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.

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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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Last night, Jim Benson, Corey Ladas, Andrew Woods, Michael Rice and others all congregated at the Palomino in Downtown Seattle. The night started innocuously enough…

Tweetup at Palomino Anyone?

Tweetup at Palomino Anyone?

Minutes later, Andrew Woods rebroadcast @ourfounder’s invitation:

Rebroadcasting a Public Tweetup Invitation at Palomino

Rebroadcasting a Public Tweetup Invitation at Palomino

Conversation in the Twitterverse mirrored real life discussions coordinating social interactions:

Will you make it? Want me to save you a seat?

Will you make it? Want me to save you a seat?

Seeing these conversations let me know that my friends were Downtown unwinding after a long day. I didn’t have dinner plans so I joined them. I chose Palomino because that’s where my people were. After an interesting conversation, a cheese pizza and a glass of wine I left with a lighter wallet. Twitter enabled us to connect online and continue the social interaction in real life.

Who benefited from Social Media? 🙂

Gary Vaynerchuk vlogged about being yourself in social media.

With or without social media, to build an authentic relationship, you have to be yourself. To be yourself, you have to know who you are. Thus, to build an authentic relationship, you have to know who you are.

If you’re a brand knowing who you are is even more complex.

Some restaurants have a unique advantage in establishing their brand identities, especially smaller, local restaurants. Generally, the owner/manager, chef and/or sommelier are uniquely positioned to drive the voice of the restaurant because (1) they are individuals, with personalities; (2) they’ve invested, personally and professionally, in the success of the restaurant.*

The thing is – these organizational leaders must know who they are so they can consistently communicate that to the customer. If the restaurant doesn’t know who it is, how can customers? If customers don’t know, how can they decide if the restaurant resonates with needs/wants?

What if a restaurant doesn’t know how to connect with its clientèle and wants to, to get more butts into seats? Start by talking to those passionate about human connectivity and social media. Why social media? Because social media is a scalable platform that can power conversations and connections among individuals, brands and organizations when used appropriately.

If a restaurant doesn’t want to develop relationships with its patrons and/or doesn’t know who it REALLY is, social media is just a distraction. To quote Mack Collier: “Social Media is NOT a Silver Bullet.”

*if there’s an owner, manager, chef or sommelier who isn’t personally invested in the success of the business, I’ll eat my hat. And my words.

The upside of a downturn . . .

Despite the gloom and doom of the financial news, this could actually be a good time for wise restaurant operators. Just consider:


People have to eat


Designer kitchens and Williams-Sonoma catalogs notwithstanding, many of your customers don’t do that much cooking. Hectic schedules and over-programmed children leave little time for preparing and serving a meal. Make sure that you are convenient and easy to use. You will be rewarded.


People want to drink


Alcohol sales have traditionally surged during tough economic times. Open your 401k statement, drown your sorrows. ‘Nuf said.


Misery loves company


A gathering place that provides warmth, food and beverage, and congeniality has a special appeal during tough times (“Cheers” premiered during the recession of 1980 – 1983)


Good people are looking for work


A career as a cook, bartender or waiter looks awfully appealing to many mortgage brokers, bankers, or stockbrokers. Use this as a time to upgrade your staff.


Costs might be actually dropping


Oil prices are down. Delivery surcharges should follow. Many of the increases that we have seen in the world commodities markets may be leveling out – – or actually dropping. Pay attention and purchase wisely.


Loyalty takes on a special meaning


Customers don’t want to risk their dining dollars. They will return to the restaurants that have taken good care of them in the past. Find a way to stand out while your competitors are cutting back. Try a new promotion. Mix up your menu offerings. Embrace regulars.

I went to the TriCities, or Kennewick-Richland-Pasco, Washington for the First Learn About Web Conference. Speakers from Columbus, Ohio; Florence, Alabama; and Reno, Nevada flew in to talk about social media, search optimization, usability, Web site architecture and other topics to teach small businesses how to leverage the power of the web to drive new business.

These speakers, bloggers, consultants often travel. From TriCities one weekend to Las Vegas for PubCon the next week, the many places they go affords them the opportunity to the local cuisine. What if you just want to solve the food problem? How do you decide where to go?

Brand Promise – P.F. Chang’s in Three Locations:

Average Rating Given Number of Reviews

Average Rating Given Number of Reviews

Where x = TriCities, Washington; diamond = Seattle, Washington, and triangle = Palo Alto, California.

Why P.F. Chang’s? Because it provides a consistent Asian bistro experience, patrons know what to expect. From 3 to 131 reviews for each individual restaurant, ratings appear to converge to 3 stars on yelp. For a predictable, low variance experience, PF Chang’s fits the bill.