New on our website is a report sharing our observations and documenting our analysis of the current state of the restaurant industry. This information grew out of our interpretation of 2012 Restaurateur Issues and Challenges, 12 key findings from the recent survey we conducted in a partnership with the Texas Restaurant Association. More here. We invite you to click on this link or visit our resource center to take advantage of knowledge, tactics and strategy that we have been sharing with Surrender clients this year.
May 22nd, 2012
May 22nd, 2012
Recently the term “Best Practice” proudly took its place among Forbes.com’s list of “the Most Annoying, Pretentious and Useless Business Jargon.” Best Practice was deemed “the single most pompous confection the consulting industry has ever dreamed up.”
That is how I started my Op Ed, “Beyond Buzzwords, Making Best Practices a Reality” in Nation’s Restaurant News‘ May 14 issue. Every industry has jargon. Often that jargon is designed to differentiate those who are in the know from those who are not. Jargon becomes a ticket to be allowed into the game. But since human beings like the efficiency of shorthand, no wonder there are so many acronyms, slogans and buzz words out there.
I remember standing at lunch time with a new client’s manager in his restaurant dining room. It seemed like food was slow coming out of the kitchen. “What are your ticket times?” I asked him.
“I don’t know what a ticket time is,” he replied with a great amount of honesty and very little shame.
Six month later, through people, focus, measurement, and reinforcement, he knew what ticket times were, and a whole lot more.
May 7th, 2012
When everything is louder than everything else, you can’t hear a thing. Top businesses know they must turn their myriad messages down in order to make major improvements. There may be a chance to focus on an area that is a true opportunity because it has not been a strong point in the past. If companies don’t turn the intensity of some messages down, there won’t be room for a new one. Their people won’t function in the desired way.
“Everything Louder Than Every Else” is an unattainable rock-and-roll paradigm from the vernacular of the road. If it is possible for a statement that makes no sense to have meaning, then this is one. It postulates that all things deserve to be loud, but also that all things ought to be heard. If you listen to hits on the radio, you know that through the magic of compression, many recordings now sound like everything is loud, even the quiet parts. This is supposed to provide more energy when it is blaring from your speakers or ear buds. But it ends up being hard to listen to after a while.
In business, it is important for an organization to be able to multi task. There is no time to let down on service, cost management, product innovation, developing employees, or identifying new markets.
So, if an organization is going to concentrate on something new, something else needs to get dialed down. Identifying that factor is just as important as the new one.
I know one organization that was focused on building service levels, but they kept talking about cost management like it was the most important thing to them. Which it was. Their service levels did not increase because their people paid attention to the behavior of the organization.
I know another organization that wanted to sell more to its existing customers, so they reduced their traditional focus on training and customer relations, except where it related to this new main priority. Once they got the result they wanted, they brought back the multi-focused message.
Can you think of a time in your organization where an initiative would have worked better if it had not been lost in the multiple messages that were being delivered?
May 4th, 2012
I know a restaurant manager who says,“Mistakes are unacceptable. But I do offer forgiveness.”
That’s certainly one way of looking at it. Not my approach. I read a book that mentioned perfection. The author said it was the denial of humanity. We are all human, but what human can afford to make serious mistakes when they open a new business?
In the April 2012 issue of Restaurant Business Magazine, and also on their web portal Monkeydish is an article titled, “Mistake Proof Your Opening.” I’m quoted talking about site selection software that used to be the provenance of the chains, and is now available to independent operators.
There was a time when independents made a location decision by standing at an intersection, sticking their finger in the air and getting a feel for the wind. It is great that they can now model their successful sites, and compare them to potential sites before making that critical decision to move forward with a new unit. Top restaurant owners know these models are worth the investment.
When site selection software was first developed decades ago, there was a story circulating that, in retrospect, could have been an urban myth. It dealt with a waterfront site on Florida’s Gulf Coast that was rejected by a major multi-concept restaurant chain because there were no rooftops in an acceptable radius to the west. Turns out it was all water. The kinks have been worked out of the software since then.
What other lessons come to mind about avoiding mistakes when opening a new unit?
1. The people who do it right protect themselves by getting the capital they think they need. Then then they get a little more. That is the #1 issue. Lately food truck and pop up restaurateurs are bragging about low startup costs that are the equivalent to a unit’s cash reserve for many operators. That’s great for them – but don’t be tempted. Most of those people would jump at the chance to build a proper restaurant if they had the funding.
2. It is better to adapt to an existing site than have your wish list on design and layout. The best operators realize the value of second generation space for the cost savings it offers. Building plumbing and electrical systems from the ground up to fit your specifications drives your risk and makes target ratios for ROI harder to hit.
3. Uniqueness is key. It is great to have a better burger or steak, but the smartest restaurateurs know that having something diners want that no one in their trade area has is what truly sets them apart.
May 1st, 2012
I had a pizza delivery at my house last week but, sadly, the Caesar salad we had ordered was missing. No big deal, we had plenty of salad in the refrigerator and were happy to have our pizza. We needed to eat quickly to get to a basketball game. A half hour later the doorbell rang again, and the driver re-appeared to tell me, “my manager insisted I come back with this Caesar salad.”
Earlier that day I had eaten lunch in a restaurant where there was a confusing wait to get a table, a dirty dining room full of un-bussed tables and a dearth of menu items that were actually available. The manager told me, “I hope that this will not dissuade you from coming back,” which sounded to me like a punch line to an improv skit.
It is pretty well accepted that service is in decline and there are opportunitiess for the best companies to stand out from the crowd by providing this fading commodity. But the truth is, you can find pockets of good service and bad service anywhere.
Some people do it well, others don’t. Which team do you want to be on?
In the April issue of Restaurant Startup and Growth I am quoted extensively in a cover story called Star Power, How to Create a Culture of Service in Your Restaurant written by Amelia Levin. It serves as a reminder that service can be taught. Like most things, it is simply a matter of whether you put energy into your company’s service level, or not.
Another good article on this subject is the cover story of April’s Restaurantville Monthy. Putting Your Best Foot Forward, Keys to Exceptional Customer Serviceby Wendy Sari. That one features quotes from two of Surrender’s clients, Mark Davis Bailey of The Original Pancake House DFW and Estella Martinez of Matt’s Rancho Martinez.
Every business gets to decide how important service is to their overall strategy. There is no question that some companies prosper with a low-cost, low-service philosophy. But most of the people I come into contact with advocate the benefits of outstanding customer service. Like any goal that is stated but unachieved, there are simple fundamental steps that can lead to creating a culture of service. If everybody did it, there would be no more complaining about the decline of service. But there would not be a competitive advantage for providing great service, either.