Business Lessons

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.


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, 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.


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, to see what I can do for you.


Are you pushing or pulling your customers?

You may have heard of the terms push and pull marketing. If not, let me introduce you. Simply put, push marketing is sending your marketing efforts directly to the consumer. Another name for push marketing is outbound marketing and the idea is to send consumers your message and they respond if your offer meets their needs. As an example, think of a large billboard sign for Advil advertising it’s usefulness treating aches and pains. Unless you have pain, Advil probably won’t be that useful or necessary.

Other examples of push marketing include advertising such as online banners, television commercials and radio spots.

Pull marketing is also known as inbound marketing and uses a different strategy than push marketing. To create a “pull”, marketers use techniques that use brand awareness and work to generate leads. The idea here is to make it easier for consumers to find you when they need your services. A good example of pull marketing is search engine optimization and using hashtags and keywords to allow customers to easily find you when they’re searching for your type of product/service.

This simple diagram from explains it clearly,

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 4.27.10 PM

Although both push and pull marketing strategies are effective when done properly, they each have their weaknesses.

Typically, push strategies require more money to build relationships with your product. And push strategies typically require more time and energy to do well. If you want customers to go looking for you, they need to know you exist (push marketing) and have to want the value of your product offering (pull marketing).

Why does this matter for restaurants? By using push strategies you’ll work to increase awareness about your business and attract attention. You’ll place yourself in your consumers mind and begin to build a relationship through association. You may remember my previous post and my search terms “best taco restaurant in Sacramento.” You can see how effective a billboard or signage that promotes your restaurant as the best taco in Sacramento would be.

A good pull strategy will work on that brand awareness to create engaging content that pulls in customers. If your website includes links to positive reviews of your tacos and enticing pictures, you’ll be able to position yourself as the best choice for tacos in the minds of consumers. Generally, pull strategies are more effective in creating long-lasting, beneficial relationships and brand loyalty because consumers are actively engaging with your brand. They’re drawn to you and put their own effort into engaging with you. This is incredibly valuable and can easily increase your RFM (recency, frequency, and monetary) scores with your patrons.

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

Thanks for reading and be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, to see what I can do for you.


4 Business Lessons from a Waiter

Being a waiter can be brutally hard sometimes. You’re on your feet all day, running around the restaurant taking orders, bussing, serving, cleaning up, resetting. On a busy day you wish you had a third arm so you didn’t have to make as many trips back and forth from the line or the dish pit. I’m haunted by the words “Pick-up!” being screamed at me. And let’s be honest, being a server doesn’t exactly get you a ton of respect.

But after 18 years in the hospitality industry working in all the FOH (front of the house) positions, I’ve learned these 4 important lessons for your business.

1. Problem popped up? Don’t bury your head in the sand.

I can’t stress this enough, if you make a mistake or the kitchen makes a mistake…it doesn’t matter to the customer. They want their order fast, hot and fresh just like it’s supposed to happen. You can’t ignore them, walk by them and put them off, embarrassed to apologize for something that maybe isn’t your fault to begin with. But you have to go to them sooner or later so make it sooner.

If you see something isn’t working out as planned, or maybe keeping the schedule is going to be impossible or costs are starting to balloon, try to be upfront with the client. Chances are they can see things aren’t running as smoothly as they should and you have a chance to address concerns before they become full blown stressors. And your client will appreciate your being proactive instead of reactionary. In short, try to defuse a problem before it explodes.

2. Prepare for the busy season.

7:30 pm on a Saturday night is prime time for restaurants. It’s the busiest day of the week at the time that’s the most sought after by customers. But besides the importance of having everything you need prepped and ready, it’s also really important that you keep things simple. That means no big menu changes, no new trial software, or different server sections. Your staff need to be familiar and work comfortably to be as efficient as possible.

In business that means that you have the foresight to plan ahead and have staff hired and trained for the busy season. Anticipate your needs, prepare for the most common problems and follow these two well-known adages, the Law of the 7 Ps and KISS.

3. The customer may not be right, but they’re paying you so make it right.

This is a toughie because, in the end, the customer is paying for a good/service that you’re providing. It’s really that simple but sometimes customers can make this simple transaction way too complicated and stressful. Bossy, pushy, arrogant, and demanding customers are an almost daily occurrence for most servers. Yet it is possible to sharpen your communication and negotiation skills such that you can satisfy (most) guests.

And that’s the secret, communicating your desire to your guest to make them happy in a calm, polite manner. Instead of saying “but” or “can’t”, tell your guests what you will do for them and show how that it’s above and beyond what you normally provide. It’s accommodate, not acquiesce. Realize that helping your customer pays dividends and that you both benefit in the end.

4. It’s all about the experience.

Whether or not a guest comes back to a restaurant depends on their own criteria but more often than not it’s about value, personal tastes, and the experience. While you can tinker with prices and portion sizes and try new recipes every once in a while, you interact with your guests every day and a great deal of these interactions form the overall experience they have with you.

Every contact point with your customer should be checked to ensure that you’re providing a positive experience. Do your staff know proper phone etiquette? Do you have a list of important information that staff may need to know (so they don’t have to put someone on hold to find out what your hours of operation are, which happens a lot)? Is there anything broken or in need of repair? Is your business clean and welcoming? All these things are routinely overlooked but so important.

It doesn’t take a genius to be a good server, but surprisingly there are many terrible servers out there. The same applies to any business and yet we’ve all heard horror stories that have left us wincing. But if you remember to acknowledge and communicate, prepare, accommodate, and create a positive experience, I believe you’ll cement your reputation in the hearts and minds (and wallets) of your customers.


For close to 20 years, Rob has worked in bars, pubs, pool halls, fine dining restaurants, bistros, banquet halls and everything in between doing every job there is to do.