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Friday, April 11, 2014

Our new book

As of today our book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked, has sold 7,713 copies. Paperback = 4,678 copies and Kindle = 3,035 copies. Most people seem to like it. It has 28 reviews on Amazon. Nineteen of those reviews are 5-stars, nine of them are 4-stars.

We're pretty excited that the book keeps selling lots of copies three years after we published it, though I can't say we are too surprised because it contains mostly timeless wisdom and advice from successful restaurant owners from all over the U.S. The success of the book gave us the idea for the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series, which includes over 50 videos that have been viewed around 35,000 times. And that video series has lead us back to another book!

Late this summer we plan to publish a second book very similar to the first, featuring owners we've filmed that were not interviewed for the first book. I'll provide an occasional update as we put it together, but while the first book featured twenty owners and is over 300 pages long, this one will feature around a dozen owners and be about 100 pages. A quick, crisp read with short chapters and meaningful advice and wisdom. And a great read if you are interested in learning from owners who've succeeded in the tough restaurant business.

Thanks for reading,
The Schedulefly Crew
(Wes, Hank, Wil, Charles, Tyler)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Email is awesome

This morning, while most people were sleeping, we sent out more than 6200 emails to restaurant owners and managers. The email is a terribly handy list of everyone who is scheduled to work that day. It includes the schedule that they are on, their shift time and their cell number and email address - just in case. This email goes out every morning – to those who opt in to get it and the email arrives wherever the person checks email of course – their phone, their laptop, wherever. It’s not fancy with a bunch of graphics or sales pitchy with a bunch of other crap they don’t care to read about. It’s just a list of their employees that are working that day.

I was thinking today how crazy it is that Tyler gets up every morning at 3am and prepares them for sending. It’s a ton of copy and pasting and sending – but we think it’s worth it and our customers love it. The list grows every week and these days he is usually finished by round 10am.

Anyway, I’m totally kidding about Tyler, but I just thought today about how awesome email still is.


p.s I really do love email and I think it’s because these days I don’t send many emails at all – often I don’t send a single one – all day. And because of that – I don’t get many in return – which is nice. I used to work for companies where email was all anyone did. When there was nothing to do – you fired off a few emails to stir up some work. Maybe you checked on the status of something that you already knew about - or asked a question that was a waste of time to answer. But it worked, we stayed busy in our offices or on our phones - checking for new emails. This was me, back then...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

5 unconventional tips from successful independent owners

Over the last two years I’ve traveled all over the country interviewing successful restaurant owners for Schedulefly’s “Restaurant Owners Uncorked” video series. Without fail, each owner we film offers a piece of advice that not only seems unconventional and thought-provoking at first, but that also has been a key part of why they’ve been successful. Here are five of them...

“roll the dice”
Julian Siegel - The Riverside Market & Cafe - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

“Finding people in this industry is really hard. And sometimes we do get in a jam. We do get understaffed. And everyone says, “Oh, just put it on Facebook.” And, “Put a sign on the door.” There’s nothing worse that I can imagine than walking into a restaurant with help wanted sign on the door.

Its not like its a lumber yard. When people walk up to your restaurant, you kind of want them to think that you’ve got everything under control here. So the help wanted sign on the door doesn’t work. Same with social media. I couldn’t imagine putting an ad on Facebook - 'We need servers. We need help.' Because you want to kind of always feels that you’re secure in your business and you don’t need help; good help will come to you.

Some of our best employees have come to us via accident, just walking through the door. I think . . . there’s always a network. You’re always going to run into situations such as, 'Oh, my sister’s friend’s cousin is in town and she’s really good.' Or, 'Oh, my best friend’s son; he’ll work out. He’s a dream.' You know, you get a lot of referrals, which is great because at least there’s a level of connection. And every time we’ve gone ahead doing advertising through employment firms, I mean, they’ll have a thousand resumes. They’ll set up a hundred interviews. Ten will show up. One is qualified. I prefer just to roll the dice and let the right person walk in the door.”

“cook with happiness”
Katsuya Fukushima - Daikaya - Washington, D.C.

“I always tell my cooks you have to be in a good place. You have to be happy. You have to be positive. Because if you’re not its going to relay into the food.

You know, a happy cook makes happy food. And, when people eat that food its just going to make them happy. A good example is that movie, Like Water for Chocolate, where the girl was crying when she was making mole. So people started eating it and they all started crying because that was the emotion she felt when she was cooking it. I think thats a great example. Because you have to have a positive approach to cooking, and you have to love what you’re doing because . . . its a hard business and if you put that energy into a plate, how can someone not appreciate what you’ve done when they eat it?”

“inexperience as a positive”
Mike Schatzman - Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar - Chicago

“It’s an industry of negatives and positives. You know, people have just maybe negative experience in all the restaurants that they work in, and that’s just going to carry them through to any other establishment that they work at. So, you know, there’s lack of hope or lack of growth. And some people may not necessarily view it as a career path.

I think for me the fresh perspective was great because I had no preconceived notions coming in here. I didn’t have any negative experiences. I didn’t have any positive experience. So, everything here was based on hope that we were going to do something good, but also creating a positive environment. And then just doing things differently.

It may not necessarily be an industry that’s adaptive to change. So, its very interesting because people are set in their own ways. Unlike corporate America right now, which is all about how fast you can move, how fast you can change. And a lot of companies have been very adaptive to change - right? - with technology; embracing new ways of doing things; scheduling; all that type of stuff. But, I think that that perspective allowed me to excel because I had no preconceived notions. And my goal was to do things the most efficient and cost-effective way as possible. Not necessarily following a so-called unwritten rule of ‘Here’s how it works in this industry and here’s how you need to get it done.’”

“grow half as fast as you think you should”
Daniel Holzman - The Meatball Shop - Brooklyn

“When you’re moving forward, it seems like you’re crawling at a snail’s pace. Everything seems like its too slow. And from the outside there’s a ton of pressure to open more restaurants, and strike while the iron’s hot! But, from the inside looking back, we feel like we’re moving so quickly - almost too quickly. Looking back, we think 'Wow, we’ve only been open for two years - we have three restaurants and we have another one on the way.'

There are a bunch of things that you’re not going to realize have fallen through through the cracks until they’ve fallen through the cracks. And the only way that you can kind of minimize the mistakes that you make is by moving a little bit more slowly than you would feel comfortable with. So, you know, however fast you think you can move, if you cut it in half, you have a better chance of catching things before they’re out of control.”

“mistakes are good”
Marilyn Schlossbach - Langosta Lounge - Asbury Park, N.J.

"Well, in my career, many failures come my way. You know, anytime you grow a business, there’s a lot of challenges. And when I opened my first restaurant, my parents had both passed so I had no mentors to help me. My brothers had all moved out of the area. And I was kind of on my own.

I am a very driven, passionate person, so I tend not to think about consequences all the time - which is good and bad.  So I made a lot of leaps of faith to do things that I thought were great ideas, or wonderful concepts, or just wanting to feed people things that I thought they would love. And I’ve never had issues with the food end of my world, but on the business end, when you’re creative your challenges don’t always get worked out in your mind very quickly. So, I’ve had to learn to be the scheduler, the accountant, the bookkeeper, the trainer, the design person, as well as the chef. And, you know, I never went to hospitality school, I never went to culinary school, I never finished college, I never went to business school. So, all of these things are learned day-to-day.

And back in the eighties - early nineties, we didn’t have the Internet. You couldn’t go Google something like, “How do I make a schedule?” You had to figure it all out. And sometimes it worked and a lot of times it didn’t. I ran into issues like bad locations, or agreeing to a rent that was too high, or leases not being negotiated well, which is a huge problem in our industry. But you learn from these mistakes, and it makes you stronger.”

It's been very fun and educational and rewarding to have the chance to meet and interview dozens of successful independent restaurant owners over the last few years. I'm always impressed with how many creative, wise, meaningful ideas they each have to share.

We're heading on another shoot tomorrow, so more vids will be coming soon. Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The American dream captured in a moment

The Wolf family
Last week we were filming for our upcoming "people of indie restaurants" series, and Paul Hesselblad of Capital Club 16 in Raleigh, NC said this....

"Jake Wolf is one of the hardest working men I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s the owner, the chef, and he’s in here doing it harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. And he doesn’t get to spend much time with his family because this is his bread and butter. But one day I was standing at the host stand, and I looked at Jake and his wife, Shannon, and their son Johnny, and they were sitting at a table, having a meal. It was a Tuesday night, the sun was setting, and it shined on the words 'Capital Club 16' in the window, and I said to myself, That’s the American dream. It actually exists. That moment when I saw him sitting there having dinner with his family, in his own establishment, I thought, That’s doing it right. That’s doing it with heart. And I thought that this is something I want to do one day as well if I get the chance."

I gotta tell ya, I got chills when Paul said that. It was a very raw, real, heartfelt story. If you didn't feel your spine tingle a bit when you read his quote, I bet you will when you see him say it in our upcoming video.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Two guys and their khakis

About 6 years ago Wil and I dusted off our finest wrinkle-free dress shirts and sports coats and hopped on an expensive flight to Los Angeles. We went because a woman who worked in HR at a large pizza chain had emailed us about the possibility of rolling out Schedulefly to all of their restaurants – I think they owned a few hundred and she wanted an in-person demo. Back then we only had a hundred customers or so and a slightly blurrier view of where our business was headed - so we hopped on a jet. I remember thinking at the time that flying across the country wearing a suit to demo a terribly simply internet based software that I wrote in my underwear seemed wrong – but damn – it was Hollywood!

There are two great parts to this story. The first, is that we got to spend an evening in LA. We started the night having dinner with one of our customers. It was a great independent place and the GM hung out with us at the small bar before we were sat and then spent time with us during dinner. It was fun. We then headed to Sunset BLVD for a few drinks. We hit a couple of bars, enjoyed a few drinks and once we got some courage up we headed to over to the rooftop bar at the Standard Hotel - a famous place where we could certainly see some beautiful famous people. We walked up to the door and there was a guy holding a clipboard. The closer we got to him, the less he smiled. We eventually stood right in front of him while he gave us a once over stare – from our shoes to our hair. Nothing, and I mean nothing, about us gave him any reason to think we would be on that list he was holding....and of course we were not – so we were denied. He didn't even look for our name. As we walked in defeat down the sidewalk to find another spot - we were laughing at our sorry attempt to get in. I mean we could have tried a tad harder. Instead of having $1100 jeans on – we had $65 j-crew khakis. Instead of a fitted t-shirt and a beanie on – we had on casual fit dress shirts from brooks brothers and sported a couple of nice haircuts. Instead of tattoos, there were none. We would have looked great at a casual Friday business meeting in North Carolina – but a bit out of place at 11:30pm on the Sunset strip. Oh well – we did end up a cool small place sitting right next to Johnny Galecki from “The Big Ban Theory” - who in my mind should have won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Rusty Griswold in Christmas Vacation.

The 2nd great part was our Schedulefly demo. Wil and I found our way to the HQ of this pizza chain at the top of a large sky scraper and were seated in a beautiful conference room that had a giant window perfectly facing the famous giant Hollywood sign on the side of that mountain. So in walks the nice woman from HR that Wil spoke to and introduces herself. I recall her being very nice and appreciated us flying 3000 miles for a meeting. A few moments later we were joined by the Chief Technology Officer of the company – a nice guy. I don’t remember too much chatter before I hooked up the laptop to the projector. About 15 minutes later – I was done. It was all over – no more clicks to make. After a few moments of him taking in what he had seen he said “You’ve built a nice system, but it seems too simple. It seems like something is missing.” Awkward silence followed and I recall asking what was missing and then listening to how complicated their organization has become and how hard it is to control costs and manage employees and blah blah blah. We chatted a bit more and then we left. Funny thing is – I think they really liked the idea of simple tools – but it was too late for them. Complicated needs complicated I guess...and since we were not interested in being a complicated business ourselves – it wasn’t a good match.

On the plane ride home – Wil and I debriefed over some tired peanuts and a tiny glass of diet coke. We felt a tad bit stupid for traveling so far for a 15 minute meeting with a customer who was never going to be right....but we fist bumped when we realized the CTO’s comments were actually exactly what we needed.....and the night getting denied in Hollywood was worth the trip.


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