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Restaurant Report E-mail Newsletter

For Hospitality Professionals and Food Connoisseurs

Issue #39 November 23, 1998

(This publication may be freely redistributed in its entirety)

In This Issue

* Feature Article
* "Super Chefs" Debate Continued...
* Reader Feedback
* Bulletin Board

Feature Article

Independent Survival: "Marketing From The Inside Out"
By Maren L. Hickton

For over 20 years, my group has been awarded the opportunity to work with numerous Independent fine dining establishments, hotel food service operations, clubs, theme-restaurants and entertainment venues. These experiences have included startup operations; continued marketing, operations planning and development for successfully established independent restaurants; and determining new internal and external marketing strategies for struggling restaurants who fear competing with the increasingly familiar restaurant conglomerates.

This work, over and over again, has shown that Independents who remain strong and continue to flourish have a lot in common:

1. They have a vested interest in levels of quality and personalized service and are willing to go to great lengths to satisfy the more judicious diner with offerings beyond the basic menu.

- If the patron wants a customized prefix menu for a party of four at whim, for example, the restaurant staff is prepared with a "can and will" attitude to these kinds of requests.

- If the client wants special table linens, flowers and other extras for a small impromptu celebration, this restaurant will scour the city to make these arrangements immediately. The dining party, of course, pays for these extras and the restaurant charges reasonable fees to provide exactly what the customer wants.

- These owners recognize that the prefix bureaucracy of the multiunit operation rarely has the ability to offer this level of accommodation and personalized service.

2. These Independents hire the best chefs and wait staff they can afford, and pay deserved professional wages and a tiered benefits package to encourage staff retention.

- The staff members are capable of dealing with a variety of personalities as they have been encouraged and developed to so do by their respected GM and executive chef.

- The owners genuinely care about their staff and establish a proactive management style where the GM choreographs the front of the house activities coordinating with the chef, who composes and arranges in the back. The entire staff from the owner and the chef to the wait staff work in concert to remember names, preferred seating of regular guests and continue to pay attention to these details.

-The telephone is answered by astute hostesses, without fail, by the third ring. Good hosts and hostesses are recognized as important and respected members of the staff because their role as very important to the operation. They are, after all, often the first point of contact.

3. All reservations are confirmed daily because each reservation is important and dining at the establishment is a detailed "event".

- All guests of the restaurant are treated like dignitaries and offered unwavering respect. The chef and/or owners find the time and take the time to nod hellos and warmly welcome diners, validating guest appreciation and encouraging return visits.

- Occasionally, owners direct GM's to send complimentary cocktails, newly featured wines or complimentary trial portions of new menu items, paying careful attention to complement specific menu selections ordered by guests, without lengthy self-serving acknowledgments. Simply, "The owner asked me to send this to you with our compliments," period.

4. These Independents watch all costs: food, equipment, labor and marketing--by constructing realistic operations and marketing plans and do not deviate when the going gets tough.

- Owners remain confident and tenacious in their commitment to their restaurant and ride-out unexpected disappointing slow periods without panicking.

- They spend a few hours a month studying NRA (National Restaurant Association) industry research and read responsible industry publications to learn about important new dining issues and trends. They pay particular attention to their region's marketplace conditions -- including periodically dining at new local restaurants.

- They also set-aside necessary funds to continually upgrade their operation including decoration, necessary and adequate supplies of service ware, newer cost-saving kitchen equipment and/or regular repair and maintenance needs.

5. The owners, chef and/or GM establish good media relationships. The restaurant aggressively works to "trade advertising dollars for editorial" (or reviews), whenever possible, and supplies information to their local newspapers and magazines regularly.

- No matter how successful the Independent restaurant becomes, they understand that without continued internal guest relations and carefully selected external advertising including creative solicitations, and ongoing promotions, the success will not last.

- They remain realistic, rather than idealistic, and do not get caught up in their own egos whirlwind of short-term success.

- They continue to adhere to all established protocols determined effective in their operations checklist and marketing plan. They regularly review, evaluate and strive to meet and/or exceed levels of guest satisfaction. And most importantly, they always remember how they achieved their success in the first place.

My hospitality marketing group has successfully employed these basic tactics and have taken restaurants from red to black within a matter of a few months. Excuses, such as, "I can't find good wait staff," is nonexistent in successfully managed operations. An owner who assumes 100% responsibility for their operation and leads by example have prospective applicants clamoring at their door for employment.

It is our philosophy that there is little need for ongoing onsite participation with regard to PR and marketing other than an occasional encouraging phone call, once the restaurant establishes a sufficiently detailed program for success and acquires the necessary skills to conduct these activities through the art of careful delegation to staff members within their own operation.

We lead by example also, working in concert with key personnel, to adequately plan, organize, improve staff skills, infuse confidence and reestablish management strengths.

It is our view that there is no real competition when you market from the inside out. The best restaurant game is a focused inside strategy that your staff members play as a team to win the continued patronage of your dining guests.

Maren L. Hickton is the principal of Maren Incorporated, a Full-Service Hospitality Consulting and Marketing Firm based in Pittsburgh, PA. Maren writes about a variety of business challenges that independent restaurants encounter. Maren can be reached by e-mail at


Do you have any success secrets and stories to share? Let's hear 'em! -- write to

"Super Chefs" Feedback

**Next Post - In response to last issue's article about "Super Chefs"

If your 'Super Chef' cooks some 'super food' (does he? or is it his crew?) and it is plunked down in front of the guest by a snotty server who also might serve you a warm beer, it will be a flop...

What I want to say: Everything depends on teamwork. A good kitchen team can not do anything without a good service team and the other way around. It ALL comes down to good teamwork, atmosphere, ambiance and surroundings. If one of these "ingredients" is missing, nothing will work, not in the long run anyway. Remember,you can not fool all the guests all the time.

Respectfully yours,
Benedikt Morak, Executive Chef

**Next Post - In response to last issue's article about "Super Chefs"

As an owner...I am the super chef. We serve very simple food and very exquisite BBQ smoked over different woods indirectly. In my wildest dreams, unless I owned the Ritz, I could never imagine any restaurant promoting a super chef. If you are a super chef...promote yourself.

Here is the BOTTOM LINE. Serve consistently good food and you will be successful. Know your product and niche. We sell out every night and open 4 days a week, so we can rest more, and be more powerful with food. Hire the best people you can find, pay them well, watch your cooks, watch your servers, add the special touches, praise the people who work for available and easy in temper. Mingle with customers "how is your food and service tonight?" Be fair and trustworthy. Don't gossip. Love God, life, friends, loyalty and most of all, love what you all pays off. This is the is so simple, yet so hard to do.


**Next Post - In response to last issue's article about "Super Chefs"

Being a chef isn't just what you see in glossy magazines or on T.V. I have worked in London at the Savoy, and while London seems to be the focus of a lot of "Star Chefs", the executive chef is only as good as the 125 chefs that worked for him.

I am currently working in a resort in Colorado and again, the chef is well known...only because of the professionals working for him, day in and day out.

Thank you
Oliver Weber

**Next Post - In response to last issue's article about "Super Chefs"

As a professional chef I read with deep interest the recent Chef Article in your Restaurant Report. The article was right on the money! I really enjoy your email reports and resend them out to about 600 fellow chefs and culinarians all over Asia and Arabia.

As a Certified Executive Chef (CEC) with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and a Certified Food Executive CFE) with the International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA) I wanted to suggest organization shows also. We host many shows, culinary salons and help-non-profit organizations with dinners. These are great avenues for any up and coming chef and it pays the owner of the small 150 seat or so restaurant to purchase the yearly membership for his or her chefs. Usually the Executive Chef and Sous Chefs are paid for.

The growth opportunities are huge just in attending the monthly meetings! I recently highlighted this during a cooking class held at the University of San Francisco on Thursday. I repeated the message during two more speeches at the California Culinary Academy as a visiting chef. I personally can tell you how much I learned from all of the chef members of each ACF chapter I belonged to. As the Executive Chef to the President of the United States at Camp David I went to meetings held by my then chapter, The Susquehanna Valley Chefs Association, and always grew and learned so very much!

In regard to your words of caution to the owner about signing a contract again you are so right. It sickens me to see an owner put so much into the name of someone like a super chef and for some reason the chef leaves after a year or so. Not that it is always the Chefs fault as it is usually split 50/50. Sometimes there are other reasons. There is no sense in seeking any blame. What the contract does is it strengthens the relationship. I myself am in the US Navy and we have contracts. I recently signed a three year contract. This allows the management and me to plan purchases, figure out the future and in general know that there are no surprises for anyone. It really kills a chef or owner to be given a two week notice.

I highly recommend the usage of contracts that basically have enforceable penalties for both parties should the contract be terminated early. Having a contract helps everyone and adds to the solidity of the restaurant as well as the resume. Who wants to hire anyone who has jumped all around for the past ten years with a year here and a year there? What is this super chef going to now do at your place? Stay a year? Two? Get the contract and please don't be cheap with compensation. The super chefs of today know the P & L and how to pump huge cash flows. If you can try to link a portion of performance with a percentage of profit then you are truly served well. That gives the super chef a vested interest in a small portion of his pay and he actually sees the money based on his additional kitchen work and public relations work.

Very respectfully,

Martin CJ Mongiello,
Tokyo, Japan


What's your opinion about "SuperChefs"? Let's hear what you have to say -- write to

Reader Feedback

**Next Post - More on Service...

I certainly understand where Jack is coming from. I grew up opening doors in the third grade and washing dishes in the sixth. I remember growing up with the same waiters and waitresses year in and year out, the sense of family, of stability. I saw these same people raise those families on the tips they made for the SERVICE they provided. They bought homes, put their children through college and were loyal, hardworking, warm hearted people who took their profession seriously.

Calling in sick repeatedly, not showing up for work and still thinking you have a job, believing your doing your manager a favor if they show up at all, taking orders and dropping off food, and complaining about everything seems to be the new prototypical server. But I choose to adapt, overcome, innovate and persevere. The past is the past and while romantically longing for the "good old days" temps me often, I still have a restaurant to run.

Keeping my staff doing their jobs does take a great deal more time and effort than my father ever expended. But so does every aspect of the industry. The competition, advances, strategies, changing markets make it a totally different world. Remember when people grew up in neighborhoods, when you knew and talked to the people on your block. When you knew your customers names, preferences and quirks. When the purveyors we bought from had a names like Angelo & Sons or Mikey's Fresh Vegetables. Everything else has changed so why wouldn't the staff.

My staff calls me "old school" because you are expected to act like an adult and take responsibility for your actions. They cover their own shift when they are sick, lose two weekend shifts the first time they "read their schedule wrong", get fired after they have been counseled. They also have free shift exchange privileges, no set senior staff schedules or stations (only consideration), and the tip outs are based on a set percentage of their sales so there is no paid favoritism to name a few. My turn over is low and morale is high and it's work to keep it that way. But that's something else my father and his generation taught me. "That's why they call it work."

Glenn S. Menein

**Next Post - A note of thanks!

Dear Restaurant Report:
I wish to thank all the people who responded to my "Helter Skelter" in the 80 seat restaurant. I was very happy to receive the feedback from so many people. Most of the idea's we were doing already, but there was some new idea's also.

Thanks again Folks.
Neil J Schrieder Chef
Sherlock Holmes Public House
Guelph, Ontario Canada.

Send newsletter feedback and comments to us at

Bulletin Board

I am currently seeking any information related to the process of dry aging beef, specifically striploins (i.e. shrinkage, bacterial concerns, humidity factors, etc). The amount of info available is very slim and I do not know if it is because there is none or if it is one of the last well guarded secrets of the kitchen. Any info or even comments and opinions are welcome.


**Next Post**

I am looking for restaurants for sale in the greater Washington DC area and northern Virginia. While searching the net I could not find any sites which offer restaurants for sale. I came upon your site in the hope of finding commercial sites which are for sale. However, once again I was unable to locate any restaurants for sale in my area. Are there any websites you could recommend or links that you are aware of to help me in my search?

I would appreciate any kind of help in this area and will not forget your help.

Sincerely yours,
Alexander Sharayera --

**Next Post**

Announcement: New E-mail Newsletter

Formerly called "Snacks" from the Food & Drink Network, eNews is the free email newsletter of the Beverage Testing Institute and its website, It alerts you to the best wines, beers, and spirits before stores sell out. Visit before you buy at

To subscribe, send email to and type "subscribe" in the subject line.

**Next Post**

Event: Plymouth International Ice Sculpture Spectacular

Opens Wednesday, January 13, 1999. Free and open to the public, the oldest and largest ice carving event in North America runs around the clock through Monday, January 18.

The 1999 Plymouth International Ice Sculpture Spectacular competitions are sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation. For more information, including a detailed schedule of events, visit the 1999 Plymouth International Ice Sculpture Spectacular site on the World Wide Web at

**Next Post**

I was hoping that you might be able to tell me where I might purchase individual souffle cups. I have looked all over, and I have not found any. My E-mail address is

I would appreciate any information on locating these!

Thank you very much.
Deborah J. Sosamon

**Next Post**

I would be interested in communicating with companies in the fast food restaurant business that have established an intranet website. We are the franchisor of a large chain of restaurants, and have had an intranet in place for the past 18 months. The website is our vehicle for communication, sharing and collecting information. I would like to compare experiences with others that have done the same.

Jim Williams --

Note @ the Bulletin Board: If you can lend advice/assistance/comments etc. please respond to either the individual directly or to us at We'll summarize and post responses that we receive that would benefit the group.

NOTE: Please feel free to pass this newsletter along to anyone you feel it would be of value. You have our permission to print it out or email it to others as long as it is sent in its entirety including this message and the copyright below.

Copyright 1998 Restaurant Report

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