HERE’S HOW YOU MAKE AN EDUCATED BUSINESS DECISION SEEM EASY

Being a responsible business owner and entrepreneur means that you use your foresight, knowledge and intuition to strategize and make a plan that achieves your personal business goals.

But how exactly, do you make a good, sound business decision? How do you decide what to do and when? Well, I’m going to give you an easy 4-step process to use that will make business decision-making faster and more effective.

1. Ask the Right Questions

I can’t stress this enough. Take the time to formulate exactly what decision needs to be made. It should be goal oriented and you should be able to measure its success (meaning you can gauge whether that decision was the correct one to achieve that goal)

As an example, let’s imagine you just started a coffee shop. What hours of operation should you have?

In this case, good questions to ask might be something along the lines of “What hours of operation will meet the needs of my customers?” and “How can I maximize sales while keeping my payroll expenses as low as possible?”

2. Gather Relevant Information

There’s a few different ways to go about this and, to be thorough, you should gather as much relevant information as possible.

The first thing I’d suggest is to conduct secondary research. Walk around your neighbourhood and look at the hours of operations of your nearest competitors. Perhaps they know something you don’t know (like what time people in your neighbourhood begin to commute to work or when rush hour is. ). Research local government statistics on your neighbourhood demographics and find out if there’s any information that might be useful. For example, is your community composed of retirees or young families and are there any schools or hospitals in the area.

Now it’s the right time to conduct primary research. This is information you gather yourself usually through questionnaires, surveys and interviews. Ask your neighbouring businesses what times they open and why. Ask your current customers when they usually go for a coffee and when is the best time for them. The decision you’re trying to make might be answered simply by asking the right people.

Even Googling “What time should I open and close my coffee shop” might give you important info that you hadn’t considered.

All of this information is important when deciding what hours of operation to set.

3.  Make a Hypothesis to Test

Once you’ve researched and gathered information, make a choice that best answers the questions you posed originally. In our example, those were what hours do my customers need, what hours are the busiest and how many staff do I need during the busy period.

Once you’ve made a decision, it’s time to test it. Until you know that it’s the correct decision, it’s still just a hypothesis.

4. Test, Measure, and Evaluate

The fourth step in the decision-making process refines the decision you made in step three and solidifies your choice as the correct one for your business. Testing your hypothesis might consist of trying out a choice for a set time period, measuring the results and determining what changes will add the most value and be the most beneficial.

In our case of the best hours for a coffee shop, choose your hours of operation that best meets the needs of your customers without over staffing or under staffing and try the schedule out for a few months. I’d suggest you try scheduling seasonally for a coffee shop but give yourself enough time during the test to collect enough data. In our case, do you have enough sales and man-hours to decide what the peak hours are and how many staff are needed to handle operations effectively and efficiently?

Measure your sales per hour and determine your peak hours and slow periods. Perhaps you’ll realize you need one staff member to open, two during the lunch period, and only one to close. Or maybe you’ll discover that that schedule only happens on Monday through Thursday and that on Friday, customers come after work enough to make scheduling two staff members from lunch to close the best choice. If your sales spike during the weekend morning hours, you might decide to schedule two staff on those mornings instead.

Finally, tweak your current schedule and make your final decision on your hours of operation based on the results you measured from your test. And ensure that your decision answers the questions you asked so you haven’t strayed off target from the business decision you needed to make.

It’s also really important to stay calm and try not to rush through this process. Over time you may be able to simplify steps to become more efficient in decision-making but the steps are too valuable to skip entirely.

~Rob

Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, robrosenblattconsulting.com to see what I can do for you.

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What do you serve your guests?

One of the toughest lessons to learn in the hospitality industry is that you don’t just offer your customers food items from your menu. Once you realize what your product offering is, the sooner you can start to understand the value you offer. And once you understand that, you can determine how much value to ask for it.

Let’s talk about what an ‘offering’ is in marketing terms. Simply put, your offering is the TOTAL amount of value you offer your customer. It’s beyond simply the product or service you give. It includes things like;

-quality of ingredients and materials

-convenience, hours of operation, take out menu, is delivery available

-reputation, experience, pedigree, etc

Your product offering should be specifically designed to satisfy the needs and wants of your target demographic. Essentially, you choose your customer, research what they need and want, then deliver it. Obviously, it’s possible to deliver more than 1 product or service and these form the basis of your product mix. In the case of a restaurant, your product mix is basically your menu.

A feature is a characteristic of an offering. For example, having delivery available is one thing but being accessible through UberEATS, Door Dash, Feast, Foodora, etc offers much more value to your customers.

When a feature satisfies a need or a want, then that’s called a benefit.

To really have a chance at succeeding in business, your goal, as a restaurateur and a business person, is to offer more value and more benefits to consumers than your competition. You want to establish yourself as THE place that understands your customer and gives them complete satisfaction.

It’s not the easiest thing to do, I’ll admit. But the trick in business is to choose the most attractive target demographic. Are they big enough to sustain your business? Are they close by and convenient to access? Can you research them easily and understand their needs/wants? These are the types of questions you should be thinking of before you even get into business because they’ll help you decide what offering has the best chance of success.

So take the time to understand and clearly define your product offering. Treat it like you do your daily special. You’ll find that it’s extremely valuable to you and your staff to know exactly what you serve your guests every time you greet them at the door.

~Rob

Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, robrosenblattconsulting.com to see what I can do for you.

Is the customer always right? Finally! The answer revealed!

Boom! And that’s how you do clickbaiting, kids.

Seriously though, I see this question get asked and answered a lot and since I’ve been in the hospitality business for 20 years and I’ve dealt with the business side of restaurants, the impact of social media, word of mouth, negative Yelp reviews, etc, etc….I have a strong opinion on this.

Is the customer always right? The short answer, no.

The long answer is customers and restaurants aren’t adversaries fighting to get food-for-free vs. low-cost/quick-bucks, respectively. Buyers and sellers have a relationship where each side trusts the other to exchange value that are (roughly) equal. In the case of restaurants, it’s food and a quality dining experience for cold, hard cash.

In all my years of serving and bartending, I never thought that customers who were complaining were trying to get a free meal out of me. But let me show you this diagram and make a few points.Diagram service

The main point, is clearly that the customer leaves happy. Although, yes, it might be incredibly challenging to influence a customer’s mood such that they go from upset to happy, it is possible. Don’t underestimate the power of…

-recognizing and acknowledging a customer’s issue

-apologizing humbly and sincerely

-offering to make restitution and fix any concerns

-and lastly, thanking the customer for bringing their issue to your attention and telling the customer you hope you can do business again, and further deepen your relationship.

Notice in the diagram that a dining experience is a process. The ideal one for a server is one where there is limited engagement because it’s unnecessary or intrusive. The ideal experience for a customer is one where they have the server’s attention whenever they need it during dinner.

Hospitality is a business whereby both the buyer and seller have prior expectations of how the interaction should play out. Both sides have had plenty of both positive and negative experiences to form a good idea of what the ideal dinner is. The job of the restaurant is to ensure that you communicate, clearly, the value of the dining experience and then deliver what you promised.

When a customer enters your restaurant, all the hard work of marketing has been completed already. The customer has made their purchase decision and there’s no need to understand the customer’s “black box”, consumer behaviours, buyer’s characteristics, and it’s too late to try to change and rebuild your marketing mix.

To sum up, when a customer looks at your menu and chooses their meal, remember the phrase “It’s 10 times more expensive to find a customer than to keep an existing customer”. Building a positive relationship with your customer is the cheapest option in the long run and well worth the food cost of a free dessert.

~Rob

Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, robrosenblattconsulting.com to see what I can do for you.

 

Do some research!

It’s extremely important to do your due diligence when beginning your business. That means asking questions. A lot of them. And naturally, asking the right questions is vital.

So what does that mean? Well, In broad terms, you’ll want information about the size of your current market. Will your business be viable in this location? Can the market support and sustain you? If you want to start a restaurant it would be helpful to know,

-Your neighbourhood demographics

-Local competitors

-Socio-economic information

-Any future plans that might affect the neighbourhood and your business

That’s why I recommend that all business owners take the time to perform a SWOT analysis.

Simply put, a SWOT analysis is a thorough study of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that will affect your business. Strengths and weaknesses are considered internal and examples could include being an established brand with an excellent reputation or  having exceptional staff like a Michelin star chef. Conversely, having a young inexperienced staff might be considered a weakness.

Opportunities and threats are external to your business and examples could be your location having a university or hospital close by or perhaps there’s a huge condo building being constructed next door to your restaurant. A possible threat to your business might be things like street construction that would detour traffic away from you.

It’s important that you know what you’re getting yourself into when you start your business to ensure you get the best possible chance of success.

~Rob

Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, robrosenblattconsulting.com to see what I can do for you.

 

Introducing my new business venture, Rob Rosenblatt Consulting!

Hi everyone!

It’s with great pride that I’ve decided to start my own business, Rob Rosenblatt Consulting, specializing in marketing for restaurants, pubs, cafes and other hospitality businesses.

I started working in this industry more than 20 years ago when I became a busboy at Milwaukee’s Bar & Grill, a four-story, popular bar in downtown Toronto. It was a demanding job and running up and down four flights of stairs carrying 20 and 30 litre kegs for years took their toll. In time, my hard work paid off and I was promoted to service bar, then head bartender.

From there, I moved on to man the bar at some extremely busy pubs before moving into casual and fine dining. The reason, quite simply, was the hours. I was married at the time and for years I only saw my wife when I got home at 5am. In the end, I made the jump to casual dining where I could be home before midnight and actually get to spend time with my spouse. But I always loved the atmosphere of working in a busy bar with familiar regulars who would come in and see me after they finished their workday for a quick drink before home.

I decided to go back to school in 2010 and graduated at the top of my class with an honours diploma in Marketing Management from George Brown College in 2013. With my service background and my education, it became very clear just how poorly restaurants were marketing themselves.

Many places I’ve worked at seem to treat marketing as a passive, one-off thing you do occasionally when you want to promote something like a daily feature or special event. Post some pictures, make a flyer for the window…that sort of thing. The amount of missed opportunities and ill conceived and poorly planned events drove me crazy and I realized there was a need for marketing information specially designed and focused on restaurants and hospitality establishments. Many places are run by chefs who are passionate about cooking but lack a background in business and marketing. And it’s these businesses that I feel would benefit from having an experienced hand guide them on the right path to achieve their goals.

It’s with that in mind that I’ve launched my business, Rob Rosenblatt Consulting, and I hope you’ll take the time to read my blog as I’ll be updating it with tips and important information that will make it easier for you to get noticed and drive consumers to your front door.

~Rob

Idris Elba, Coffee, and the Little Cafe that Could

Grinder Café is a cute little coffee shop near the corner of Pape and Gerrard in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It’s the type of place where the owner, Joelle, will step out from behind the counter, eyes lit up, to greet babies whenever a stroller pushes through the front door. There’s a warm feeling you get from being here and it’s easy to see that this cafe cares about it’s customers. It’s friendly, open and inviting, and a staple on this quickly gentrifying strip of neighbourhood. If you open a business anywhere near Grinder, Joelle will know your name.

Full disclosure, I’ve known Grinder Café for years and frequently share information or business advice when asked. I support them whenever I can. It’s my local coffee shop and I’m happy when I see it busy and it pains me to hear when sales are in a slump. But I don’t manage their social media or online presence, that remains in Joelle’s capable hands. And that’s where the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign started, in the mind of an adoring fan with a few beans to grind.

It was interesting to watch this campaign launch, develop and finish and see the results without being involved and it was a great experience with important lessons to learn that are relatable to any business. These are some of the takeaways from the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign;

Reach for the stars

The goal of the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign was to get Idris Elba, in town for the Toronto International Film Fest, to come by Grinder Café for a coffee. It was simple, funny and relatable. While the campaign was born out of pure fandom and wasn’t too serious in achieving its’ goal, I felt success would be in positioning Grinder Café as the “little coffee shop that could”.

Although it was a lofty goal, I didn’t feel it was unbelievable, unreasonable or unrelatable for Grinder patrons. In fact, setting an ambitious goal like this helped the campaign by forming it in customers’ minds as a take on David vs. Goliath, with loyal customers and fans of Idris banding together to get a busy, Hollywood movie star to come to this little, local coffee shop. Could they gather enough attention to get noticed?

Be prepared to dedicate a lot of time and energy to your campaign

One point that Joelle reminded me of was the incredible amount of time and energy she dedicated to this campaign; brainstorming ideas and executing them, promoting them to her followers. Joelle remarked that it was a constant struggle to find the time to do the campaign in the way that she envisioned.

The lesson here is that ideas take time to flourish and be refined, and then reworked into something feasible and in line with your goals. A good campaign requires a real commitment of time and energy and shouldn’t be undertaken without an understanding of what it will take for it to succeed.

Be creative

The crux of Joelle’s campaign was to encourage customers to take selfies with a small cut out of Idris Elba, as if this is what it would look like if he was right there in the shop with you. To be entered to win a Grinder gift certificate, customers had to post their selfie on Instagram, and then tag #grindercoffeeshop and #idrisneedsgrinder.

The simplicity of this campaign made it easy and fun for customers to get involved. It was whimsical and funny and not difficult for customers to follow the instructions and participate.

Use your friends

Joelle took Idris on a little walk around the neighbourhood and took pics with other businesses and tagged them all. This was a great way to expand the reach of the campaign as each business responded and promoted it to their followers.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 4.43.22 PM

Eventually the campaign reached the attention of Lisa Power, a writer for BlogTO, and Grinder Café and the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign were featured in an article.

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 2.28.03 PM

The results of the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign? Well, Mr. Elba didn’t end up coming in for a coffee, so in that regard, it wasn’t successful. However, the campaign attracted a number of inquisitive, new patrons and generated some positive and news worthy attention from the media. Obviously, that’s a very important and valuable result to achieve for any campaign.

In the end, I can only conclude that the campaign was a success as the time and effort involved had a positive effect on the Grinder Café brand. Businesses that are looking for a similar boost and wanting to get media attention would do well to follow the lessons from Grinder; set a lofty goal, be funny, relatable and creative, use your friends and community to help spread the word, and commit the time and energy necessary to do the campaign right.

~Rob

Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, robrosenblattconsulting.com to see what I can do for you.

Branding vs Marketing

Full credit to David Deal for this exceptional article. I haven’t seen a better example online yet. Mr. Deal provides a textbook example of branding and a reminder of the perils of failing to deliver on your promises and the expectations of your guests.

To sum it all up, branding is all about the experience between a consumer and your brand. It’s short, sweet, and simple. But sadly, it’s often ignored.

Too many times in restaurants I see the same old mistakes being made; promises that were made weren’t delivered, expectations weren’t met, and customers became angry, disillusioned and took to social media to voice their displeasure. That’s the “problem” with hyping up your restaurant; it sets up an expectation that certain ideals will be met.

For example, imagine seeing an Instagram picture of stale lettuce, tomatoes and vegetables on a sandwich. Now imagine that sandwich is from Subway, whose slogan is “Eat fresh”. Can you see the potential problem creeping up here? Subway made a promise of providing fresh ingredients and customers expected that. While, obviously, customers certainly expect to receive fresh ingredients in their meals, wouldn’t you agree that there’s nothing more egregious as having your entire restaurant brand built upon the one thing you failed to deliver? The fallout from this could be damaging to your restaurants’ reputation.

Stop this cycle before it starts!

If a staff member notices a problem starting, give them permission to “make it right”, right there on the spot. Encourage them to deliver an experience that customers can’t wait to share with their friends. If you promise that you’re the “fastest” pizza delivery, take steps to ensure that you are. Streamline your processes, prepare in advance for busy times, modernize your equipment, and/or hire more drivers. If you promise to always deliver “piping hot” pizza, invest in technology that will keep your pizzas hot while being delivered. Maybe there’s a new type of mobile oven or newfangled insulated sleeve out there! The point is, if your brand is built on a promise, that’s your number one priority.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, robrosenblattconsulting.com to see what I can do for you.

~Rob

The Power of Politeness

Everyone knows the importance of a good first impression. And that means ensuring that your staff reflect your company values and present themselves professionally at all customer contact points.

And it’s important not to forget stressing the importance of manners. Many in the service industry forget that hospitality is a noun and related to the adjective hospitable which means to be cordial and receptive towards guests. Your staff should be encouraged to go above and beyond providing basic customer service, and to be polite, welcoming, attentive, humble and sympathetic to every guest at every opportunity.

Polite- The words your staff use convey the respect you have for your customer so make sure your staff use “may I, excuse me, please, and thank you” when appropriate.

Welcoming- The tone in which your staff engage guests is reflected in their behaviour. Your staff should be professional enough to “put their game faces on” and smile to guests, say hello when they arrive, introduce themselves, and make eye contact when speaking.

Attentive- Tell your staff to pay attention for clues about anniversaries or birthdays. The simple act of bringing out a dessert with a candle is huge for making a lasting memory and favourable impression. Make sure your staff pay attention to simple things they can do to make the dining experience better. Are your guests eating their meals or do they seem unhappy? If not, this could be a golden opportunity you might be missing.

Humble- Push your staff to be relatable and honest. While it’s important to acknowledge any shortcomings and be honest with guests, your staff should be gracious when accepting praise. There are no egos here. Providing an exceptional meal and a memorable experience is your job.

Sympathetic- Sympathy and understanding might seem generally out of place in the day-to-day workings of your business, but it’s a vital part of being relatable and ensuring your guests realize you’re invested in providing a positive experience.

Being polite is a critical part of building a positive brand image and can help to differentiate yourself from your competition. Wouldn’t you want your business to be known as the friendliest and nicest restaurant to go for dinner?

In short, work with your staff to help them provide personal, professional service. It’ll do wonders for your business and your server’s tips too.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, robrosenblattconsulting.com to see what I can do for you.

~Rob