A big welcome to Gavin and the crew at Press'd. They're making up some darn good looking sandwiches in Edmonton, AB, and we're stoked to be able to make their restaurant scheduling and communication a whole lot easier.
We're always inspired by entrepreneurial stories like the one that happened at Press'd. Here it is, straight from their web site:
Teammates Gavin Fedorak and Scott Gordon were on the road with the University of Alberta’s Golden Bears basketball team one day in 2006, when the team had just conceded a particularly one-sided loss to the Arizona State Sun Devils. Hoping to replenish their energy, and maybe eat away their sorrows, they stopped at a local sandwich shop—and were blown away.
The sandwiches they sampled that day in Phoenix were fresh and delicious. Each was an inspired creation of high-quality meat, fresh veggies, and real cheese on the freshest bread—at a fair price. For the rest of their road trip, Gavin and Scott couldn’t stop talking about the meals they’d had, and how they wished there was a shop like that back home in Edmonton.
By 2009, U of A Business grads Gavin and Scott had left basketball behind and launched promising corporate accounting careers. Having a business of their own was always a plan though, so together with Gavin’s brother Grant they made up their minds—Edmonton still needed better sandwiches, and they were going to make it happen.
After a year of testing recipes, learning to bake, and scouting locations, the trio opened press’d to enthusiastic mid-day crowds.
Congrats guys. We're honored to serve you and your team.
Jon Myerow didn’t come from money. He's a guy who took on equity and debt to start his first Tria location in 2004, and he's worked very hard every year since to build popular, profitable restaurants. He has learned to mix in style and passion with hard work and savvy business decisions. Along the way, he has created Philadelphia's most popular wine, cheese and beer cafés, featuring artisanal products made by passionate people. Both Tria and Biba, his other concept, are simple concepts, executed extremely well. When we spoke to Jon for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, we asked about the importance of hiring the right people to work in his restaurants. Here's some of what he said...
"To me the biggest competition is not for customers. It’s for staff. If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow. So we look at it a little differently. We put a lot of money into the staff. Paying them, and the benefits, and so forth.
We’re very selective. If we put an ad on Craigslist, we’ll get 100 or 200 responses, and there might be three or four people that we consider seriously. I like to say, “It’s harder to get into Tria than it is to get into Harvard!” (Laughs) Our acceptance rate is lower."
Jon shared many other winning philosophies during his interview, and you'll be able to read about them very soon. Stay tuned...
Jeff Gigante started his first pizzeria during his final year at Florida State University, twenty years ago. He's been in the restaurant business ever since. This man knows what he's doing. Period. He runs popular, profitable restaurants, and he focuses every day on his 300+ staff, and the 35,000 people his restaurants (Ciccio’s Water, Daily Eats, Lodge, Ciccio’s Lodge, Ciccio’s California Cuisine, The Lime) serve weekly. When we interviewed Jeff for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, he us why he has general managing partners who have skin in the game and own a piece of his business...
We’ve financed a lot of our partners that ended up becoming general managing partners of our business, after they’ve been managers for a couple of years, and they want a piece of it.
For me, it’s very important that people are willing to put skin in the game, because then they’re truly vested like we are. They live and die by the success of the business. It’s easy for a GM who’s making $60,000 a year to become indifferent to the bottom line. When he sees a server throw plastic tray with a piece of deli sheet on it – that we serve sandwiches on and that costs me $0.89 – into the trash, he doesn’t dive in there to get it, and then grab that server and say, “Listen, this is not garbage.” When somebody’s got their salary and they’re comfortable, it’s hard for them to have those types of eyes.
But when they know that they’ve borrowed money from their mother, and stuck it into this restaurant, and she’s calling and saying, “How is it doing son? Are you doing o.k.? Are you making money? What? You made a $2,200 bonus at the end of this month? That’s phenomenal!” That’s a different aspect altogether.
That’s the people we’re looking for, because this is my passion. This is what I do to take care of my family.
In the book, Jeff goes on to talk about why it's important to be paranoid, why he pays managers based on profits, and how one of his concepts is doing up to $1,700,000 per year with 20% margins in a 2,800 square foot space.
Matt Frey left a career in corporate sales to open Bub’s with his wife, Rachel. Both had worked in restaurants, but had never owned one, or even managed one. Like any successful entrepreneur, Matt had the attitude that failure was not an option, and he’s built a successful business around that mentality. In fact, he said several times that he looks at Bub’s as a business, not a restaurant. Bub’s has been very successful, and was recently featured on the hit Food Channel show, “Man v. Food.” Here Matt shares his philosophies on hiring sales people for every position at Bub’s...
You focus a lot on sales.
You bet. When I hire, it’s salespeople and not waiters. I think that’s what every restaurant owner should focus on. Anyone can go, “Hi, my name is Ashley. What do you want to eat today?” Bullshit. The first thing you do is say, “Hi, how are you?” You create a relationship, and you talk about the menu, and you talk about the promotions, or the soup of the day and carry on to close the deal.
How important is it to have the right kind of staff in your restaurant?
It’s vital, absolutely vital. They’re a complete reflection of me and my family.
It’s well known at this point what to expect when they walk in. They know that we hire young people. I’m very active in the local high school in their marketing classes and entrepreneur classes, talking about sales and how important sales is not only at Bub's but anywhere they work. I tell them we don’t hire ice cream scoopers, bussers, dishwasher, hosts or waiters. We hire salespeople.
If we hire you to dish, if you’re content with that, you’ll last about a week here. You should be motivated enough to say, “Okay, what do I have to do here to get my feet on that floor to make that cash?” We hire 15 year olds. Those kids walk out with $100 - $150 bucks cash in their pockets after working four hours. These are the kids that gave you that goofy look when you were talking about ROI and maximizing profitability, but when they walk out with that cash, they fully understand and they take it real serious after that.
Matt shared a lot of other valuable advice in his interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, which will be available soon!
Scott Maitland started Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery to prevent a chain restaurant from dominating downtown Chapel Hill. Not only did he accomplish that, but he turned his restaurant into a place that anybody can visit to represent the quintessential Chapel Hill experience. Located at the very heart of downtown Chapel Hill, Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery is, quite simply, the social crossroads of Chapel Hill. It has undoubtedly become an institution.
During his interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, Scott discussed how important it is for indie restaurant owners to have intimate local knowledge, and how chains and owners from outside of your town can miss on that...
How about an example of a restaurant that didn’t have that intimate local knowledge?
"Here’s one. Michael Jordan hooked up with an independent restaurant group out of Chicago to start “23 Restaurant” here in Chapel Hill. They had marketed themselves as the place for fathers and sons to go to before the game. To be frank, I was a little nervous. They were right down the block, and I was thinking, It’s going to be tough to compete against that.
Well, I’ve never seen a group that had such a scattered concept of what the restaurant was going to be about. They were advertising it as the place to go to before the game, but the menu didn’t have a hamburger on it. Rather, they were selling $26 rabbit!
I now have this theory that the bigger a city is, the farther it is away from its food, so consequently, the food needs to become more and more exotic. I don’t know if I am accurate or not, but I guess rabbit seems fun and exotic in Chicago. Meanwhile, there are plenty of people here in North Carolina who remember hard times, and the only way they got to eat was to go out and shoot a rabbit.
The idea of paying $26 to have a rabbit doesn’t work on many levels. It’s not what you want to eat before a basketball game, and it’s not what this market wants."
Our book will be available soon, and you'll be able to learn a lot more from Scott and the other owners who shared their advice and pearls of wisdom.
Phil Roberts is a legend in the restaurant business, having launched over ten successful restaurants, including Buca di Beppo and The Oceanaire Seafood Room, which both went public. He owns Parasole Restaurant Group, which runs ten extremely successful restaurants in Minneapolis.
Phil is bold, innovative, and knows what people want before they do. He isn’t politically correct, and he’s refreshingly unafraid to offer very honest opinions on any topic. Here's an excerpt from our upcoming book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked, from a conversation he and I had about his sometimes edgy marketing.
How is your marketing edgy and unique?
"It depends on the restaurant. The marketing is a couple of the spokes in that wheel. However you express yourself on the outside has got to describe the promise of what you’re going to get on the inside.
Manny’s Steakhouse is a good example. We do $17,000,000 a year there. It’s all prime beef. I don’t know what steakhouses you have there in Charlotte, but it’s like The Palm, or Sparks in New York, or any of those. But Manny’s symbol from day one has been this really red-eyed, horny bull. Just frothing at the mouth. Just a sexual predator. I mean, that’s the look that he has. There’s just no doubt that he’s kind of a guys-guy kind of a symbol. You can see him on our web site.
So in our marketing, we always use the bull. And let me digress a little bit on the story of the bull. When we decided on our meat supplier – this is 1988 – our meat supplier tells us that the American Meat Council had an artist that does marvelous paintings of bulls. The guy is named Frank Murphy.
I called him, and I could tell over the phone that he was a quieter, gentler, older, man. I said, “Frank, I need a painting of this bull. And I want him to be the horniest thing you have ever painted in your life. And I want him to be about three feet wide and four feet tall.” He says, “Yes, Mr. Roberts, I can do that for you. Why don’t I do a pencil sketch, and I’ll fax it up to you.” That was before the days of email.
So the next day I get this fax of this bull, and it’s good. It’s really good. Because he’s frothing at the mouth and he’s doing all this kind of stuff. I called Frank back and I said, “This looks good. When you paint him I want to make sure that his eyes are red, and that he’s really lusting after the cows. And there’s one thing I’d like to have you do. I’d like you to make his balls bigger.” And this gentle, older man says, “Why, yes Mr. Roberts. I can do that. Why don’t I repair the drawing, and I will fax another copy up to you?”
About an hour later, I get this fax, and I call Frank back, and say, “Frank, that’s great. You are really moving in the right direction, buddy. But I’d like to have the balls even bigger.” He says, “Oh, uh, Mr. Roberts, that would be anatomically incorrect.” I said, “Well Frank, let’s just do it. I don’t give a shit. I’d just like to see them anatomically incorrect.”
About an hour later I get another fax, and the balls are damned near hanging on the ground. I call Frank back and I say, “Frank, I’ve just got one more request.” He says, “Oh, Mr. Roberts, what’s that going to be?” I say, “I just want you to make them shiny.”
So his balls are shiny. I mean, you could comb your hair by looking at ‘em. But that’s the symbol of Manny’s. But you know, it all makes sense. Because Manny’s is a steakhouse. Manny’s is a guys place that women love. You know, it’s naughty. You can’t believe the number of women that get their pictures taken in front of the bull, tickling his balls. So, you know, it all fits. It’s a guys-guy joint.
So that’s the way we market Manny’s. We always use the bull, and we use him in a number of different ways. Sometimes we only feature his balls in some of our ads. So that’s Manny’s.
My point is that it fits Manny's. It doesn’t fit Chino Latino. It doesn’t fit The Good Earth. It doesn’t fit Pittsburgh Blue. I doesn’t fit Salut. It doesn’t fit Muffuletta. But it does fit Manny’s. So the marketing has to be tailored, and has to be in lockstep with what the concept is."
Want to hear Phil's story about how he got $100,000 in free publicity by using an edgy billboard? Stay tuned and we'll let you know when the book is ready.
We love serving independent restaurants. They're cool and quirky and fun...the list goes on. Most people love indies as well, especially ones that serve up unique dishes you won't find anywhere else. That's why Travel Channel's show "Man v. Food" is such a hit.
It's cool to watch the show and see one of our customers featured. Here are a few that Adam Richman as visited recently.
Paige and the team at Tony's are enjoying easier lives and producing less waste with Schedulefly. Tony's is a bottle free, low waste bar/restaurant - their goal is to have a zero waste bar and an almost zero waste kitchen.
Tony's Darts Away's motto is: All Craft. All Draught. All California. Check out this GREAT video from their web site, showing Tony talking about how he won over a local brewer to put his beer on some of Tony's forty taps. It's inspiring to see the passion Tony has for his business, and we can't help but be stoked to serve a fun place like this!
Also, Wil lived in Burbank for a couple of years back in '99 - '00, about a quarter of a mile from Tony's location. He's thinking he may need to come visit a few friends that still live there soon, and he knows exactly where they can hang out.
Welcome to Paul and his fun team at his ShakeAway location in Hastings. Check out ShakeAway's web site. They do a great job on the site of making you want to be a part of what they've created. Most web sites try to do that, and most fail. ShakeAway nails it!
Cheers to you Paul, and to your team. We're excited to make your scheduling and communication a bloody cinch!
The Schedulefly Crew
p.s Follow Paul and his Shakette's on Twitter (@ShakeAwayHAST). You'll hear about some crazy milkshakes - like a Skittles milkshake! Nice.
It's almost here! Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Twenty Owners Share Their Recipes For Success. Folks, I ain't gonna lie, this book is just phenomenal. In addition to final edits and the book's design, we are also excited about working with some well known industry folks and business focused media and publication folks who are reviewing the book. Hopefully a nice quote or two will come out of it to include on the cover.
We are all very excited about sharing this book with the world in the coming months. Here is a shot of the book's cover (designed by Luke Pearson of Lift Films) along with some one-liner takeaways from each of the 20 interviews that will be on the back of the book.
Make sure to watch Jay Leno tonight. Scott Leibfried, the co-owner of Arch Rock Fish and cast member of "Hell's Kitchen," will be on the show along with Gordon Ramsey. Scott is also featured in our upcoming book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked.
We are excited to have been selected to help brothers Brian, Alex and Rommie Amra (and their teams at Raleigh and Durham's Tobacco Road Sports Cafe) make restaurant staff scheduling much easier - and way more fun! In fact - below is a recent note from their manager Chad Helms to us after we uploaded his restaurant logo to the Raleigh location's site.
Thank you, Wes. We have been extremely happy with your product, and I plan to implement it at our locations going forward. I wish continued success to you and your team.
It is tremendously satisfying to be able to serve the 50 or so staff at both of the Tobacco Road Sports Cafes. They are a fun group of very passionate and successful restaurateurs. Welcome!
We are stoked to serve the latest Dolce Group venue to the Schedulefly family! The Dolce Group is known for its hip, unique, energetic atmospheres at spots like Les Deux in Hollywood and Geisha House in Los Angeles who also use Schedulefly to organize all the craziness related to scheduling and staying in close touch with their restaurant staff.
The Burgundy Room is an upscale martini bar in Cocowalk (Coconut Grove area) Miami, FL. It also features dueling pianos, live music, California cuisine, tapas and multiple flat-screen televisions for sporting events.
Welcome to the Burgundy Room team!
The Schedulefly crew
A few customers have recently told us that Schedulefly is a competitive advantage for them when hiring. They are proud to tell potential new staff that they use our service. They feel they have a leg up on those that might still be hanging the schedule in the kitchen and requiring trips by the restaurant to switch shifts etc. They are proud to let future staff know that they use Schedulefly to make their lives easier. It is a benefit for the staff. We are so honored that our tool adds that kind of value. Awesome!
So we created a couple of badges for them to choose from and display on the their website to let visitors know that they use Schedulefly to make the staff happy. Here are a few that have just added them - 2 on the employment page and one on a home page!
Wil and I often send each other a well thought out, relevant, one word response or a meaningful quote from a classic movie that sums up our feelings about an idea we might be kicking around or something a customer said that was really cool.
My favorite so far is when something we are discussing (like we did last night) needs nothing more than a reminder of how Sexual Chocolate's Randy Watson leaves the stage after his powerful rendition of Whitney Houston's classic - The Greatest Love Of All. He drops the mic, points at the crowd with both hands and exits. Nuff said.
So without further ado, here he is. Jackson Height's own....Randy. Watson.
Wil was stoked to receive this email today from Frank Uible. Frank is partners with Chris Sommers at Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis, MO, which is phenomenally popular and very successful.
I am Chris Sommers' business partner in Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis; I loved your interview with Chris for your forthcoming book. As the Co-Founder of Pi I started to read with skepticism and dubious interest...after all, I thought to myself, I was there. Once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. It was riveting dialogue with a compelling narrative line.
I read every word (twice) AND learned things about Pi and my experience that I didn't know.
I am asking you for reprint permission so that I may give a copy of the interview to each and every Pi employee and future new hire. This is Pi high doctrine and gospel...a great gift to all of us.
Thanks for your consideration, Wil, and congratulations on job well-done.
Frank R. Uible III
Chris's interview was fantastic, as were the other nineteen interviews. If you own a restaurant, want to own a restaurant, or want to know how successful restaurant owners think, then you'll love Restaurant Owners Uncorked!
Welcome to Michael and the team at Caketini in Gilbert, AZ. We serve other restaurants in Gilbert, and we hear great things about the area! We're excited to make your staff scheduling and communication easy as...uh....cake!
Have fun, and let us know if we can help with anything.
Welcome to LiChing and the cool crew at Sel de la Terre in Natick, MA. We're proud to make life easier for the teams at two Sel de la Terre locations. They serve up rustic country fare inspired by Provence and the surrounding areas in Southern France. It's farm to fork, and it's delicious!
Y'all enjoy, and let us know if we can do anything for you.
Like many folks getting into the restaurant business, Tad Peelen (pictured here on the left with his business partners) made a switch after spending many years in a different field. He was in corporate communications at American Airlines for seventeen years before helping start Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert, AZ in 1998. Tad talked about unraveling his corporate mindset, the dilemma of debt, the value of technology, unconventional marketing, and how to retain great people. He's done an amazing job of helping turn Joe's into an institution in his community. Here are a few of the pearls of wisdom Tad shared…
Don’t Bring Corporate Tools To Your Indie. (Tad had spent seventeen years in corporate communications before helping start Joe’s) I was surprised along the way at a whole bunch of things that I hadn’t counted on. I came in with expectations that were perhaps unrealistic. For instance, I thought that if you took the twenty-seven page employee manual, and had it translated to Spanish, that the resulting Spanish manual would be an awesome tool for every Spanish-speaking employee on your payroll. And I spent thousands of dollars, and had everything translated. Only to find that most of my Spanish-only speaking employees weren’t going to benefit much from that. The whole written thing wasn’t doing much for them anyways. They learned verbally. They learned by being shown. So when you have this corporate mindset that you can fix everything with money, or you can fix everything if you look at it correctly…that truly turned out not to be the case. What I needed to do was to get in my employees’ shoes, and figure out what was going to work best for them. It’s not the same as it is in the corporate world.
Give Your Employees The Tools For Success. We were thinking about having the best possible tools to give our employees the best possible chance of success. And with independents, I think that is one of the places where people tend to perhaps fall short.
Build An Institution. I think the thing we thought about – that perhaps not all startups think about at the inception stage – is that we very much endeavored, from well before we opened, to create an institution. We didn’t want a restaurant. We didn’t want a family restaurant. We didn’t want a place that people liked. We wanted to create an institution. So we struggled with, “Is that prideful? Is that boastful? Is that realistic? Is that smart?” So we chewed through all of those issues, and we decided that we undoubtedly wanted to create an institution. We decided to create a place that you would feel you must take people to when they come in from out of town. A place that endures. A place that has longevity. A place that will be there after ten years, and twenty years, and fifty years. We were not out to create a successful business that could be sold for a lot of money. But rather we were out to create a successful business so that we could pass it along to other generations, and ensure the institution is still an institution after we’re gone.
Don’t Let Conventional Wisdom Rule. We didn’t let conventional wisdom play much of a role in our decision making. We’re Christian guys who meet every week, and pray before we start our partner meetings. And we leave those things to Him. It’s either going to thrive or die. It’s really out of our hands. What we’re tasked with doing is making good decisions that are in the best interest of our customers and our employees.
Offer Great Benefits To Keep Great People. We thought early on that we probably couldn’t afford health insurance for our employees. So we thought about it, and prayed about it. And we said, “You know what? It’s the right thing to do for these employees. So we’re gonna do it. And if it’s successful, it’s going to accomplish the goal of retaining those people who came to work here for that reason.” If we had any shot at retaining people in the long term, and having a truly fulfilled, happy, vibrant work force, it was going to take making some decisions that weren’t necessarily initially in the best economic interest of the three of us.
Social Media Can Help Make Personal Connections. Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare help our business in a few ways. Most importantly, they allow us to put many more names with faces (or avatars) of our customers. When we see someone tweeting a photo of their lunch, we can make sure we get by the table and make a personal connection. We made personal connections before, but these interactions initiated by happy diners are really fun and lead to interesting conversations. Facebook users are awesome and passionate about places they frequent. We offer a generous Mayor incentive on Foursquare (a free meal) and love seeing people talk about how they want to knock the current Mayor off their perch. As trite as it sounds, the “social” part of social media allows us to make more personal connections and relationships. We think the time investment is worth every minute.
Unconventional Marketing Can Generate Huge Results. We spend a bunch of money on marketing. We just don’t do it in conventional ways. We have an annual Customer Appreciation Day when we open our doors and serve as many people as we can for free. We streamline the menu, offer canned sodas instead of fountain drinks to keep things moving along, and have served more than 6,000 free meals during the day of the promotion. Free Days around here usually mean someone is getting a free meal every six seconds we are open. It’s a pretty cool thing to watch. We do this to thank our loyal customers for their patronage, and at the same time attract new customers. The buzz created by this annual event is pretty overwhelming. We’ve had years when every TV news channel in town picked up the story, as well as radio stations, blogs, and the social media crowd. Obviously feeding 6,000+ people isn’t cheap, but we think the investment pays off pretty quickly. It doesn’t take many converted first-timers for this approach to pay off.
Our customers use their message walls every day for all kinds of things including recognizing staff, chatting about schedules, broadcasting important announcements or simply letting others know what's on their minds. Often it is nice to know that someone read your post (w/o having to leave a comment) so adding a quick "got it" link was on our list. We knocked it out this week and gave it a fun twist. Instead of calling it "got it" - we called it "dig it". Staff can now acknowledge they've read a post or that they just dig it.
Here is a screen shot showing wall posts with digs - clicking the digs link will show who digs it and a button to dig it yourself...
Welcome to Ashely, Matt and the awesome team at Poole's Downtown Diner in Raleigh, NC. We're stoked to help make your restaurant staff scheduling & communication clean and simple...and fun!
Poole's is the place to be (and to be seen) in Raleigh. Marrying a clean aesthetic with retro-chic charm, Chef/Owner Ashley Christensen restored and highlighted the "bones" of the original restaurant that was in Poole's location, which opened in 1945. Poole's has a double horseshoe bar and red leather banquettes, along with modern elements like Lucite chairs, and over sized blackboard menus that change daily based on season and availability. Whenever possible, Poole's works with local growers and artisan producers to showcase their craft, while practicing their own.
Y'all have fun, and thanks for giving us the opportunity to serve you.
A big welcome to Marshall and the fun crew at Walk-On's bistreaux & Bar in Lafayette, LA! In just a few short years, Walk-On's has officially become a Baton Rouge institution. It's the perfect place to grab a bite or a beer, bring the family out to dinner, party with your friends, or head to before, during or after an LSU game. This place has great service, great food, and a fun, cut-loose vibe.
Y'all enjoy our easy restaurant staff scheduling and communication software, and holler if you need anything.
Welcome to Christopher and the fun crew at Lola's Lakehouse in Waconia, MN. Lola’s is one of the few restaurants in the Twin Cities area to be located on lakefront property. It's the perfect place to dock your boat in the summertime and enjoy a meal in the restaurant or on the open-air deck overlooking the lake. They have awesome steaks, burgers, and wood-oven pizzas, along with a fabulous selection of fresh seafood, including a raw bar serving oysters on the half-shell. The signature seafood stew pot and the maple walnut pie are just a few samples of the house specialties. If you're in the Twin Cities, you'd be missing out if you don't check out Lola's.
Y'all have fun, enjoy our simple restaurant scheduling software, and let us know if we can do anything for you.
Arch Rock Fish is not your father's fish house. Serving simply grilled fish, artisan and locally sourced food, local California wines, and offering warm service – it’s a true neighborhood joint. And Jeremiah Higgins is focused on turning it into an institution in Santa Barbara. Jeremiah rose quickly through the ranks, starting as a bus boy as a teen, and becoming a manager by the time he was eighteen. Since then he has led success after success for various restaurants and restaurant groups, helping turn around and grow several well known restaurants in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. He co-owns Arch Rock Fish, and also helps run HJL Group Restaurant Advisors with Scott Leibfried and Cobi Jones. Jeremiah is a high-energy, upbeat guy who works hard, is a fantastic leader, has a great business mind, and exudes success. Here’s some of what he had to say..
Growing Sales By 40% In One Year. I motivated our staff. I looked at our sales daily. At what days were slow. At what hours were slow. I looked at goals for the month. For the week. For the day. I basically started breaking things down, as I had been taught in school, and as I had learned from running the restaurant daily. I looked for the spots that needed to be filled in. I looked for the opportunities. And I realized that areas where we were slow in sales were opportunities, rather than areas for discouragement.
Do As Much Business On Mondays As On Fridays. Most managers think every Monday has got to be slow because it’s a Monday. I would look at Monday and say, “Let’s make Monday just as popular as Friday, for a different reason.” So that’s basically what we did. I involved the staff. I also involved the locals. We really went after them, rather than the tourists. We made it a place that everyone enjoyed coming to regularly.
Running Restaurants Is Like Making Movies. It has a lot of similarities to the film business. You’re going on stage every day. Each day is a brand new day, and a brand new show. The money is tight. The margins are really tight. The staff is your cast. And your job is to inspire every single day to get the results that you want. You’ve got to look at people individually, and figure out what motivates them. And then just pay attention to the details, and run a tight, clean business. And if you do, I know that you can be successful. There are a thousand moving parts in a day, that’s what excites me about the business.
It’s All About Volume. I’ve always said to anyone that we advise in the restaurant business “You don’t put percentages in the bank. You put dollars in the bank.” Yeah, it’s great to have a 32% food cost. But if you don’t have any money coming in, then what’s the point? So we’ve always operated under the philosophy that volume is very important. If you do enough volume, then the bottom line is always healthier than it would be if you lived and died by those textbook food cost analyses, and things like that.
Welcome Your Staff When They’re Not Working. Many restaurants have a hard rule that none of the staff can eat or drink at the restaurant or the bar. But the staff, especially the young staff, loves to eat and drink and hang out at their own place. And if they’re respectful of the rules, there shouldn’t be a problem. And they usually bring five to ten friends down a day, when they get off work, before they go out. The staff became a great word of mouth for us. The best, in fact.
You Don’t Have To Spend A Ton To Create Awareness. If you tap into people and excite them, and make them feel a part of the business philosophy and business growth, then they will support you in that. And that’s been very apparent with Arch Rock Fish. We get a lot of press because of it. Over a dozen articles around town were written about us before we opened. I spent $12,000 on pre-marketing. The rest of it’s all been free press and word of mouth.
Promote Your Community, Not Just Yourself. To us, the term “A Neighborhood Joint” isn’t just a phrase. It means helping our own local community thrive, by promoting the people around us. And not only our restaurant, but the restaurant across the street.
Show People What’s Behind The Curtain. One of the questions I get a lot is, “What does it take to open a restaurant?” So we thought we’d use Facebook and blogs to document what happens, from the start to the end. We showed a history of what it takes to open a restaurant. Our guests can see where Arch Rock came from, from choosing our silverware and our plateware, to our menu, to the purveyors. A business owner usually does not want to share what happens behind the curtain, or let anyone see the little man cranking the wheel. It’s usually a very protective kind of a thing. “Don’t look at what I’m doing. Don’t copy what I’m doing. I’m not going to tell you until I do it.” We decided that we were going to do the opposite. We decided we wanted to show everybody, from day one, behind our curtain.
Promote Your Vendors And Purveyors. We also mention our purveyors in the press. We didn’t do one interview where we didn’t mention Jordano’s, or Telegraph Brewery, or Brian from the Santa Barbara Fish Market, or some of these big purveyors that we use. We brought them down to share our success, and to get some press themselves. Why not? You promote me, I promote you. Why not build that kind of relationship with your vendors and other people out there? I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do that. There really is enough to go around. And more will go around, the more excited people get about where they live, and what they’re doing.
How To Find The Right Partner. First of all, you’ve got to get along with them. You’re going to basically live with a business partner at a restaurant. You’re going to spend ten to twelve hour days, minimum, with this person. So before I thought about partnerships, I thought about people that I share the same philosophy with. People you can laugh with. People you don’t get too stressed being around. People who have a mutual respect for others. Not only in the way that they speak to staff and the people around them, but that they enjoy life and respect others. At the end of the day, to have a successful partnership, you’ve got to have common goals. And you’ve really got to know that person inside and out before you go into partnership with them. And you’ve got to know how they react to different stress levels, and different problems that arise. Because there will be problems in a restaurant. You’re gonna put out ten fires a day, but it’s how you and your partners deal with putting out those fires, and how you deal with problem solving, that will help make a strong partnership.
Hire Personality Over Experience. (On how to find good people for your team) Number one is I would put them through an interview process that’s structured. Number two is I would meet everybody before they are hired. You’re never too busy to meet somebody that you’re going to hire, and who is going to represent your business. And the third thing is the easiest. I don’t care what’s on a resume. I do care of they have some experience, but I have been known to waive that requirement as well. I go off of personality. If that person engages me in the first two minutes, with a twinkle in their eye, or a smile, or a good story, or whatever it happens to be…if they can engage me in the first two minutes, they’re going to engage my customers. If they don’t have that personality, if they don’t have that enthusiasm, and that twinkle in their eye, I can’t teach them that. It doesn’t matter what concept I have, I can teach them the procedures, the menus, the wine lists. I can teach them how to serve a table correctly, and how to say goodbye, and all of that. But I can’t teach personality. So the number one thing that I look for is personality.
Hire Poorly And You’ll Pay For It. Hiring the right people is so important. It’s critical. The nationwide average is about $2,200 to hire and train somebody. Why make a mistake? Why spend all of that money, and then have to do it all over again a week or two later? And that $2,200 doesn’t even account for the cost of lost customers if that server is not the right person at your table, and it’s turning off customers.
Jeff Gigante co-owns Ciccio Restaurant Group, which has six restaurants in Tampa Bay, FL. Jeff started his first pizzeria in his final year at Florida State University twenty years ago, and he's been in the restaurant business ever since. This man knows what he's doing. Period. He runs popular, profitable restaurants, and focuses every day on his 300+ staff and the 35,000 people his restaurants serve every week. Want to learn some lessons from a guy who has had every job in the restaurant business, and is now a highly successful owner? Read on...
Don’t Be Partners With Your Best Friend – Don’t go into business with your best friends. I think successful business relationships come from being able to leave emotion out of it. And when you have lifetime experiences with a best friend, you get very personally, emotionally involved. And then you get your feelings hurt. And that on top of business mindset and outlook differences can lend itself to a whole lot of problems. How do you separate business and personal relationships? And if you have to part ways, how does that not affect the friendship?
Know What Areas Of Town Will Work – We had a good generalized idea that we liked Tampa better than St. Pete, but for knowing what area to pick, we just listened to our friends and family that had lived there for decades. They knew which areas were hot, or dead, or up and coming. They’d drive us to the areas that we liked, and then they’d drive us all around the area, and show us the different homes, and that type of thing. And I think that type of research is invaluable. Not to mention that we would also go out and eat lunch and dinner two or three days in a row in all of these areas that we were looking at, to just kind of get a feel for what kinds of people were eating in those places, and how busy they were at different times. We wanted to see what areas were populated by which types of people. We were looking for the young families, the young professionals, the gay crowd. I wanted that to be a big thing, because in my opinion that makes for a great cultural crowd. We always look for that.
A Little Paranoia Is Good – We’ve always had an air of paranoia. When we’re busy, we want to be busier. When we’re not so busy, then we’re really concerned, and we start introspectively looking at everything. I’m a perfectionist, so that means that I’m not ever fully pleased with how things are going. I’m cautiously optimistic when things are good, but I always know that at any given time, things could fall flat, like the economy we’re living in now. Or after September 11th. There are a lot of different things that affect the economy and our industry. So I think being paranoid, and constantly striving for excellence, as well as constantly checking and re-checking your quality controls. Your food. How’s the presentation ? How’s the taste coming? How’s the cost looking? Are things fluctuating too much? If they are, what’s the cause of that fluctuation?
It’s A Business Of Pennies - When I was a fifteen year old bus boy working for Chili’s, I’ll never forget what the manager told me. He said, “Son, this is a business of pennies. You watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” And I would catch him on more than one occasion out back, shifting through garbage, finding all of the packets of ketchup, the salt and peppers, the plastic silverware that was still in its wrapper. He’d say, “This affects my bottom line. We pay hard pennies for this, and people throw them away. And that’s unacceptable.”
Watch Costs Carefully – I’ve always been cost crunching, and focused on the money, because I want to protect my income fiercely, and voraciously. And I’m not even saying that we’re the most successful restaurateurs. I’m sure that people profit a lot better than we do. But we’ve been consistently earning and profiting better than nine out of ten restaurants around us.
Pay Managers On Profits - We don’t pay huge salaries up front, but we do give huge bonus incentives, because we want people to have the mindset of owners, and know that if the store does well, they’ll do well. And they can earn as much money as the effort they want to put in. For the most part, our managers and assistant managers are bonused out on bottom line profits. For instance, we have a catering manager who oversees the catering. And depending on what he does to grow that business – because I truly believe it’s in his hands – he can earn quite a bit of money.
Enable GMs To Become General Managing Partners - We’ve financed a lot of our partners that ended up becoming general managing partners of our business after they’ve been managers for a couple of years, and they want a piece of it. For me, it’s very important that people are willing to put skin in the game, because then they’re truly vested like we are. And they live and die by the success of the business. It’s easy for a GM who’s making $60,000 a year to become indifferent to the bottom line. But when they know that they’ve borrowed money from their mother, and stuck it into this restaurant…and she’s calling and saying, “How is it doing son? Are you doing o.k.? Are you making money? What, you made a $2,200 bonus at the end of this month? That’s phenomenal!” That’s a different aspect altogether. That’s the people we’re looking for. Because this is my passion. This is what I do to take care of my family. I don’t think our structure is the norm. But I think it should be the norm.
Promote From Within – It’s hard to hire somebody from the outside, with all of their thoughts and expectations and philosophies, and have them come in and try to meld with what we’re doing. It’s much better to have servers that grow to head servers, and say, “You know what? I love what you guys do. It would be a dream for me to have a piece of this.”
Be Passionate About Staff And Customers – I’m honestly and truly always thinking of all of our 300 plus employees, as well as the 35,000 people we feed every month. Those people are in the foremost of my mind, because those are the people that create the life that I’m able to lead and give to my family. I’m very appreciative of it. And very protective of it.
You’ve Got To Make Sure The Customer Is Happy. Period. – If the customer is not pleased for any reason, you’ve gotta do something for that table. Even if they’ve eaten the whole meal, and they say, “You know what guys? We eat here all of the time, and you guys are great. But this meal was a little off.” And they’ve eaten it! A lot of people will say, “O.K., we’ll try to do better for you next time.” Not us. We’ll buy that meal. We’ll deduct that from their bill, and thank them for letting us know.
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) If You Want To Expand – The Daily Eats concept is eggs, and burgers, and shredders, and all of these things that we’ve created. I’m confident that I could go in the kitchen – and I haven’t cooked in ten years – and pretty much make anything on that menu, and have it be 80% as good as how my chef makes it. That’s big. That’s huge. You want something that’s manageable, that’s not a huge footprint. It’s about 2,800 square feet. So when you’re as busy as you can be, you’ve got 120 guests. It’s very doable for expansion. Right now, we do anywhere from $1,300,000 to $1,700,000 a year, in a little place like this. On 20%+ profit margins. Those are good numbers.
Successful restaurateur Tad Peelen from Joe's Real BBQ in Gilbert AZ knows that recognizing his employee of the week publicly (in front of the entire team) is good for everyone. It's good to let the employee know that he or she is doing an outstanding job, good for the business because people like to be recognized in front of their peers (building even more loyalty) and good for the rest of the team because it further builds camaraderie and lets everyone take notice of who is performing well in the eyes of management. He also knows that this employee's behavior will likely rub off on others because they have been recognized.
How does he do it fun and easy with Schedulefly? Check it out...
We're stoked to announce the title of our book. Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Twenty Successful Owners Share Their Recipes for Success. Here's the introduction to the book, which will be available soon. If you own a restaurant, want to own a restaurant, or want to know how restaurant owners think, you'll love this book!
Wes Aiken, Tyler Rullman, and I own Schedulefly. Restaurants are our customers, and because so many restaurants fail, we were curious about what makes successful restaurant owners tick. We wondered how they are able to successfully do what so many others fail at. What do they do differently from the rest? Was it critical that they had attended culinary school? Had they all worked in restaurants since they were young? Did their success tie back to creating a sound business plan? Was it all about location, location, location? Did they share common philosophies on how they treat employees? Or how they create awareness? Or how to create the perfect customer experience? The overarching question was, “Is there a secret recipe for restaurant success?”
We couldn’t find a resource that answered this question, so we decided to find the answer ourselves. We interviewed twenty successful owners, and this book is a collection of those interviews.
Whether you aspire to own a restaurant, or already own one, this book will help you. It will help you increase your chances of success, or, perhaps, will help you realize that owning a restaurant is not for you, before you are arms deep in debt, stress, and the realization that you’ve chosen the wrong career path. Even if you’ve owned a restaurant for twenty years, you’ll learn something from your peers.
We spoke to a diverse range of owners, from Phil Roberts, founder of Buca di Beppo and The Oceanaire Seafood Room, to Scott Leibfried, a renowned figure in the culinary industry who is part of the cast of HELL’S KITCHEN on Fox, to Kevin Doherty, who owns a successful restaurant and pub while also serving as a Chicago fireman, to Chris Sommers, who makes Chicago-style deep dish pizza so well (in St. Louis) that he was invited to the White House to cook it for President Obama and the first family. And so on.
In one way or another, almost all of the owners conveyed these three common philosophies: 1) Ignore your ego, and be ready to work your ass off. Ownership ain’t easy street, and you better be ready to devote a heck of a lot of time at your restaurant, especially in the first few years. Be ready to have to mop your dish room floor at 3:00 AM on New Year’s Day, because your dish guy quit. 2) Treat your employees very well, and with genuine respect. Don’t be their boss. Be their leader. They are the front line, and they have most of the contact with your customers. Happy, fulfilled employees are your key to success. Unhappy employees will be the cause of your demise. 3) Partnerships are like marriages, so be very careful when you choose a partner. Failed partnerships often lead to failed restaurants. Your best friend may be your worst partner. Find the ying to your yang.
So there is somewhat of a secret recipe for success. These are your base ingredients. Use them, and you’re off to a great start. Don’t use them, and you’re taking a huge risk.
However, we also learned that you’ll need to sprinkle in many other ingredients, and those are up to you. These owners’ opinions varied greatly on many topics. Some will tell you to go big with advertising. Others will tell you to leverage word-of-mouth instead. Some will tell you to build institutions that stand on their own. Others will tell you to build concepts that can be replicated. Some will tell you to only serve a few things, but be the best at them. Others will tell you to find a way to serve the customers anything they want.
Ultimately, this book will give you the critical ingredients, and give you lots of options on additional ingredients to add, so that you can create your own secret recipe for success.