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For Hospitality Professionals and Food Connoisseurs
Issue #35 October 19, 1998
In This Issue
* Feature Article
"Nobody in Football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like
A genius of sorts just landed in Philadelphia - Don Shula presided over the official opening of his 12th sports eatery, Shula's Steak 2 in University City. One could argue that he wasn't much of a genius in Super Bowl III when Joe Namath and the AFL's New York Jets toppled Johnny Unitas and the powerful Baltimore Colts. However, he attained genius status in 1972 when his Miami Dolphins went 17-0, which included a Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins, and eventually his coaching success landed him a place in the NFL Hall of Fame.
I would suggest that his real genius might be in running successful restaurants. For some reason, people in sports, however hard they try, simply can't do this job. While Shula's Steakhouse in Miami Lakes is widely recognized as one of our nation's top steakhouses, most sports oriented spots just don't work (at least as far as food is concerned).
It was really good to hear Walter Staib, a consultant to Don Shula's restaurant empire, suggest that Shula is very much involved in the actual running of his restaurants, and is tough and demanding when it comes to the day-to-day restaurant operations. This isn't a situation where a sport celebrity markets his name and basically makes the proverbial PR appearances. This isn't Michael Jordan attaching his name to a proposed chain, or Pete Rose, or Mike Ditka, or even the late Mickey Mantle. The Shula's (father and son) are actually involved.
Michael Jordan made 36 million dollars last year just playing basketball. I would guess that Michael can do whatever he desires, including running a restaurant. Any maybe I'm wrong, but with all that Michael has going on in his life, where does that restaurant fit in terms of his priorities? I once had lunch in Joe Theismann's, and Joe was working the room. While the meal was hardly memorable, I do give Joe credit, and somehow I can't imagine being greeted by Michael Jordan in his Chicago establishment. The name means a lot, but it's not going to make my meal taste any better.
I used to be a great sports fan (prior to greed, expansion, and free agency), and I must confess that I was once attracted to the sports celebrity restaurants, and for the life of me, I can't remember one really good meal in anyplace that was sports related. I had dinner in Mike Schmidt's place before it was mercifully shuttered, and even remember being in Bachelor's 3 in New York (owned by Joe Namath), although I don't recall food being involved in that particular visit. There have been many others, but they're all very forgettable.
Sports stars are equipped with lots of money and tons of ego, but that's not enough to make it in the restaurant business. They forget about the personal involvement, and almost always forget about basic concepts like good food. Hero worship keeps many of these places alive, but mediocrity causes their eventual demise.
In fairness, I do remember one very legitimate sports restaurateur who ran a great spot in New York - Rusty Staub. This former Montreal Expo and New York Met at least appreciated good food and wine, and he knew how to run a serious restaurant, but having said that, he recently departed New York, and is opening again someplace in the South. And speaking of the South (Baltimore), I guess you have to give Boog Powell some credit for his delicious smoked pork, etc. that's become an important part of the Oriole's experience.
Don Shula is probably doing it the right way, and with Shula's Steak 2, he's not going after the Morton's and the other big guys. His concept is priced right and it's colorful and exciting. And best of all, Mr. Shula sincerely cares about what happens here!
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**Next Post - More feedback on Service...
I have been in the business since I was sixteen and have worked in some of the best houses on both coasts and have seen a lot, as we all have, I am sure. The restaurant business put me through two years of school until I moved to Newport R.I. for a summer season of fine dining service. After I made 20,000 in four months at the age of 21 I never looked back. Went back to Boston and started managing a catering company. My first 70 hour work weeks,(hey part of the biz right) began.
I truly love this business and plan to open my own place in San Diego soon. I'm currently working on my business plan, which I have found to be the most important part of the process. Any info. that anyone can provide would be very appreciated!! The responses I have read about service, owners, food etc. have been great. I think this forum of exchanging information and networking is priceless.
One of the first concepts I developed as a server was that; I'm a sub-contractor for the owner, who provides me with all the tools necessary to operate my own business with no overhead and to make 15-20% of my total sales. Not bad when you think about it. So it never ceases to amaze me when the work ethic of some is non existent. How hard is it to have fun treat and be treated with respect and to make money in the process. 30,000 to 50,000 a year as a server/bartender is not unheard of! Also being in management the potential is very good. Any time we take pride and genuinely care we excel.
In light I'm grateful the roads of life guided me in this direction. I'm also looking forward to having my own place, again any suggestions will be welcomed.
Well GOOD LUCK TO US ALL!!!!
Christopher Martinez - firstname.lastname@example.org
**Next Post - Same Topic**
I own a couple of steakhouses and It is always a battle to maintain that "customer first" battle. I have found that the more I am around one of the locations, that location seems to pick up that concept. I think that it is easy for managers to forget that the customers are the reason we are here and that without them we have nothing. Granted the public isn't always the easiest to deal with, but we need them worse than they need us. That "service school" sounds like a wonderful concept, unbelievable that owners weren't excited about it. It would make for some extra work to make sure the concepts taught would be adapted to each restaurants wishes, but what a great way to compare and contrast ideas.
In Santa Barbara we have a vintners association and each year they sponsor a server seminar. Various wine makers and owners talk about their wines. Some of the best servers in the area talk about how to open wine, how to suggest wine, upselling from a glass to a bottle, etc. This year we had 11 servers (out of 13) sign up.
Nine of them went to every seminar (6). We noticed our wine sales go up by 30% starting that first month. I joined my staff in attending and even though I have been through it before it was educational and fun to see my servers learn about all aspects of wine.
We also started a restaurant group call Santa Barbara Tables, that features the fine dining establishments in the area and we are hoping to set something up for server training through that group.
Please let me know if you have any concepts to share and good luck in promoting service.
Steve Boelter - email@example.com
**Next Post - Independents vs. Chains **
I find it hard to believe that only 2% of the customers surveyed are concerned about the quality of the food. I just moved to Phoenix from the Pennsylvania Dutch country. I have never seen so many chains in my life -- and the food is terrible at most of them. I am used to good local cooking back in PA. I have had friends and family refer me to a chain restaurant and I have yet to find any that beat the home style Italian or PA Dutch cooking. even the burgers can't touch what i can find back east and they don't even come close to a real philly cheese steak.
See these and other feedback posts in the "Great Debates" section at our website - http://www.restaurantreport.com/greatdebates
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I am looking for advice in starting a new restaurant. I have been in the industry for 6 years, and spent the last two years with Outback Steakhouse. Just recently it has been suggested to me by a close friend that I should start my own. Despite my experience, I am looking for any advice I can find. I am (hopefully) building a freestanding, southwestern bar and grill, in Parker CO, just south of Denver Colorado. It is located in Douglas County, which is the fastest growing county in the United States.
The market is definitely lacking. There is nothing in this area for about fifteen miles. I would love info on financing, possible franchises, and anything else.
Thanks, Jen - email@example.com
I own a restaurant in Florida and I'm currently in talks to renew my lease at "market rate". Unfortunately, the market rate in my geographical area is hard to determine because no one seems to have any statistics as to what average $ per square foot is. If anyone has any resources that the can point me to, I would greatly appreciate it.
Note @ the Bulletin Board: If you can lend advice/assistance/comments etc. please respond to either the individual directly or to us at firstname.lastname@example.org We'll summarize and post responses that we receive that would benefit the group.
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