This is it here

December 24, 2013

Kidzban Post Images

August 5, 2009

Games have a Flow

Games have a Flow

Games have actions and symbols of completion

Games have actions and symbols of completion

Winning is done

Winning is done

Gregory Heller commented on my earlier post about loyalty programs:

The benefit of the prepaid card to the customer is that they can buy it on their credit card, and it makes each coffee ‘purchase’ faster.

Making each purchase faster would be fantastic. However, the time savings may be canceled by the time waiting for the drink. The process goes:

Order in at counter;

Payment exchange at register;

Coffee out at adjacent counter.

In between Order In and Coffee Out, the customer’s order goes to the barista who makes said order. Payment exchange can happen concurrently with the coffee making process. Depending on order volume and type, either the payment step or the drink crafting step is the bottleneck.

Groundwork, Hollywood Location from An Bui

Groundwork, Hollywood Location from An Bui

Consultation with the baristas at the ever-helpful Groundwork in LA confirmed that the time associated with making a customer’s drink, on average, exceeds the time associated with processing payment.

For more on coffee cup management, check out Corey Ladas’ blog, Lean Software Engineering or his upcoming book, Scrumban.

Hamachi Crudo with Chiles & Lime - From anbui.tumblr.com

Hamachi Crudo with Chiles & Lime - From anbui.tumblr.com

Taking pictures of beautifully plated food and uploading them to the internet makes my friends jealous. They ask me all sorts of questions about the food and its preparation; these questions would be better directed to the chefs.

So that got me curious – which chefs are blogging and sharing information about the happenings in their restaurants? Since I live (and work and play) in Seattle, I thought I’d share some of the blogs by Seattle-area chefs:

Maria Hines of Tilth has been blogging since August 2007. She shares menu information, recipes, awards and other juicy tidbits.

Gordon Naccarato of Pacific Grill lets readers know what he’s eating, serving and what others are saying about Pacific Grill. He also dishes up tasty pictures of food p0rn.

Tasting Menu, the joint blog of Hillel of Jackson Fish Market and Dana of Poppy, shares two different perspectives. Hillel, a self-described professional eater, gives his view from behind the plate. Dana, a professional pastry chef, shares her perspective from behind the stove. They’ve been blogging since 2001.

What chef blogs do you read? What do they talk about? Please share in the comments!

Coffee with Fresh Whip & Scharffenberger Cocoa Powder

Coffee with Fresh Whip & Scharffen Berger Cocoa Powder

This morning I found a pre-paid latte card in my purse, a Buy 10 (upfront, same drink) Get 1 Free card to a local coffee shop here in Seattle. I went in and picked up my 10th latte, which I had paid for in the far distant past.

Why the Coffee Shop Wins:

This coffee shop received $40 up front for a 3.5″x2″ piece of card stock that says the bearer of said card will receive one latte when s/he presents the card. Multiply the $40 or so dollars by the number of regular patrons and this coffee shop has collected significant revenues without delivering product yet. This cash flow can be used to make improvements, alleviate the need to dip into credit lines, and represent additional liquidity. Not all of the lattes purchased in advance will be collected. It’s the same principle as the one behind the profit margins behind gift cards.

Not only that, customers who’ve purchased one of these cards are saying that there’s a reasonable belief that they think they’ll get to the 11 (read: free) latte, so are (or intend to be) repeat customers.

But oh no, there’s more:

This same coffee shop also has a second frequent coffee drinker rewards program. You can Buy 10 (of any drink) Get 1 (of any drink) Free card on a pay-as-you go basis.

Why the Customer Wins:

The above loyalty program is more beneficial to the customer – it doesn’t require an initial upfront investment from the customer. The coffee shop must book revenue as purchases occur and does not have to reward customers with the loyalty latte until it’s earned, same as the above program.

So what’s the problem?

Where’s the incentive for the customers to choose the first program? If you only allow them to participate in one or the other, don’t be surprised If they choose the latter. Of the ones who’ve chosen the first program, when informed that precludes them from participating in the second program, do you think they’ll appreciate being told that they’ve opted into a suboptimal program?

In the first program, the coffee shop already has the money – what’s the incentive to continue to delight them? Could the first program, offered in conjunction with the second program, build brand detractors, instead of brand advocates?

In the second program, the coffee shop has to provide an experience worth repeating EVERY TIME. If it does, it will have loyal, satisfied customers.

The solution to having both problems would be allowing those who are providing the initial investment or buy-in to also participate in the second program – essentially, buy 10 lattes, get 2 free. Doing so builds a loyal base of brandvocates, who feel like they’re receiving value for their upfront investment.

image Urban Spoon’s Blog interviews Chef Thierry Rautureau of Seattle’s Rover’s Restaurant on what it takes to start (and maintain) a successful restaurant. 

Years ago, my friend Kevin and I set out to write a screenplay (which we successfully completed, thank you).  Because we wanted to do it right, we read books on how to write screenplays.  The first page of one book said:

Ask yourself this question: do you want to write a screenplay or do you want to have written a screenplay?

After starting two businesses myself, I’ve always kept this in mind.  If you are going to start a business, in this case a restaurant, you have you really be into it. You can’t do it because you want the goal, you have to be invested in the work.

For restaurants, it can’t just be a business – the margins are too low, the competition too fierce, the prices too variable, and the market too uncertain.

Even if you can build good processes to control some of the costs, patrons are fickle and will only continue to come if you are truly compelling.

The urban spoon article says:

According to Thierry, only if your compulsion is so great, so irresistible, so frankly neurotic that nothing else will satisfy. Only then should you actually start a restaurant. This way, you will either prevail or the physical and economic punishment of the restaurant business will eventually "eliminate the bug".

Scary?  Maybe.  But it highlights something very important about the restaurant business.  It is a business based on passion.  Controlling costs and getting more patrons may keep the lights on, but passion brings in the people and is your fuel.

image Are there restaurants that operate purely as businesses?  Certainly.  Thierry’s words aren’t aimed at them.  They are aimed at the local owner operators who are their business.  We could name big names, but more important they’re people like Aissa at Saley Crepes and Peter Buza’s extended family at Kauai Family Restaurant. Restaurateurs whose brand is their identity and whose passion is their product.

Twitter Makes Me Hungry

November 27, 2008

Twitter is a communication platform.  It is a hub where people discuss where they eat, get recommendations, learn, interact, and plan gatherings.

People are social.  They eat, they meet with each other, they talk about their experiences.  If you are a restaurant, you want to be part of this conversation.

When looking in Twitter, restaurant owners often search for conversations relating directly to their restaurant.  “Am I being talked about?”  So they will search for “Bick’s Restaurant” and be happy with the results or lack thereof.

But do you understand the conversations that are actually happening that make your restaurant relevant?

For example, questions like “Where should I eat?”  The results are numerous.  Are you the response they are getting back?

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What are they saying about restaurants in general? When people are dissatisfied, is it because of the food, the service, the experience?  If we search “restaurant sucked” or “excellent food” what do we see?

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And when these people on Twitter have a gathering, are they coming to your restaurant? What gatherings are forming?  Who is forming them?  Here there are 4 pages of tweets talking about this particular dinner.

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There are a massive number of sites on the web where people might be talking about your restaurant.  Key sites like Twitter are communication hubs that often point at other information.  Here we see blog posts that mention restaurants that are broadcast over Twitter.

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You can search Twitter by using The Twitter Search Utility  or you can use tools like Twitscoop which give you graphs showing how often you are discussed.

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In the end, it’s not necessarily the tool you use to make the search.  The power of a pool of information like Twitter is how you search.  What is that key piece of information that Twitter is hiding that can bring in more customers?

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