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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.

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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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Entrepreneurship

Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang

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Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

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