the brain drain phenomenon that all businesses endure.
Absence blindness is an example of a cognitive bias, and the only semi-reliable way I’ve found to overcome it is checklisting. By thinking in advance what you want something to look like and translating that into visible reminders you can refer to while making decisions, checklists can help you remember to look for the absence of qualities in the moment.
So make a note to remind yourself to handsomely reward the low-drama manager who quietly and effectively gets things done. It may not seem like their job is particularly difficult, but you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
My bias is that the success of a business is due entirely on the relationships that business cultivates with its customers and by extension its employees. When an employee or a customer who is adept at forming relationships enters into the collective consciousness of the business, the impact is immediate. What is not quantifiable however is the dollar impact of that customer or that employee. Let’s call the relationship the “x factor.” When the “x factor” is not present at the inception, it is not missed. No one knows it is not there, however the entrepreneur has a nagging feeling that something is missing. When the “x factor” arrives, the clouds break, the sun shines brightly, the bird sings a sweet song and the business which had been plodding along suddenly becomes a hit.
Sadly when that one employee or customer leaves the sphere of the business, for whatever reason, the “x factor” leaves as well. This is where the brain drain occurs. In this context I am expanding the definition to include the collective consciousness of the business. The “x factor” leaving is never accompanied by corporate memo telling all interested parties that a change has occurred. No, the usual consequence is that the level of activity in the business dissipates like air being let out of a balloon. At first the results are not perceptible, however over time the energy in the business changes and the business financials reflect the new reality. The restaurant is no longer the “hot spot” in town and no one knows why.
There are two steps a business can take to mitigate the brain drain from the collective consciousness.
1) Knowledge management, as much as possible detail every process in your business.
2) Make customer relationships central to your business. The expectation is that if there is robust interaction between all of your employees and customers that the “x factor” will spread like a virus from the initial carrier to every member in the collective consciousness of the business. Thus when the initial carrier leaves the virus of a successful business remains and continues to thrive.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Bill Buxton’s article makes several salient points about unbridled pursuit.
Always be bad at something that you are passionate about.
By this, I really mean two things: always be a beginner at something, and always be in love with what you are beginning.
Why? The latter keeps a fire in your heart and soul, and the former keeps you grounded. The more expert you are in your "day job," the more important such grounding is. Additionally, the further such new beginnings are from your core expertise, the more likely it is that they will feed that expertise in some unexpected way in the future.
We live at a time where we hear repeated calls for the need for creativity and innovation. What better way to cultivate the full potential of our creativity than by sustaining the passion, curiosity, delight, energy, and enthusiasm of the beginner, coupled with the wisdom and experience of the expert?
Innovation comes from unlikely sources at times. Position yourself to be available when the muse arrives by placing yourself in situations you have not been in previously.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Ramit Plushnick-Masti's (AP) story offers a contrasting tale amidst than the gloom and doom about us.
Small coffee shop owners are doing everything to maintain their loyal clientele and attract new customers, especially those disillusioned by Starbucks and other chain coffee shops.
Cafe owners are pulling out the stops: They're blogging; diligently selecting roasters; upgrading and changing menus frequently; chatting with customers in an effort to foster relationships; training baristas for months; and ultimately trying to provide a unique atmosphere.
Can you believe it? These entrepreneurs are creating relationships. Who knew!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
A national chain recently opened a deli unit in a sleepy little hamlet just outside of
My immediate thought was, “nice check average, how do you hope to survive.”
The order arrived and the food was good, no complaints however the check seemed high so I reviewed the receipt. The receipt was correct with the tagline “Come back soon for one of our $4.99 sandwich deals” at the bottom. Being the inquisitive type I reviewed the menu for the sandwich deal. No luck everything on the sandwich menu was 5.99 or higher. I thought maybe I was losing it. Maybe there was a sandwich board that I missed during my first pass through.
After completing our lunch we walked around the space taking a more in depth look at the sign boards and the operation in general. Clearly this was a chain with over thirty years of experience and they had already worked out a lot of the kinks. Still no $4.99 sandwich deal so I asked the greeter who was handing out menus where were the $4.99 sandwich deals? He looked at me with quizzical look in his eyes, (this is a side note, the greeter was terrible, the manager should not have had this individual greeting customers as they came in). He told me to go ask the takeout order person at the counter. As I approached the take out order counter which is separated from the regular seating area by a hanging sign board that I noticed the $4.99 sandwich deals on the hanging board visible only to the take out customers. Nice trick I thought.
I have two comments. One, the misdirection with the tagline at the bottom of the receipt was good because I could not believe lunch for two at a deli was $24.48. The misdirection clearly shifted my focus from thinking “this place is pretty pricey given the fare”, to thinking “oh I must have missed something if they have a $4.99 sandwich deal.” I went from being unhappy with them to being unhappy at myself for not noticing the hidden sandwich board. Two, if you’re going to have a $4.99 sandwich deal do not do so in stealth mode because that just leaves a bad taste with your customers.
A report chronicled in a CEO for Cites post
I read about a new
The study by SFU assistant professor of psychology Ryan Howell, “demonstrates that experiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality — a feeling of being alive."
So experiences are critical to our sense of well-being.
Restaurateurs need to focus on the guest experience. Too often they focus on everything other than the experience. The guest who walks into your restaurant is not looking for food, they are searching for an experience. Ignore that sage advice at your own peril.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
There are limitless supplies, ingredients and processes currently utilized in a business that lend themselves to innovation reducing their carbon footprint.
Here is a really good marketing idea from Barry Ritholtz’s post explaining the stimulus package:
If you spend that money at Wal-Mart, all the money will go to
If you spend it on gasoline it will go to Hugo Chavez, the Arabs and Al Queda
If you purchase a computer it will go to
If you purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to
If you buy a car it will go to
If you purchase prescription drugs it will go to
If you purchase heroin it will go to the Taliban in
If you give it to a charitable cause, it will go to
And none of it will help the American economy. We need to keep that money here in
A massive domestic beer promotion seems to be the way to go here!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Erin White's article offers advice on good decision making
People need to recognize that we are biased in every single situation. There's no such thing as objectivity.
The first thing leaders should do to reduce their odds of making bad decisions is walk into an important decision situation saying, "Ok, I know that we are potentially biased in a variety of ways. Let's try to identify what those are."
Second is to avoid the "yes man" trap. You have to bring different people and different data sources to the table. You want to add a "no team" to argue against the proposal, and put some teeth behind that no team.
The company has been working on the product for more than 20 years and has a patent pending on the technology that will allow it to "absolutely replicate the taste of Starbucks coffee in an instant form,"
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Switch and pop up restaurants explores an emerging trend.
Switch, a fine-dining establishment at the new Wynn Encore in Las Vegas, pulls a big switcheroo every night. The restaurant transforms itself about every half hour during dinner service: The lighting changes, music changes, and walls go up and down, creating completely new décor and atmosphere. While you’re tucking into your lobster salad, the landscape around you changes in a grand flourish.
It is not all gloom and doom in financing restaurant deals, Sarah Lockyer of NRN.com reports;
The largest lender in the industry, GE Capital Solutions, Franchise Finance, said Tuesday it has completed a nearly $5.83 million loan to Boston Blackie’s, an eight-unit casual-dining chain based in Chicago.
The deal closed in October, GE said. While a small transaction, it is one of the first publicly announced GE-led deals in months. The financing will be used to fund regional growth and development for
“This deal demonstrates our commitment to providing the kind of financing that supports the restaurant industry’s continued success,” GE said in a statement.
I admit it I love Nutella. Amy Scattergood’s article captures the essence of the hazelnut chocolate nirvana.
As members of Nutella's secret handshake society will tell you, it's a blend of hazelnuts and chocolate -- or rather, nuts, cocoa, sugar, skim milk, oil and a few other flavorings and emulsifiers -- that's been ground to a blissfully smooth, creamy spread. Knifed onto a slice of bread, or smeared over crepes or waffles, it's a simple snack that (as my children and the Ferrero Co., which makes the product, like to point out) is even vaguely wholesome.
Maybe it's the idea of spreadable chocolate, or maybe it's the deeply satisfying combination of chocolate and hazelnuts, but there's something about Nutella that inspires the kind of devotion usually reserved for federally banned substances.
One of the upsides of this downturn is that the labor shortage in the restaurant industry has eased. In an article by Karen Robinson-Jacobs the following very salient points are offered.
"There are certainly pockets of shortages throughout, but it's not as big of a challenge as it has been" to hire people, said Annika Stensson, a spokeswoman with the National Restaurant Association.
What we're seeing is that recruiters are being deluged with résumés of overqualified people," said Joni Thomas Doolin, chief executive and founder of People Report, a
Doolin said that to ward off a future brain drain, restaurants need to focus as much on keeping workers as on getting quality applicants in the door.
Brain drain is an insidious and often overlooked variable in the viability of a restaurant. Your employees are your competitive advantage. (here, here, here). When an employee leaves your organization they take with them operational knowledge about your customer. For example an employee may know that the “Jones” who dine regularly prefer a certain wine or appetizer with a particular entrée or perhaps they prefer to dine by the windows during the day and in an interior booth in the evening. This may seem trivial, however to the “Jones” it is one of the key reasons that they loved the restaurant. This kind of information is internalized by the employee and never shared with anyone else unless there are processes to data mine these all important tidbits.
Brain drain is also a reason that restaurant have to continually relearn practiced calm. The people who did the little things that smoothed the evening out are no longer working here. Suddenly nothing is prepped and everyone is running around looking for salt and pepper shakers during the height of the evening rush.
Brain drain is nothing you can ever plan for completely however having processes in place for every function helps. Enjoy the abundant employee availability while you can.
Jonah Lehrer’s post about deliberate calm reminds me of restaurants during a rush:
This is where flight simulators enter the picture. The advantage of these realistic simulators, which have been in widespread use since the early 1980s, is that they allow pilots to practice extreme flight scenarios, such as a total loss of engine power over water. The training provides pilots with important technical skills -- they can practice flying crippled planes -- but it also teaches them something more important: how to draw on an optimal blend of reason and emotion. They learn how to ignore their fear when fear isn't useful and how to make quick, complicated decisions in the most fraught situations. Flight crews don't panic because they've practiced staying calm.
The first time your restaurant experiences heavy volume is usually a disaster. Restaurants have practice openings because the first time a new restaurant is tested there are always issues. After having gone through the rigors of a busy night the staff adjusts and deliberate calm sets in. Now how do we increase covers?
Saturday, February 7, 2009
The order taker/server at a counter near you has been or will very shortly be replaced by a kiosk. The kiosk will accept your customized order, process your payment and provide you with number to redeem your selection. The truly sad consequence of this development is that customers have the perception that this change is a major positive. Major chain “fast-food” counter servers were invisible. Their function was designed to be as unobtrusive as possible. They blended into blur of activity that processes your order. They were hidden by the blinding glare of the oppressive overhead menu.
It is amazing that reducing human interaction in a social setting such as a restaurant elicits such a positive response. Clearly there is a business opportunity here for the contrarians among you.
The humble computer chipped ordering device will continue to make inroads into the dining experience. It would not be future shock to suppose that in the not too distant future white table cloth restaurants will have a wireless tablet or perhaps an app for your iPhone where guests could peruse the menu and place their drink and food order without ever talking to a human being.
This is what progress looks like?