When I watched this "60 Minutes" report on how major technology companies are using their knowledge of brain science to try to keep us staring at our phones as often as possible, it made me cringe. They are trying to cause us to be addicted to our phones and the applications we use on them.
But it makes sense. When you use most consumer-oriented software applications, you aren't the customer. The customer is the advertiser, and you are the audience. They want your to be looking at your screen, and therefore their ads, as often and for as long as possible. So the smart people who understand brain science and the dopamine rush you get when you check your phone and see "Likes" on your posts, or texts sent with lasers, are trying to keep you connected at all times. The more time you spend on their applications, the more money they make from the advertisers hoping to sell you things.
When you use Schedulefly, you are the customer. We don't have advertisers, and we never will. We don't want you to be on Schedulefly all of the time. Rather, we hope it's a quick, easy tool that sits in the background of both your phone and your mind. It's there to do it's job and make it fast and easy for you to do what you need to do, and then get out of the way. We don't want managers' "eyeball time" to increase over time, we hope it decreases. We hope we make restaurant scheduling take very little time so they can focus on personal interactions with their staff. We don't want staff to check Schedulefly constantly so we can "deepen user engagement." We hope they get what they need quickly so they can get on with life and have time to do the things they enjoy outside of work.
We don't have any brain science experts on our team, working to use your brain chemistry to alter your behavior. We're just a small team of five folks who hope we make life easier for you. That has always been the case and it always will be.
Rayme Rossello owns Comida, which has three locations and a food truck. Here she discusses dealing with the reality of food trucks, and working through the natural fear that comes with starting a restaurant...
Want to read more of Rayme's comments on fear and other topics? You can grab a copy of Restaurant Owners Uncorked part II right here on Amazon.
We're super proud to publish "Restaurant Owners Uncorked part II: twenty-one owners share their stories." It's an inspiring, educational, easy read, featuring interviews with 21 owners of independent restaurants. All of them are Schedulefly customers, and they were all very generous with their time, as well as honest and authentic in our conversations about how and why they got into the restaurant business, what they love about it, successes, mistakes, and lessons learned over their years. We can't thank them each enough for being a part of this project, and we hope you'll grab a copy and read what they had to say.
Next week we will submit "Restaurant Owners Uncorked part II: Twenty-one Owners Share Their Stories" for publication. Here's the cover art, designed by Luke Pearson of Lift Films. We LOVE the quote on the back...
We've been cranking out podcast episodes with interesting, successful, honest, authentic, independent restaurant owners for the last two years. We've produced nearly fifty episodes, six of them since the start of 2017 and many more on the way.
You can download a free podcast player app and listen to every episode for free. The podcast is here on iTunes, or you can search Restaurant Owners Uncorked within your podcast player app. We are very lucky that so many incredible people take time out of their busy schedules to share their stories of getting into the restaurant business, what they love about it, lessons they've learned, successes, failures, what they think the future holds, etc.
The interviews are casual and my focus is to ask the same questions I'd naturally ask an owner if I were sitting with him or her at a bar, chatting about the restaurant business and their story over a beer. I try to stay out of the way as much as possible, though in the last two episodes I've made a fairly aggressive case as to why it's so wise for young people to consider finding a good local restaurant operator and raising their hand to take any job they have open. I'll let you listen to hear my case, but more importantly, to hear what these generous owners had to say when they shared their time with me. Enjoy...
p.s. Twenty-one of the interviews were edited and will appear in our upcoming book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked part II, which will be on Amazon by the end of the month. (The first Restaurant Owners Uncorked is available here).
Travis Todd's grandparents started a small crab factory in 1947 to produce some of the finest Blue Crab meet on the eastern shore. Nearly 70 years later, the business has evolved into Ocean Odyssey, a beloved destination restaurant run by third generation family members. Travis Todd grew up around the family business and has been a part of it for most of his life. When I interviewed Travis for our upcoming book, we had this exchange about changes to the business over the years...
As your business has evolved, what are some of the values that have not changed?
"First and foremost, the thing that hasn’t changed is just a feeling of belonging, to a certain extent, and family dedication. When I say family, I’m talking about extended family as well. I think Dorchester County is truly an area where, when you hear people say it takes a village to raise a person, you know that’s very much alive here. One of the things that attracted me into it is just that really strong sense of community and really strong family pride in what we do and what we enjoyed for several years throughout the history of it, and fought for, for several years of our history too. Once you sink your teeth into something you don’t really want to walk away from it, even if the punches are coming pretty hard.
Number two, and this has always been consistent, is our dedication to using 100% domestic blue crab. I made my decision to really jump both feet first into this thing at a time where imported crab meat was hammering away at the market share of domestic crab meat, whether it was Maryland crabmeat, Virginia crabmeat, Carolina crabmeat, Louisiana, what have you. There was a big push in a lot of restaurants to purchase crabmeat sourced from Venezuela, Indonesia and elsewhere overseas. It was fine. There’s nothing wrong with that product. But the problem for us was the marketing — people were coming to Maryland and sitting in these waterside restaurants and eating these “Maryland style” crab cakes. That was always the key word – “style.” As long as you had that on your menu, you could use whatever you wanted. These guys were buying this crab meat from international providers at significantly less cost. I get it — sometimes in the restaurant business you run on tight margins. You have to do those things with various products. But, for us, we were so connected to Maryland seafood and Maryland crabmeat and having a background in manufacturing before being in the restaurant business that it really created a gigantic amount of respect for the product."
Did you ever consider using imported crabmeat?
"That’s one of the things where we definitely draw a line on the sand. There’s a lot in this world that requires flexibility and openness, but that’s one thing where we would sooner take crab cakes off the menu. It’s too much a core of what we are, what we came from, and what the history of our family business is. That really comes from Pops. He was there for a couple years when that crab meat was really infiltrating the market. The guys would come by and bring us samples. They wouldn’t last too long in here before he would politely ask them to walk back out the same door they came in. He didn’t even want a can of that product to be seen in this place. I think that we’ve certainly drawn the line there and have never wavered from that. In all our minds we’re pretty proud about that." I admire that approach so much. If you do too, you can listen to the entire interview here on our iTunes podcast, or read it when the book releases in March. Wil
Keith Santangelo is the co-owner of Bourbon Street Bar & Grille in New York, NY. We interviewed him for our upcoming book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked Part II, coming in March. Here said this when I asked him to share his general advice for people interested in owning an independent restaurant...
"If I could give people advice it would be that it seems a lot scarier than it is. And it’s a risk. But a lot of things come with risk. This is something that people are really passionate about. I love the mom-and-pop restaurants, I love independents. Corporations are great too, but what really makes this industry special in my opinion is the individual owners. It’s getting harder for people like that to operate. But it is possible. And I do believe the industry will see it through. I believe people have a lot of fortitude. To me, nothing will ever replace that independent restaurant that really nails it as far as an experience for people going out and having hospitality and dinner and celebrating things together. If you really love those sort of things it can make it all worth it. There are a lot of things that are scary and that are challenges. But the one thing I’ll say to people is, 'It’s possible. You can do it. Get in there and work. Learn as much as you can.' If you find the right opportunity, it really can work. A lot of those statistics of the failures include people that have really never worked in the restaurant industry before and maybe have no idea what they’re doing. If you feel like you have a good idea of what you’re doing – I say go for it. Follow the right advice and take the right precautions, but this is a great industry and it can use more creative, genuinely hospitable people to open more places. I really believe that."
Lots more commentary like this in the book, as well as the back stories of all of the twenty-one owners we interviewed for it. In the mean time, if you like this type of content and haven't read the original Restaurant Owners Uncorked, it's here on Amazon. The Schedulefly Crew Wes, Tyler, Wil, Charles and Hank
When I interviewed Bret Oliverio from Sup Dogs for our second Restaurant Owners Uncorked book (it's coming soon - the first book is here on Amazon), we had an interesting exchange about being bold enough to be different from the crowd... Wil - "One of my favorite business books is called Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. It talks about how important it is to take a stand and to be different. If you really want to create something special, you have to go about it that way."
Bret - "I totally agree. I think a lot of that applies to what we’re doing. College is the most fun time in your life, so I want to be the most fun restaurant out there.
You have to know who your audience is. I think one of my strengths and my wife’s strengthsis knowing what college students in a college community want. We do get a ton of families in for lunch and a ton of families in for dinner. It’s not just college kids that come into our restaurant. But when I think about college, it’s all about girls and having fun. That’s what our business has to be all about.
Our hotdog is six inches long, but it’s not too thick. It’s not like you’re eating some big, giant hotdog at the stadium. Our patties are hand-packed fresh, hand-smashed. We smash them out real thin. To me, it’s a little easier for a girl to eat it. A group of college girls isn’t going to want eat a big, giant piece of cow before she goes to a house party with her friends. Everything we do is sort of with the college girl in mind — everything from our drinks to presentation of our food to the décor of the restaurant. My mentality is that if you can be successful doing that, the guys will follow and the community will follow. If I visit a college town, I want get a college experience. We went to the University of Florida a couple years ago to go to football game and I wanted to see my wife’s whole college experience. I wanted to be around the students — I wanted to be around the Gators. We get complaints: the restaurant’s too loud, it’s too bright, there are too many girls in there. They say, 'Your staff act like sorority girls.' Well, this is college. I mean, what do you want? I saw one Yelp review where some guy was like, 'The food was great and the service is good, but their staff is laughing and they’re loud and they’re having fun. This isn’t a sorority house, girl. This is work.' I’m thinking, 'This dude just doesn’t get it.'
Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the stuff I hear is positive, and I love it. With complaints, my dad always says, 'If there’s someone that really doesn’t like being there, it’s like having a remote control. You could turn the channel if you want.' There are always other options. You’re not going to be for everyone, that’s for sure.
If we make a mistake, or we’re in the wrong, I am over-the-top apologetic. I’ll do anything I can to make it right. But my mentality, first and foremost, is to side with our restaurant and our staff, because most of the time they know what they’re doing. Those are the people you are working with, day-in and day-out. I really side with our staff first, but if there is stuff that comes up and if we mess up a ticket or the ticket time’s thirty minutes or whatever it is, then I’m the first one to apologize. I know when we’re in the wrong. But there is something to be said for sticking to your business and your staff and your beliefs."
You'll hear more from Bret soon. His is the most amazing story I've come across in five years of interviewing restaurant owners, and we're sharing it in a new film we plan to release in March.
We've been hard at work on the next Restaurant Owners Uncorked book. The first one, available here on Amazon, came out five years ago next month. It has sold around 15,000 copies and has received great reviews. If you'd be interested in knowing the stories of 20 successful independent restaurant owners, you'll enjoy it. All of the owners were very honest with both their successes and their failures.
The second book features 21 owners, many of whom read the first one and told us they enjoyed it, so we asked them to be in this one! We've been collecting their pictures lately, and I wanted to share a few of them. All of them have inspiring stories and offer extremely useful wisdom they've picked up along the way in their journeys in the restaurant business.
Wil and I have been blogging stories for almost 10 years now. This is still one of the best posts I've ever read and it's still true 5 years later. Thought I'd share it again because not only is it humorous (especially if your a Star Wars fan)- it also has a great lesson.
Here it is....
In 2009 Wes and I went to the National Restaurant Association's annual trade show in Chicago. We'll never go again for these reasons. But while we were there, a very interesting thing happened. A guy we had never seen spent quite a bit of time hanging out at the booth directly across from us. He didn't work for that company, but he is a consultant and liked to bring his customers by their booth to introduce them to that particular exhibitor.
He would typically have four or five people with him, and he would linger behind them as they listened to the exhibitor, which meant he was lingering very close to our booth. In fact, since the isles aren't very wide (at least not in the way back bowels of the smaller of the two exhibit halls, where we were stationed), he was lingering pretty damn close to our booth. Close enough that traffic was clogged up and quite a few folks turned and walked in the other direction.
Anyway, not far along into the first day, we overheard the group mention something about "scheduling" and our eyes lit up. "Hey, sounds like they're going to speak with us next." But the annoying, lingering, traffic clogging consultant promptly mentioned our competitor's name, and told the group to follow him. They disappeared around the corner.
It was as rude and disrespectful of a gesture as was possible. Wes and I stared at each other in total disbelief, and we had to hold each other back from following the guy and telling him to go ... well, I'll save the profanity. But you get the point.
Needless to say, we remembered that guy very well and we hoped to never see him again. But alas, just a few months later, I was invited into a meeting about a potential partnership with some folks here in Charlotte, and as I walked into the conference room and looked up, this scene from "The Empire Strikes Back" quickly flashed through my mind...
That's right, our buddy was seated at the table already, awaiting my arrival. I literally thought my jaw was going to hit the floor when I saw him sitting there. Like Han Solo, I wanted to escape but I was trapped. I sat down and listened to what these folks had to say, though I'll confess that since I already knew the meeting wasn't going to lead to anything for us, I spent the hour imagining how I was going to be frozen alive and then eventually rescued by Wes, Tyler and Charles. Then we would strike down our foe...
Joking aside, and I'll spare you why he was there and what the meeting was all about, this story leads me to one of several reasons we don't like the idea of partnerships: you never know what your potential partner's true agenda is.
I got lucky because I knew at least one of the people in that room did not have our best interests at heart. I have no idea what would have happened had we pursued that partnership. Would that guy have tried to sabotage us? Would he have passed along sensitive information to our competitors? Or would he have come around and been a true advocate for us? Anybody's guess is as good as mine, but thankfully we got lucky and never had to find out.
This post is long enough, so I'm going to make it Part I of "Why we don't partner with anybody." More to come.