Sunday, May 31, 2009

Grow the business beyond the plateau

Seth explains how to grow your restaurant business:

And the disenfranchised (the vegans, the weight watchers, the healthy eaters, the kosher crowd) remain unmoved and uninterested. And one person like this out of a party of six is enough to keep all six away.

So, there are two ways to go. Much deeper, or a bit wider.

Deeper would mean a bacon-focused buffet, a dozen bacon dishes, including chocolate-covered bacon. Deeper would mean a chocolate-obsessed dessert bar, ten cakes, fondue, everything.

Deeper gets you people willing to drive across town to visit you. It’s remarkable. It’s not like every other buffet but a little bit bigger. It’s insanely over the top. People will bully their friends in order to get them to come.

The other choice is wider. Instead of adding a handful of dishes that mildly please the people you already have, why not add brown rice and tofu and vegetarian chili? Now you’ve opened the doors to that last 15%.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The rise of Fast Casual:

The "Fast Casual - Heating up the Restaurant Industry" seminar at the NRA was a joy to attend. the panel included Louis, Don and Husein who clearly are passionate about this segment. It is my favorite segment in the restaurant industry.

The economic maelstrom has accelerated the rise of the Fast Casual. The NRA panel addressed the elements of Fast Casual"

Friendly employees
First Rate
Fair price
Pay first
Full View Preparation
Fine Ingredients
Flexible Offerings
Fast Service

The Wow of Fast Casual:

Brand Promise
Quality Driven Financial performance

The value equation of Fast Casual; V=P+F+S+A+E

Fresh Quality Food
Service, being attentive to the customers needs
Ambiance, very clean space which resonates with energy, vibe
Execution, leadership drives the elements of the operation
Value = brand experience

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NRA: Operator Strategies

Hudson Riehle and Nicole Valenti presented a seminar on the results of a recently NRA commissioned survey on current trends. The current economic environment is the most challenging in the careers of all current operators. No one has experience with tsunami shifts that have occurred over the past two years. There will be permanent displacements and lasting changes from learned habits necessary for surviving this environment. Menu price inflation has climbed unabated for several years and the industry is changing by adding new foodstuffs which are coming online and many of those are taking root.

Higher income households have had their balance sheets under stress during this period and that has contracted the disposable personal income available which has put considerable pressure on restaurant spending. The number one way that operators are managing costs is by cutting or redeploying labor. This is in striking difference to the study two years which listed recruiting and retaining labor as the major challenge.

There were two things that were really confusing to me, 1) Of the three hundred seats available, barely a third were occupied. NRA has incredible resources which are not being utilized fully by its members. 2) 45% of respondents did not believe the credit crisis effected their business. Cash is still king in the restaurant business.

The RPI Index has turned ever so slightly upward and operator outlook has improved. Key to future upturn is the belief that 90% of adults enjoy eating out at restaurants.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

NRA: Mobile marketing

Opt it



Connecting with your guests necessitates exploring differing channels. You do not have to participate in every channel, however restaurateurs need to be aware of them.

Grilled Cheese in the 21st century

Susan Russo's post updates the often forgotten yet always tasty grilled cheese.

The plain Jane grilled cheese got a sexy makeover. Silverton offered high-priced, high-style grilled cheese sandwiches such as gorgonzola with roasted radicchio, walnuts and honey and burrata with prosciutto, marinated cherry tomatoes and saffron-braised cabbage and salsa verde. This helped usher in a whole new world of designer grilled cheese sandwiches

Embrace the uncertainity

Steve Demaio's post about coping with the uncertainty offers this:

When the world seems like it's fraying, the healthiest and most restorative response is to boldly enter the fracas with an open mind and razor-sharp curiosity. The very audacity of the act teaches you how to embrace the unknown. In that way, you can make permanent uncertainty a sustainable way of life in almost any context (no need to quit your job like I did). But constant crisis is the reality of now -- a positive reality whose only doomsday potential lies in its being ignored or grossly overblown. Stare it in the face soberly and adapt accordingly, with humor and a smile.

NRA; Healthty Beverages

POM Wonderful, the drink tastes great and is good for you. Plus there is a story

Adagio Teas
, tea is its own reward.

Wine enough said!

NRA: Sustainability

The focus on sustainability lacks the fervor of last years show, however sustainability is becoming much more ingrained in our collective imagination.

Stalk Market offers compostable tableware, flatware, and packaging.

Eco-story offers LED solutions

Max-R offers recycled solutions

Restaurant Bags offer options for take out.

NRA: Furniture and Decorations

The Canvass Nursey blossomed.

Domitalia brought style and elegance to the floor.

Smith and Hawken and Tuuci reminded weary northerners that winter was finally behind them.

NRA: Entertainment

Characters Unlimited entertained and fascinated show goers as they stood spellbound by the speaking characters.

Finest Call an able bartender dazzling patrons walking by with flying bottles and mixing cups

Tilted Kilt was very popular. Beer, guys and gals go figure.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Welcome to Chicago NRA 2009

Let the party begin. The guests have arrived, the displays are up, anticipation is in the air, hope stirs anew.

NRA 2009

Andy is moderating the Executive Breakfast.

Visit all the great restaurants in Chicago.

Enjoy your visit to the 2016 Olympic Candidate city.

Sunk Costs

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light"
Dylan Thomas

Seth has started a firestorm on the blogosphere with his post on "Ignore sunk costs".

When making a choice between two options, only consider what's going to happen in the future, not which investments you've made in the past. The past investments are over, lost, gone forever. They are irrelevant to the future.

Sunk costs refers to the reevaluation of a decision ignoring the time, effort and money you have already devoted to a project. (i.e. You open a restaurant (cost= $200,000), the health of the business is poor ($100,000 loss, since you opened twelve months ago), the prospects are even worse (projected $150,000 loss in the next twelve months).

You have $10,000 to invest. Do you:

A) Continue to finance the losses of your business by investing the $10,000 you have and find other financing for the remainder of the loss because you have already invested $300,000.00 plus your time, lifestyle, heart and soul into this business (Sunk Costs), and there is no other option but to keep fighting until your last dying breath.

B) Liquidate your business today for nothing, take a complete loss on your (Sunk Costs) . Take the $10,000 that you have and invest in something else.

C) Do nothing and hope!

Sunk costs is a lighting rod because all successful people are members of a group. The group consists of those who have persevered against some obstacle. There is the age old wisdom about the gold mine that existed one foot from where the miners stopped digging and gave up. The miners had dug deep into the mine, being tired, desolate and vanquished they surrendered before their last dying breath and the object of their quest lay only one foot in front of them.

Brian Tracy advises to look at every aspect of your life and ask yourself, "knowing what I now know would I make this decision?" If the answer is yes keep digging, if the answer is no stop and go home.

Ultimately the decision is one that impacts your life forever. I believe that you rage against the dying of the light.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Think globally, bank locally

Kelly Spors' article outlines a shift in entrepreneurial banking relations. Large banks are so concerned about their toxic assets that they have jettisons relationships with many smaller clients. The loss of a line of credit has horrible consequence for going concerns. Entrepreneurs are not going to be very forgiving when the big banks come calling again.

Several business owners I’ve spoken with in recent months say they’re turning more to regional or community banks and credit unions for their banking needs, and it’s no wonder. The major banks don’t appear able to help them anymore.

"Often Wrong, never uncertain"

Rosabeth Moss Kanter' article on three little words "I was wrong" captures a necessary quality of leadership. A characterization of a leader's mantra is eloquently expressed as:

"often wrong, never uncertain." Decisive yes, but also ready to be swayed by new information to change direction.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gift kit.

Andy's post offers great advice for every restaurant

Have something ready for the customer in desperate search for a last-minute gift.

How hard can it be for your restaurant to provide a tin of fresh cookies or some other speciality ready to go as a last minute gift?

Coffee wars is an oxymoron

I do not understand why Starbucks feels the need to challenge McDonald's with an huge ad campaign. Starbucks is not in the coffee business, they are in the experience business. If they choose to go into the coffee business against McDonald's and instant coffee manufactures they will be extinct. I heard an ad for Nescafe the other day touting how there instant coffee is four times less expensive than the new kid on the block and they have been in the business much longer than the upstart from Seattle.

Starbucks has succeeded in bringing attention to the instant coffee market and the fact that McDonald's serves coffee. Coffee Wars is a doomed strategy for Starbucks.

Trust your Intuition.

Decisions need to be made under the blinding glare of an analytical eye. I say the hell with it, just do it!

Research bears this out.

“I’m interested in the boundaries of unconscious processes in the mind,” said Nordgren. “We readily accept that most behavior is driven by mental events that we have no access to. Our heart beats. We pick up a cup or type on a keyboard. All are complicated tasks, but we have no idea how they happen. It takes place in a black box; we have no access to it.”

“But we imagine that those unconscious processes stop at basic behavior,” he continued, “that more complex, higher-order processes are surely driven by our conscious selves. Whether to marry, what job to take, are these the products of conscious machinations of the mind, or processes that we have no access to? It doesn’t need to be a pure dichotomy. But dominant thinking hasn’t been open to this idea.”


that is a bit odd!

Happy Odd Day!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Get the job done.

Tom Peters' post lays it out pretty well.

You are there to "get the job done"—not just-merely "do your best." I recall many years later seeing a Churchill quote that was much the same; more or less this: ""It is not enough to do your best or try as hard as you can—you must succeed in doing what is necessary."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What farmers already know.

The pressures of living daily tend to mask the cycles of life. Before ground can be planted it must be tilled otherwise the plantings will not take root. Farmers understand that in the spring, ground must be broken before new life can emerge and flourish.

So it is with your business, has the ground gotten hard under your feet? It is time to shake up the soil and plant anew.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Table Clutter:

In far too many restaurants, the top of the table looks like a garage in disarray. Managers have elaborate diagrams for what the tabletop should look like. Perhaps, just perhaps there should be nothing on the table when the guest is seated. This allows the guest to peruse the menu without having to rearrange the perfectly diagramed table top plan.

Less is definitely more when we are talking about the tabletop space.