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

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.

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? 🙂

Pay what you want?

November 20, 2008

A recent Seattle Times article talked about the success of a “Pay what you want” promotion at a local restaurant.

The idea is to allow the guest to decide what they want to pay for the food.

I like the idea – – a lot! The owners generated buzz (and business) during an otherwise slow time of the year.

Obviously, the PR and goodwill created by something like this is priceless, but I also find the results intriguing. Considered a branding exercise, the numbers might be viewed differently.

In the particular example mentioned in the article, 80% of the guests paid less than the menu price, a few paid the same, and a few paid more. What does this say about the “value” that diners find in this restaurant’s menu? To me, it says that only 20% of diners feel that they are receiving a good value for their money.

There is no magic formula for pricing. Owners and chefs that use a food cost percentage to determine pricing usually over or under charge. Competitors provide a benchmark, but there is no proof that their information is any better than yours. Ultimately, the market decides what your products are worth. Restaurant owners do not often have a method to ask their customer “What do you think my food is worth?” Perhaps a promotion such as this allows answers that many would not want to hear.

I met @PCC (Ricardo), the official spokestweeter for PCC Natural Markets, the other day and came away inspired because I met someone who saw social media as a platform for engaging the community, where the community already exists. Ricardo uses a variety of social media tools to connect with the customers.

Ricardo likened Twitter to the phone – it’s a tool for reaching out to customers. PCC responds to both positive and negative comments, as these comments are opportunities to reach out and really understand the customer. A quick Twitter conversation check demonstrated engaged consumer interaction with the brand:

Successful Online Consumer Brand Engagement - PCC Natural Markets

Successful Online Consumer Brand Engagement - PCC Natural Markets

PCC has also found value via Facebook Fan Page, as it enables valuable two-way communication along several axes. First, it respects customers’ time because customers must pull the message, by becoming a fan and visiting the page. Thus, this mechanism is less intrusive. Second, updates must provide value, or enable customers to gain something. Random “Come shop at PCC!” messages don’t come from PCC (though I’m sure PCC would love to know if/that customers are saying that to their friends and family). Third, PCC recognizes that the Facebook Fan base is an opt-in system, and respects that. Period.

PCC Natural Market - Customer Feedback via Facebook Fan Page

PCC Natural Market - Customer Feedback via Facebook Fan Page

Ricardo and PCC get it – they get how to give their brand a personality for people to connect with.

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.