how to succeed in the restaurant business
Four successful leaders in the restaurant business shared wise advice and juicy tidbits at the California Restaurant Association Orange County Chapter‘s CEO/President’s Panel last week. Panelists included:
- Skip Fox — President, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
- Doug Cavanaugh — Chairman, CEO & Founder, Ruby’s Diner
- Joe Manzella — Proprietor & Founder, TAPS Fish House & Brewery, and The Catch
- Howard Gordon — President & CEO, Gordon Restaurant Group LLC, former The Cheesecake Factory executive and current proprietor of Itriya Café
Although each represented a different type of restaurant company, the panelists agreed on three keys to success in the business:
- agility — Things change so fast in restaurants, you have to be able to move quickly and smartly. Howard talked about how he intended for his restaurant to be fast casual concept (order at the counter, food is delivered to your table), but after a couple of weeks, he determined that service model didn’t suit his guests. Despite the re-training and workflow changes needed, he knew he needed to make the switch right away. “I closed the business on a Friday night as a fast casual concept, and opened it for Saturday lunch with table service,” he recalled.
- stamina — Yelp was clearly a challenge for the panelists, given the potential impact a single negative review. But they all acknowledged it, and other review sites and social networks like it, are here to stay. And they agreed you need to perservere and have patience. Doug explained, “It’s an averages game. You’ve got to look at it as a long haul.“
- customer relationship building — Not one of the panelists has used daily deal promotions like Groupon, but every one of them cultivates their customer database. Joe said that he favors database promotions over others because the customers in your database “like you, trust you, and want to hear from you.” Furthermore, Fox explained his staff keeps notes on their customers so they know what they like, if they need to stock up on a certain item in order to have what they want, and how to serve them best.