Life as I know it...
It's been 2 months since I last sent a newsletter - the last one being titled "Life as I know it (is about to change)." And I was right, restaurant ownership and management is my new reality - and pretty much whole world, at least for the time being. The insanity of remodeling and opening is now behind me, and I am now able to come up for air a bit. Gone are the 16 hour days, replaced with only 9 hour days!
What are the most significant changes since I last owned a restaurant? (Sold the last one in 1990!)
The world wide web has changed it all. I didn't even have a website the last time I owned a restaurant, and people still used the yellow pages. In this way, technology has made things much simpler. Websites are quick and easy to build and to update and the web make it much faster and easier for customers and potential customers to find you and easily get information.
I had a cash register last time around - not a POS system! Now we use the new generation online POS, an iPad connected with the receipt printer, cash drawer, and card swipe.
Revel software provides up to the minute reporting so we can track sales from any Internet browser in real time. There is no back of the house server or computer needed. They provide an online software platform in which our on-line store, iPhone app, and mobile website are all integrated in the POS. Also, Revel offers paperless receipts as well as printed receipts and if customers forget their wallet, they can pay via Google Checkout or PayPal. Pretty slick. Check them out at RevelSystems.com
3. Customer needs/desires
Customers today are a whole new breed. The sheer amount and detail of modifiers needed to accommodate customers compared to 20 years ago is huge. It seems almost rare to have an entire party simply order stright off the menu. Allergies, special needs diets and personal preferences are sky-rocketing, making it more and more interesting (and complicated) for the industry.
4. Social media
Of course social media has completely changed the landscape - both positive and negatively, for restauranteurs. Everyone is a critic, and the speed at which opinions and reviews are available to any and all is moving at a faster and faster pace. It certainly adds a fun component, adding a more interactive communication medium, although can certainly add stress as well, if not managed or if you feel unfairly attacked.
As for us, we are just starting to peek our heads back out into the world (for 2 months our world was held between our 4 walls), so how all these things will work - or not - for us, remains to be seen. In the mean time, we're having fun with it!
Visit Community Cafe at 875 West Napa Street, Sonoma, CA 95476 (707) 938-7779, CCSonona.com or find us on:
Life as I know it...
I guess it a good thing I am a high energy person, because I think I'm going to need it! Life as I know it is about to change in a major way. On Monday, January 31, my husband Willy & I, along with partners Robert & Cindy Friedman (Consumer Direct Manager for Gloria Ferrer) take possession of a local restaurant! The location, currently known as Mondo will have their last night of business on Saturday, January 29th - locals be sure to stop in and say goodbye!
(Press Democrat article on the new venture here).
I have always worn many hats, and this one will take me back to one of my original ones, restaurant owner/operator. I opened my first restaurant in the Georgetown area of Seattle in 1987, followed by a Bellevue location a couple years later. Jumping back in after many years off is both exciting and a bit scary, but was a natural next step, as the PT catering/private chef gig I had been doing was growing bigger all the time! Having great partners to share in this exciting venture brings a lot of comfort and a great group energy, not to mention a great breadth of skills and experience.
Community Cafe will be a breakfast & lunch venue, where we will be offering rustic wine country cuisine, with a menu that will change based on the season and what is available locally. Evenings the space will be available for private bookings and dinners. We look forward to featuring some of the amazing local food & wine we have here in the Northern California Wine Country.
In the mean time, business at Outside the Lines, Inc., the Network and WineAndHospitalityJobs.com will carry on, with the continued help of Su Pinney and Mike Hurst. If you make it to Sonoma, be sure and stop in at the Community Cafe and say hi! I'm sure I'll be sharing some of the trials and tribulations of opening and operating, and look forward to telling you about new customer feedback technology that we hope to be utilizing!
So much talk about loyalty and loyalty programs, especially as everyone tries to stay afloat in these up and down times. Although more and more the talk is shifting from having a loyalty program to, as one recent restaurant blog post said, "86 your existing ‘loyalty’ programs (which are nothing more than frequency schemes) and create real loyalty through actual guest engagement programs."
Now Loyalty 360, a loyalty marketer's association located in Cincinnati, Ohio, has released their "11 Key Customer Loyalty Trends for 2011."
The four I found most important to the industry were: (for the entire article, click here)
(1) Marketers will increasingly understand that loyalty is not a program --- it is a journey and a strategic business goal. While points programs have been around for a while, from a strategic marketing perspective building true loyalty based on a total customer experience is still relatively new and a burgeoning area most brands. Loyalty initiatives will focus on engagement and building long-term relationships.
(3) Companies will increasingly look at how customer engagement and employee engagement work together to drive bottom line results. A 2009 Gallup quantified the impact of customer and employee engagement. They found that those in the upper half on customer engagement and the lower half on employee engagement, or vice versa, get a 70% boost in bottom-line results; those in the upper half on both customer and employee engagement get a 240% boost.
(9) The Restaurant industry will be investing more in loyalty initiatives. Just-released research conducted by the National Restaurant Association in partnership with Loyalty 360 and rDialgue found that 84% of respondents plan to invest more in their loyalty initiatives because of their proven ability to drive business growth.
(11) Marketers will integrate social gaming into their loyalty initiatives. Social gaming has become a widespread activity across practically all demographics, with AllFacebook.com reporting that there are now 200 million people playing games on Facebook every month, and 24 games have more than 10 million users per month. Traditional incentive-based marketing does not drive the level of consumer participation that can be achieved via gaming --- and it’s this sought-after participation that builds lasting relationships, engagement, brand affinity, and brand loyalty.
What success are you having creating customer loyalty? Please let me know!
I am guessing that there are relatively few out there in the industry who have not heard the term locavore, maybe even the related term for drinking what is produced locally, locapour. Over the past few years, the locavore movement has garnered more and more interest. The New Oxford American Dictionary even made the term their word of the year in 2007. Many people are discovering that eating locally has numerous benefits: food is more nutritious, tastes better, and fuel conservation is promoted by avoiding foods that has been trucked hundreds (or even thousands) of miles.
Many restaurants are joining the movement, forming relationships with their local farming community, shopping their local Farmer's Market, some even growing their own produce. The movement is also spilling over onto wine lists as well, with restaurants featuring locally produced wines.
Some examples include:
Local restauranteur Sondra Bernstein has created "The Farm Project," a biodynamic farm, which consists of small plots of land behind two of her Sonoma, CA restaurants, the girl & the fig and ESTATE, and even has a share cropper agreement with close-by Glen Ellen winery, Imagery Estate. Sondra and her team are trying to be true to what they believe in by using organic, local and sustainable produce. (See blog post it by Megan Conniff here)
Local Culinary Program, Relish Culinary Adventures has teamed up with award-winning Grape Leaf Inn to offer the Sonoma Locavore Experience" a three-day tour packagethat features visits to organic and biodynamic vineyards, family farms, local restaurants and other area businesses that are dedicated to sustainability.
And don't think you need to be on the farm to grow produce! Seattle restaurant Bastille installed a 4,500 square foot garden of raised-bed planter boxes on their roof to grow their own lettuces and herbs.
Regarding the Locapour movement, last year the San Francisco Chronicle reported that local vintners were voicing complaints against locavore restaurants that glorified local food, but stocked their lists with imported wines. Washingtonian magazine food critic Todd Kliman took the argument national with his post on TheDailyBeast.com "The Locavore Wine Hypocrisy." The National Restaurant Association even announced last January that the #1 trend in alcoholic beverages is “locally produced wine and beer,” and be sure to check out the"Drink Local Wine" blog.
Since being coined in 2005, the locavore trend just seems to be growing bigger each year, with apparently no end in sight. Have you seen any cool or cutting edge locavore-related ideas being implemented? Let me know!