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**** Issue #148 ****
November 10, 2004
In This Issue
* Rant & Rumble - Sex, Politics, Religion & Restaurants
RANT & RUMBLE
Sex, Politics, Religion & Restaurants
The election is finally over, but who can forget all the pain. It was nasty, and too many people said too much. I love the Boss, but when he and the Bon Jovi's of the world get too political, itís going to be difficult to look at them in the same way. Forget about Hollywood, because I believe most people could care less what they think anyway. Robert Redford had a very successful ride and he would do well to shut the hell up and enjoy whatís left. (just my opinion). And Barbara Streisand...donítí get me started. Whoppi Goldberg - I never got it. And I donít believe I have ever heard a song by the Dixie Chicks.
Some restaurants in my town got together and supported a rally for John Kerry. They were proudly listed in my newspaper that also backed the same candidate.
I appreciate people with strong convictions and one can argue that this is what the country is all about. But why go out of your way to alienate 50% or possibly 52% of your customer base. Isnít this business difficult enough without aligning you and your restaurant with Bruce Springsteen? Whatís the point?
Your best customers are Republicans and Democrats and they all bring cash or their American Express Cards. It's that simple. You can get as political as you want, but just keep in mind that your candidate might lose and the biggest loser might be your restaurant.
Training Our Staff to Work in Other Industries?
Several years ago I was working a shift when the new busser came rushing into the side-station obviously distressed. I asked what was the matter and she said, "I can't go back out there! Some of my friends from school and their parents are out there and I don't want them to see that I'm a busser!" I remember that same emotion shortly after leaving my successful ten-year career in insurance after taking my first job as a waiter. One of my children shared with me years later that in the beginning of my hospitality career it was embarrassing to tell others that their Dad was a waiter. I told my child that it was ok and I understood. (Ironically two of my three wonderful and loving children have successful restaurant careers today!)
There is a common and all too frequent misunderstanding of what it is to be a professional waiter and to work in the hospitality business. The negative stereotyped perception that being a waiter is a dead-end job demanding few skills with little more than minimum wage income potential is all too prevalent. Worse yet, is the misconception that our hospitality industry is not a legitimate a career of choice. Compounding the problem is that many of the people entering our industry for their very first work experience are lacking essential social, professional and hospitality etiquette skills needed in the work environment.
J.D. Hoye, National School-to-Work Director (1994-98), said in a speech that we (hospitality) are an industry that trains thousands of entry level employees in essential employment skills each year only to have them leave us and take those skills to other industry careers! So what to do about it? Over the years I have become involved with the Hospitality Business Alliance and the Oregon Restaurant Education Foundation (OREF) high school ProStart School to Career Program. With the new school year upon us I am committed to visit as many of the Oregon ProStart classes as I can throughout this school year. My purpose is to put a face on the craft as a career waiter and present real opportunities in hospitality to all these potential peers. I share with them the personal, professional and financial rewards available: first, as a professional waiter and second, as an industry with limitless career choices.
One concept I try to convey to them is from the book Winning At Work authored by Walt Mulvey, CEO of the online sales of retail electronics store The Good Guys, "Being an hourly employee doesn't make you a victim! It's an opportunity!" Go to your state restaurant associations, local business groups and your schools to see what opportunities are available for us to sell our hospitality career opportunities to the incoming labor force. Have your employees go to the classrooms to share their stories of success and the opportunities they capitalized on as hospitality professionals with your company. (What a recruiting tool!) Pay your employees for their time to visit the students (it's cheaper and a more effective representative of your operation than any newspaper ad). You can glean employment candidates from these students for the seasonal peaks as well as full-time long-term employees.
Our industry constantly fights the stereotypes that stiff-arm our county's labor force from giving serious consideration of entering our fabulous hospitality industry. We must start helping ourselves and can't afford to wait for someone else to come to our aid.
Paul C. Paz
READER FEEDBACK - LOCAL CHARITY
Last week's question from chef James about how best to deal with the myriad of charitable requests that come in to his restaurant received many heartfelt replies, a sampling of which follows...
Here's MY idea of a clever way to respond to these $$$ demands.
You might tell them that each year, you will select one (1) or two (2) from among your most favorite causes - those whose work reflects your own beliefs and values. You could then select another 1 or 2 more each subsequent year, therefore spreading some $$$ around to the various recipients, while still giving back to your community. It's doubtful that if you explain it this way, that anyone will become offended.
If you felt even MORE creative, you might even consider using your establishment to host some form of annual fund-raiser for a great community cause. Pick ONE cause each year & maybe advertise it by running an ad in your local community paper. Have a drawing for some fun, yet inexpensive prizes. You'd be amazed at how many people might show up at your door, ready to donate some cash, and... guess what else... EAT SOME OF YOUR GREAT FOOD! Instant new business, while giving back to your local community!
Who knows...all this new-found recognition might even earn you a spot on your local news! ...and... MORE NEW BUSINESS!
Fall is prime fund raising season, its the time groups and organizations get organized and gather their funds for the upcoming budget spending.
At the Willow Tree Cafe we ask ourselves a few questions that determine our giving. 1. Does the solicitor or the organization's stake holders eat in our restaurant? 2. Is it a cause or organization that we believe in? 3. Is the event or award process a good marketing opportunity? The goal is to maximize the ROI return on investment.
Here is a recent example. Instead of giving a simple gift certificate for a silent auction we created a "Dining Experience for Four" . A "Chef's Table" five course dining experience. In exchange for this donation we asked that all 300 attendees received our business card and flyer. Additionally we wanted to control how the item was displayed at the auction table. By creating an eye-catching display we generated a lot of discussion and interest which drove up the bidding and in turn helped the fund raiser. This attendee group was in a geographic area we were looking to attract and were of the age and income level appropriate to our target market. The cost was much less than traditional advertising to this group. So far we can attribute 14 new guests to this event and the certificate has not been redeemed yet.
Try to look at it with a win-win attitude. "What my donation can do for you?" and "What can you do for my restaurant?". If there is no "win" on the business side of the equation decide weather or not if you want to personally support the group and if so, do it with out regret. Last year I turned down a man soliciting for a donation because he was not a regular guest. Not only has become a frequent guest he makes a point of bring new people with him. He was gladly given a donation for his group this year.
Linda Hollerbach, Chef Owner
James - You donít have to be held hostage to non-profits looking for freebies.
Determine some parameters for charity gift certificates and donations. I first consider if the beneficiary is one to which I would personally contribute and second if making the donation would be advantageous for my business.
I tell everybody who solicits a donation on the phone or in person to hand me or send me something on paper and that I will consider it. Thatís really all anybody asking for a donation can reasonably expect of you - that you give their pitch some consideration before making your own decision.
Whatever your criteria, establish some and stick to them. I donít play golf, and I donít contribute to golf tournaments. Sorry. I also consider geography.
Of course, my criteria are more flexible when Iím approached by someone I know to be a good and regular customer. But there is no reason you canít politely decline to make any donation you donít care to make with this explanation: "Iím sorry but Iíve already exceeded my budget for this kind of donation. Good luck with your (fund raiser) (auction) (golf tournament) though!"
It always amazes me that the general public thinks that restaurants can afford to give away unlimited food. The most surprising requests of all, though, come from other businesses who call and say "we want to reward our employees for doing a great job all year long ... will you donate 10 dinners that we can give them as a thank you from the management team?" Seems to me that any dinners I donate would be from me, not from the management team.
That said, I recommend you create a reasonably small donation concept that you can send to everyone who requests a donation. For us, it is dessert coupons with the purchase of 2 entrees - limited to one dessert for very 2 guests. We give anywhere from 5-10 dessert coupons for each request.
Additionally, I have learned the hard way that I must provide some insulation between me and the requester. Too many people DEMAND donations and will not take no for an answer without getting nasty and threatening...not to mention it is really hard to say 'no' to so very many worthwhile causes. 'Not in the budget for this year' doesn't work. Therefore, I have created an alias named Ruby. Ruby is the person responsible for handling all donation requests. I ask that all requesters fax information regarding their organization and the contact person to Ruby. I explain that Ruby comes in every week to review all requests and she will contact them to let them know our response. I then send our donation to the contact person under the name of Ruby and request a confirmation of its receipt..
Sometimes the requester will call back to demand a larger donation but I just tell them I have to speak with Ruby about it. It is so funny when they tell me that Ruby was rude or promised them more than they received...at least it no longer pushes my buttons and doesn't make me feel badly.
Ruby has become my greatest ally.
- M, Utah
One of the best ideas that I know of to deal with donation requests is to budget a predetermined amount that you are willing to donate into your annual budget. Break that down on a monthly or quarterly basis and then honor requests based upon your allotted budget for that time period.
Once you have made that determination, make it a company policy that all charitable request must be submitted at least 30 to 60 days prior to their event so that you can then budget it in. Once your allotted budget has been reached, respectfully deny any further requests for that time period explaining to them that your allotted charitable allowance has been expended and that you're regrettably not able to fulfill their request at this time. Then, encourage them to plan far enough in advance for their next event so that you can have the opportunity to support them in the future. This not only provides you with plausible deniability, but, it also conveys to your customer your desire to support them in the future.
Using this process not only makes it more affordable and manageable to you, but, also shows an ongoing willingness on your part to support local charitable events throughout the year. Customers will respect and honor that.
Only contribute to people who are contributing to your business. If you've never seen someone before and they say they've rarely or never been in your restaurant you're under no obligation to make a charitable contribution, particularly something as personal as little league. On the other hand, in kind contributions can be the cheapest and most effective way to advertise assuming the event or charity is speaking to people you want to reach.
One thing you could do is have them send in a request on letterhead stating objectivity and purpose. Tell them that you will put it in a barrel with all the other requests and you draw our one donation monthly. You will find that most will not take the time to do the paperwork.
TOP 50 FOOD SITES
We recently completed an update of the Top 50 Sites. Periodically, we'll feature one of the sites in the newsletter...
On the Rail
For more Top Sites go to:
FROM THE RR ARCHIVE
Business Plan a Must for New and Existing Restaurants
Every restaurant needs a business plan - yes, even if you have 10 years under your belt. A well-developed business plan helps you control your future. You can set forth a plan instead of simply reacting to changes in your business. It also minimizes the risk of failure.
Looking for a sample business plan for your restaurant?
**Next Post - Re: Predictions and Predictability
Good feature story last week. I often scratch my head when independent restaurant owners and food critics complain, chastise or overlook the chains or more "low brow" restaurants simply because they're corporate or serve plain food. Their narrow minded thinking gets in the way of the reality that there is a reason that the Ruby Tuesdays, TGI Fridays, Don Pablo's, etc of the world exist and outlast many of the so-called fine dining establishments. The general public enjoys straight-forward, comfortable meals for the majority of their dining out experience. Sure folks step up and hit a higher end restaurant on special occasions, but for the most part they want something familiar, affordable and relatively simple.
**Note: Last week's article to which Brian is responding can be found online at: http://www.restaurantreport.com/newsletter/issue147.html
I read your post about finding a restaurant management magazine or book for your niece & nephew in Alabama. My company is in the foodservice consulting business, and we've been fortunate to be contributors in the Hospitality Masters Press series of books. They are anthologies of great tips, advice and rules of thumb from a group of the industries top speakers and consultants. There is one on menu, on service, and one on building sales & profits. Plus, they are a fantastic deal at only $15. each.
If you're interested, you can browse on line at http://www.billmain.com/tradesecrets. Just click on the "Products" link from the home page.
Best of luck,