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9 Important Tips For Restaurant Entrepreneurs

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Starting and maintaining a restaurant business is no easy task. There are many factors that come into play. The success rate of restaurants is much lower when compared to other industries. The risk involved turns many people off from opening one of their own. The amount of capital to open a physical location requires investors and involves a lot of red tape. If done right though, a restaurant business can become quite a profitable venture. It’s important to know what you’re getting into.

1) Get a Website

The Yellow Pages are dead. People no longer thumb through a thousand page book to find local businesses. Creating an internet presence is paramount to your restaurants success. Some best practices when creating a website for your restaurant:

2) Include Your Menu

Your customers first and foremost want to know what food you serve. Include a text based menu that lists everything you serve. Don’t just throw up a .pdf file of your menu. Search engines can’t read that and it often looks bad on mobile devices.

  • Hire a search marketing firm. Having a strong presence on Google is like having a free billboard on the world’s busiest highway. The value of being found for free on the internet cannot be overstated.
  • Have a responsive website – because most everyone has a smartphone these days it’s wise to have a website that scales on mobile devices, allowing visitors to peruse your restaurant and jump from page to page without having to “pinch and zoom”.
  • State the essentials – include a page that lists the restaurant location and hours. In fact, it would be smart to list them in the header of the website or even on the homepage. Include holiday hours as well.

There are also several advertising channels that are effective for restaurants. Google AdWords has a simple to use interface. And local services like Yelp provide great mobile packages that cater to consumers on the go.

3) Establish A Relationship With an Online Vendor

There are several websites that provide online equipment and supplies ordering like Instawares – an online restaurant equipment and supplies company that carries everything you need to get started with opening your own restaurant. Having a relationship with your vendor allows you to easily order supplies and equipment when you run out. Often times, these companies will setup a workflow where they’ll recognize when you’re out of stock and detect seasonal patterns in your ordering I.E. – if you’re in a summer tourist-town and are only open during those months a reliable restaurant equipment company will call you in the beginning of summer and check if you’re freezers and refrigerators are working properly. There are several items that require more frequent replacement than others, chief amongst them being dinnerware. Finding a reliable source to buy flatware and dinnerware online eases your nerves as glassware and table items are dropped and broken.

4) Listen (and talk back) to Your Customers

This can be said of any industry but with restaurants it’s extremely important to listen to what the market wants. Restaurants tend to be “word of mouth” businesses that carry on the goodwill of its current customers. Thanks to new channels like social networks, online review sites, and restaurant blogs, it’s easier (and cheaper) than ever to listen to what people are saying about your restaurant. These channels include:

  • Facebook – having a Facebook page for your restaurant is a no-brainer. It’s easy to setup and can be accessed and “liked” by anyone who uses the service. Tie it to your website as well and share updates via your newsfeed. A solid strategy is to blog frequently and mention those posts on your Facebook page. Your effectively killing two birds with one stone by publishing on the web and within Facebook.
  • Twitter – while many see this as the mouthpiece for teenage girls and celebrities it’s actually a very effective way for you to communicate with your customers. Hashtags and “mentions” are the backbone of Twitter and your restaurant can greatly benefit from proper use of them. If someone lodges a complaint then it’s your duty to address this. Twitter allows you to respond to angry customers in public which shows that you care about what people think about your restaurant.
  • Pinterest – this is a must for foodies. Restaurants seem to be a natural fit for this image-based social network. And because of its open API many times when people take pictures of their food at restaurants it’s cross published to their other networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Take these criticisms that appear on social networks and work them into your overall marketing/business strategy. While many see social networks as a vehicle for “promotion” they are most effectively used for communication.

5) Keep Track of Your Customers

This can be done through a number of methods. Back in the day (and probably still) restaurants would do giveaways where customers would drop their business cards in a jar out front for a chance to win a free meal. The restaurants would then collect the email information on the cards and add them to a mailing list, offering catering and corporate party information. While this tactic may still work it’s important to identify more effective ways to collect their information. Building a customer database is important and what you do with that information is even more vital. Email marketing is easier and more effective than ever. You should be segmenting lists and creating different personas based on open rates in response to specific promotions.

6) Set Yourself Apart

Although it’s tempting to offer everything you can possibly cook it’s wise to specialize in one area. If people want variety they will go to a generic restaurant like Applebees or Outback steakhouse where they can get everything from spicy oriental chicken to a porterhouse steak. Be good at one thing and stick to it. Think about the most famous restaurants where you live: their often packed to the gills on weekend nights. Going out to eat is an experience and you need to sell your restaurant as such. You don’t see lines stretching around the block for Olive Garden. What you do see lines for is “Joe’s Steamhouse Lounge” – a restaurant that may specialize in seafood.

7) Service, Service, Service

Speaking of customer complaints. Most unpleasant experiences related to restaurants stem not from undercooked food or cheap wine, but customer service. There are several ways to ensure a quality customer experience:

  • Hire a good wait staff – do background checks, ask for references and have potential hires sit down with another member of your staff (more perspectives the better). Thoroughly vetting your staff ensures that you won’t be hiring an rotten eggs.
  • You get what (who) you pay for – this old adage applies to restaurants as well. What do you expect if you’re paying your staff $4/hour?
  • Know your demographic – if you’re opening a sports=themed restaurant it may be wise to hire more women as waiters, considering that most of your clientele will be men. Likewise if you’re opening a quirky organic breakfast place you may want to aim for a more eclectic waitstaff.

8) Do Competitive Research

Go out and see what your competitors are doing. Eat at other restaurants and take notes. Notice what others are doing right and try to emulate that in your restaurant. Also take notice of things they’re doing wrong and try not to repeat it. Restaurant owners are some of the most creative, business minded people in the world. Creating an experience that’s original and different will have people appreciate your restaurant and keep coming back for more. There’s also something to be learned from restaurant chains as well. There’s several reasons why they’ve grown to such national (and in some cases international) prominence. I.E.- Cracker Barrel. They have a schtick right? When you walk in there’s an old-timey gift shop filled with knick knacks and rocking chairs. They serve “home-cooked” meals. They’re marketing and knick knack store are meant to give people a familiar comfort.

9) Target The Right Demographic

Understanding where the wallets are is important if you want to last in the restaurant business. If you’re catering towards a lower-income demographic then you want your marketing to reflect that. In most cases though, you want to target consumers with the most money to spend. This way you can spend more on making your restaurant great and offering the best foods and service. If you’re going after an older crowd you must realize that that’s a well which will eventually run dry. Young up-and-comers is the holy grail of demographics because this crowd will form eating habits that they’ll carry over to their social circles and family. That’s why understanding modern marketing principles is necessary to capture this demographic. Young, affluent consumers are extremely savvy thanks to modern technologies like smartphones, iPads, and other connected devices.

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About the Author

This article was written and produced by a Clayton Curtis of Social Hospitality™, a boutique digital marketing agency. Focusing on social media and SEO along with copywriting and editing for websites, blogs, and enewsletters, Social Hospitality helps businesses nurture online relationships and create loyal customers. see more.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Laina Raveendran Greene, Co-Founder at Angels of Impact

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is our interview with Laina Raveendran Greene, Founder of GETIT Inc. and Co-Founder of Angels of Impact, an impact network focused on women social entrepreneurs helping to alleviate poverty. She is an entrepreneur and social impact investor, whose passion is female empowerment, and enabling women to be key agents to help alleviate poverty in Asia.

What makes you do what you do?
As a minority female Singaporean from relatively humble beginnings, I have never taken anything for granted. I learnt early on that I have to work doubly hard to overcome the “glass ceilings” but if I persevere, I can succeed. That is why I chose to focus on helping women-led social enterprises as I know how hard things are for them and I hope to make things a little easier for them.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I rose by being courageous enough to push against the “glass ceiling” and seizing opportunities open to me no matter where they were. Early on, I realized I would have better opportunities overseas, so I worked in many countries, including Switzerland, USA, and Indonesia and used these opportunities to learn and open new avenues for myself. I now come back to Singapore with many more networks and skill sets.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
Yes, as a minority Singaporean, it may appear that I am not the usual leadership demography in Singapore. In my own way, however, I think I have amassed my own international accolades and work experience such as serving as the first Secretary General for the Asia Pacific Internet Association, CEO of one of the first few tech startups in Singapore in the early 90s, being on the International Steering Committee of the Global Telecommunication Women Network, and most recently selected as one of the 2nd cohort of Edmond Hillary Fellows in New Zealand.

I am now moving to the next phase of using these networks and skills to help other women to social enterprises, which seem to be exactly what I want to do in my next phase of life (after more than 25 years of global work experience).

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? 
It was harder in my younger days, as one of the few women in tech to find mentors but today I do.  Men were reluctant to mentor me for fear of rumors.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him? 
I found my mentor when I was taking an executive program at Stanford. He was one of the keynote speakers and I went to talk to him. Intrigued by my background, when I asked if he would mentor me, he said yes. I meet with him at regular intervals and I always ensure I have put his ideas to test before reporting back to him. I feel that I value his time if I do actually listen and act on his advice.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
The key qualities I look for is an eagerness to learn and humility to be open to new ideas. Also, when asked to be a mentor, I usually give homework and see how proactive they are. Only the ones who do their homework, take the advice and act on it, are the ones I actively mentor.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and unconsciously support diversity, as I see the importance of diversity on true innovation. You never get anything new, talking to like-minded people. It is always good to have different perspectives to create new ideas. I am also an active supporter having faced racial and gender discrimination in my life and want to ensure that others are given a better chance.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
A great leader to me is one who has empathy and humility, and a genuine spirit of service. Today’s challenges such as climate change and social injustice, requires many players to apply their knowledge and skills to solve and have a sense of ownership in solving these issues

Advice for others?
The only advice I can think of is do what you are strongly passionate about. You need to persevere to succeed so it helps if you truly care about the endeavor you are working on.

If you’d like to get in touch with Laina Raveendran Greene, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laina/

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Callum Connects

Denise Morris Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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