Thanksgiving-Cocktail-Ideas

Thanksgiving Cocktail Ideas

Lou Trope, President, LJ Trope & Co. LLC

Kick-off the Holiday Season

Everyone looks forward to and dreads the holiday season at the same time. Thanksgiving is the first and with it comes the stress of cooking for a large group, getting the family together and the imposing weight of the soon approaching holiday season and New Year. Needless to say getting the family together for the first time in months to share a meal after a contentious election season will no doubt bring in some animated discussion to the dinner table. So best to be prepared with an arsenal of fine cocktails to help manage the season and enjoy some well deserved time to relax and enjoy time with friends and family.

Its always fun to bring in some cooking techniques into cocktail development to help enhance flavors and bring together unique tastes. Creating enhanced syrups is a simple way to bring in new flavors and showcase ingredients not commonly used in cocktails. Also roasting of citrus releases some of the acidity and brings a new caramelized sweetness to the juice.

These recipes were developed with seasonal flavors in mind but can certainly be used year road.

 

Cider-BarrelCider Barrel

This cocktail takes the smokey nuances of rye and contrasts it with fresh cider and roast lemon.

1 1/2 oz 10th Mountain Double Rye

1 oz Honey Syrup

2 oz Fresh Apple Cider

1/2 oz Roast Lemon Juice

Mix all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Cover with shaker tin and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with dried apple chip.

 

 

 

 

 

Spiced-AppleSpiced Apple

This is a fun cocktail to get things going. A little cinnamon and spice always make things nice. Using Hot Tamales candies for the syrup add and fun but familiar twist.

1 1/2 oz Tito’s Hand Crafted Vodka

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Hot Tomales Cinnamon Syrup

1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Mix all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Cover with shaker tin and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

 

 

 

 

The-PuzzleThe Puzzle 

This cocktail is based on the classic cocktail The Dunlop. Adding the aged spiced rum and maple syrup bring out a sweetness and buttery flavor in contrast to the smokey flavor of Mezcal. Can be served up or on the rocks.

1 1/2 oz Breckenridge Spiced Rum

1/2 oz Mezcal

3/4 oz Sherry

3/4 oz Grade A Maple Syrup

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Mix all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir with a mixing spoon for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass.

 

 

 

Seasons-TidingsSeasons Tidings

This cocktail is refreshing at the holidays or anytime of the year. Cranberry, gin and Aperol all come together to accent each others botanicals for a bright and crisp cocktail.

1 1/2 oz Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin

1 oz Aperol

1 oz Cranberry Syrup

1/4 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Mix all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir with a mixing spoon for 10 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in rocks glass. Garnish with dried lemon, cranberry and thyme sprig.

 

 

 

 

Cuban-CousinMy Cuban Cousin

This cocktail is very balanced with aged rum and citrus from clementine and lime while the egg white introduces a creaminess that sets it apart. It is basically inspired by a classic Daiquiri then given a twist.

1 1/2 oz Havana Club Anejo Rum

1 oz Cranberry Syrup

1/2 oz Fresh Clementine Juice

1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice

1 ea Egg White

Mix all ingredients in a mixing glass, cover with shaking tin and dry shake for 20 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 20 seconds. Strain into chilled coupe or martini glass.

 

 

 

Cranberry Syrup

1 cup Sugar

1 cup Water

1 cup Fresh Cranberries

Place all ingredients in pan and bring to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain and refrigerate

 

 

 

Hot Tamales Cinnamon Syrup

2/3 cup Sugar

1 cup Water

5 oz Hot Tamales Candies

Place all ingredients in pan and bring to simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and refrigerate.

 

 

 

Honey Syrup

1/2 cup Clover Honey

1/2 cup Water

Place all ingredients in pan and bring to simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and refrigerate.

Why-Hotel-Restaurants-Struggle-Ambiance

Food and Drink Trends to Watch for 2017

Food-and-Drink-Trends-to-Watch-for-2017Lou Trope, President, LJ Trope & Co. LLC

The industry is moving faster than ever and conversion rate from a simple fad to a full blown trend is astonishing. What is happening at cutting edge place in Brooklyn or Portland is going mainstream within 18 months.

However, the most important thing to understand about trends is that you need not run blindly after every little thing trying to stay up with the trend cycle. The key is to stay very close to what is happening in the industry, particularly your segment of the industry. It is essential to be a student of the game. Keep learning, experiencing and thinking everyday and carefully pick and choose what ideas can apply to your restaurant, if any. Monitor where the trends are arising from, who their customer is and if there is any relevancy to the guest you are or wish to attract in your restaurant to be ahead of any shift in buying patterns or interest.

So here are a few things to keep an eye on for 2017. Some of these may be early in the cycle but its important to understand the potential impact it may have in the future.

 

Dumplings

Dim sum, Shu Mai, Mandu, Bao, Gyoza. Does not matter the origin but dumplings pan fried or steamed will easily become a main stay in the emerging bar food scene. Just as ramen has gone mainstream and chefs are creating some exceptions new versions of the traditional dish so will be the path of dumplings. The Dim Sum brunch is becoming more and more popular in urban locations, not just in traditional restaurants like Yank Sing in San Francisco but also in more contemporary like the Sarsparilla Club in Miami. Also check out Surbia (Los Angeles), Mei Mei (Boston), Momofuku Ssam (NYC) and Parachute (Chicago) for some interesting versions.

 

Fried Rice

Who doesn’t like fried rice. Nothing better for some late night eats. Now just consider with the addition of pork belly, chorizo, speck and using grains like faro, brown rice, quinoa or wheat berry. The combinations are endless and when used in collaboration with the right protein from a simple soft poached egg to Kobe beef. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or late night this dish has relevant application. Places like Departure Lounge (Denver) Crab, Chinese Sausage and XO Fried Rice and Shoyu (Boston) Kim Chee Fried Rice, Idouse Kimchi, Jasmine Rice and Sunny Egg are blazing the path.

 

The French Dip

It has been around for ages and still a favorite. Today chefs are thinking in new directions with the time tested classic using fresh roasted turkey, pork or lamb. Adding unique spreads to pop in a little acidity and complementing with the perfect cheese or wilted greens. The dipping sauce ranges from a classic jus to an updated version with a enhanced flavor from smoked chili peppers, spices or roast garlic. Again the combinations are endless. Henry (Phoenix) does Roast Turkey French Dip with Horseradish Aioli with Havarti on a garlic parmesan roll, ACORN (Denver) theirs with Roast Beef, Gruyere, Horseradish Cream and Smoked Au Jus while The Branch Line (Boston) does a rotisserie pork shoulder with smoked onions and chicken dripping au jus.

 

meat-pies

Meat Pies

Australian Meat Pie, English Pies and Cornish Pasty shops are starting to pop up in many cities. These unique shops introduce a common meat pie with buttery flakey crusts and subtle delectable fillings from Chicken Curry to Beef and Tomato. Now these shops are adding their own unique fillings such as Chicken Vindaloo, Pork and Green Chili and Veggies in Peanut Curry. This again is a great addition to any bar menu and would expect to see them popping up on more and more Gastropub menus in the near future. Some notables include The Great Australian Bite(Denver), Cornish Pasty Co. (Boston) and can always mail order from Parkers.

 

 

Breakfast-Grows-UpBreakfast Grows Up

The age old thinking has been people are creatures of habit and eat the same thing every weekday and only change it up on the weekends. However, chefs are now starting to realize that breakfast is not only one of the most profitable meals of the day but can also give them the opportunity to unleash their creativity while providing, in some cases healthy options. Welcome the Acai Bowl. The healthfulness of the Acai berry combined with a fresh yogurt, housemate granola and fresh fruit can’t be beat. On the flip side chefs are also discovering the versatility of biscuits, pancakes, crepes, porridges and oatmeals that can all be enhanced to create a memorable guests experience. Check out some of these cutting edge breakfast locations that take it to another level like Plow (San Francisco), Juliet (Boston), Little Goat (Chicago) and Snooze (Denver)

 

 

Garden to Glass

Not to be out done by chefs, mixologists are becoming more and more active in shifting their menu by season. Always a student of the spirits they use, now many are becoming more engaged in the local bounty around them. Utilizing items like fresh tomato water, green apple, fennel, chillies, and fresh herbs to create different shrubs, syrups, juices or muddled to enhance unique seasonal cocktails. Although many fine establishments already update their offerings by the season unfortunately it is not in the norm. Expect more and more establishments to create seasonal libations taking advantage of their surroundings to create truly unique cocktail experience.

 

Time-to-be-BitterTime to be Bitter

The Negroni led the way now other mixologists are adding Italian bitter liqueurs such as Amaro, Campari and their slightly sweeter cousin Aperol to a wide range of inventive cocktails. Expect to see Amaro Lucano and Fernet Branca popping up as key ingredient being mixed with bourbons, rye and even some Japanese Whiskeys. Their bitter sweet herbaceous flavor brings out distinct nuances in these fine crafted cocktails. Check out Trick Dog (San Francisco) and Lion’s Share (San Diego) for some innovative cocktails.

 

Sherry Darling

Fortified wines are on the rise. Once only to be found in the back of a kitchen now Sherries are becoming front and center. Many cutting edge bars are not only showcasing a refined list but also including them in sophisticated cocktails. The complex flavor is a great bridge for spirits like aged rums, Mescals and Bourbons to create exquisite cocktails with deep and layered flavor profiles. Places like Mockingbird Hill (Washington DC), Moving Sidewalk (Houston), Pouring Ribbons(NYC) are leading the way in this area.

 

Has Rose Founds its Time?

We have heard it for years, this is the year for Rose. Has it finally been able to shake off its White Zinfandel association to get the respect it deserves? More and more producers are entering the market with crisp well balanced Rose wines that have the versatility for a great food wine or simple wine to enjoy with friends. Hopefully, this is the year for Rose wines.

 

Where-is-the-RestaurantWhere is the Restaurant?

Chefs like David Chang have taken the first step in creating a virtual restaurant that only does delivery with ANDO. As chefs face increasing labor and rent costs will more defer to a virtual space? This innovative approach to dinning will be the first step in an ever changing industry in which operators and guests will redefine the expectations of dining.

 

 

OTHER FAVORITES THAT ARE HERE TO STAY:

Chef Driven Food Halls, Poke, Ramen, Hot Fried Chicken, Gourmet Donuts, Vegetables as Center of Plate, Sustainable Sourcing, and Regional Artisan Spirits

Why-Hotel-Restaurants-Struggle-Ambiance

Why Hotel Restaurants Struggle: Ambiance

Why-Hotel-Restaurants-Struggle-AmbianceLou Trope, President LJ Trope & Co. LLC

Ambiance is one area where many hotel restaurants struggle; yet it is one of the most impactful components that defines the concept and solidifies the restaurant’s reputation. A lackluster and mundane ambiance, even in the best designed space, can easily undermine all the efforts of a talented culinary or bar team. When thinking about ambiance, most will say its lighting and music. However, it is much much more. When thinking about ambiance with regard to the guest’s experience, consider everything that touches their senses aside from taste – sight, sound, smell and touch and how it all works together to create a differentiated memorable guest experience.

Consider what does the guest experience when they enter your restaurant? Let’s start with lighting. The basics are lights are brighter during the day then darken as the evening sets in. Unfortunately, too many times a restaurant will have their lights as bright as a hospital waiting room in the evening. Usually when this is the case, it is because they do not have a dimmer system or know how to work it. If your restaurant does not have a dimmer system, try to turn off sections, use candles or bring in floor lights. Anything you can do to help soften the space and create some type of mood that matches your concept will be beneficial in the long run.

Also take a look at your bar. Are there pin spots on your premium bottles on your back bar or are your bottles hiding in the shadows? Is your bar a beacon as guests approach? If you do not have lighting on your back bar, consider installing a rail of pin spots or placing some battery operated tea candles or pop lights behind the bottles to illuminate the bar. Let the guest see those premium bottles.

As the server approaches the table what does the guest see? Do they see a stylish well-dressed informed energized person ready to engage in a meaningful experience? Or, do they see a person walking over in a loose-fitting, frumpy expected hotel restaurant uniform with the obligatory hotel name tag hanging off their ill-fitting shirt? Hopefully, it’s the first. Unfortunately, for some reason, many hotels are determined to take bright energetic servers and put them in the most repugnant uniforms that draw the energy out of them. They go from being energetic engaged individuals that were hired to make the restaurant outstanding to basic order takers. Unless the restaurant concept has a strong ethnic theme where a specific style of dress reinforces the concept, there should be no reason the service team should not be stylish.

When deciding on a uniform style, take the Shopping Mall test. Have the manager put on the final uniform selection and walk around the closest shopping mall for an hour to see how it feels. If they feel embarrassed and odd, just imagine how the servers will feel wearing it daily. Get the team involved in the selection process and spend the extra time to get the uniforms fitted properly. If the team feels confident about their appearance, that will easily reflect in the service they provide to guests and be a major contributor to your overall ambiance.

What does the guest hear as they get comfortable in your restaurant? The music playing should directly correlate to your concept and target guest. There is great latitude in this area and it can play a prominent role in defining your concept. Gone are the days when soft jazz was the unavoidable default for restaurants. It’s ok to play the Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters in a Steakhouse or Red Hot Chili Peppers and Twenty One Pilots in a hip urban Ramen house. It all depends on the strength of the concept and the target guest you want to attract. Based on your concept, the volume needs to be at the appropriate level. Some concepts may require a louder vibe while others more subdued. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hear the music but not clearly hear the words.

I was speaking to a very talented restaurateur and he mentioned that each night in his restaurant they designate an “Ambassador of Vibe”. This person (could be a hostess, server or bartender) is responsible to ensure the right music is on for the right guests at the right volume and the lighting is right throughout the night. They are, in a sense, the host of the party. So if they notice it’s a consistently younger crowd for happy hour, they may alternate the music selection and change it as the crowd evolves during the evening to more dining centric. They own and manage the vibe of the space. It’s a brilliant concept and has applicability everywhere regardless of your concept.

Regardless of location, price point or positioning, all restaurants and bars must smell clean and fresh as the guest enters. There is nothing worse that entering a space and smelling stale beer or skunky drains. Many restaurants do an outstanding job of drawing guests in with aroma, whether it is a sweet smelling cinnamon bun, wood burning grill or roasting meats. All these tactics are extremely effective to set the tone and expectations for the guest. The last thing a restaurant should have is a manufactured scent machine that is not related to the food. A restaurant’s projected scent needs to positively reinforce the culinary experience they are going to receive or should simply smell clean and fresh.

Touch is one of the most underrated yet intimate ways we can communicate to our guest. When a guest is handed a menu, they immediately notice if the menu is pristine or not. If a paper menu is used, the weight and texture of the paper sends an immediate message to set an expectation of the experience. Is the menu printed on cheap copier paper that looks like it has been left in the rain or is it on a textured heavy-weight paper in pristine condition? If using a menu folder or book, is it spotless? Are all the pages in correctly? Are there smudges? All these little messages play a subtle role in your guests beginning to form an opinion if whether they will like your restaurant or not.

The same is true for the table top selections. Is the napkin correct for the concept with the right feel and texture or is it a generic napkin from the local laundry service? In some cases, it may be fine to use a generic napkin; but, it is to your advantage to reinforce your concepts’ attributes at every guest interaction. In addition, the items chosen for the tabletop – flatware, plate styles, glassware and service utensils – all have a huge impact on perception. It is important to invest time to find the right solutions for your concept. Be careful not to chase the latest trendy plate style because soon everyone will have it and in no time and it will feel very dated. Remember what looks great sitting on the back table may be a nightmare for the guest. Before committing to a shipping pallet of product, consider tabletop sizes, service style, meal flow and how the guest eats food from it. Consider your options and budgets before finalizing decisions and avoid going too deep in the latest trendy style because you may soon regret it.

Ambiance is a very large, complex and important component of any successful restaurant. What has been detailed above is just the basic blocking and tackling. To take it to the next level, the messaging throughout the restaurant from the copy on the menu, business cards, website design to bathroom signs must all work together to tell your story. Everything must work together and when the restaurant is busy, this can easily be overlooked.

Visit your restaurant for the first time again. Take it all in and observe your lighting, music and aroma. Do the servers look sharp and stylish? Are the menus pristine? Does the serviceware make sense? It all plays together to define who you are and the better you are at it the more it will positively affect the guests’ perceptions of your restaurant and reinforce the concept positioning. It’s ok, turn the music up.

Why-Hotel-Restaurants-Struggle-Marketing

Why Hotel Restaurants Struggle: Marketing

Why-Hotel-Restaurants-Struggle-MarketingLou Trope, President, LJ Trope & Co. LLC

A great marketing program is the easiest way to kill a mediocre restaurant”. 

That is a very bold statement; but, unfortunately nothing could be truer. Restaurant marketing is very complex and relentless. In today’s competitive world of social media – Yelp, Eater, Thrillist, Urban Daddy, Twitter and Instagram and countless food bloggers – it can be overwhelming. Choosing and developing the right marketing strategy for a restaurant is crucial to reputation and success. In many cases, however; operators go down the path of least returns by selecting the trendy route because, “everyone else has it”, without realizing the time and effort required well as well as understanding the potential reach. A successful marketing strategy envelops everything from the language and tone used to greet the guest, the style of response to guest comments on social media to what local events the restaurant should participate in.

Let’s start with the basics. Before any marketing program is deployed, it is imperative that the restaurant is operating at its optimal level. The food quality, service experience, beverage program and ambiance must all be executed well and line up seamlessly to the concept positioning. At this point that 7-10 word elevator pitch to describe the restaurant concept should be boiler plate solid so that everyone that works and is involved in the restaurant can repeat it like a reflex and are truly able to passionately speak about the unique qualities of the restaurant that build the guests’ perceived value.

It is important to recognize that marketing plans are a long play; do not expect overnight results. It takes time and perseverance before tangible results start to appear. There are several stages to winning a new guest. First is just getting them to be aware that your restaurant exists. Then they must be persuaded to give you a try. The efforts getting a new guest to walk into your restaurant cannot be underestimated. Finally, it is your time to shine and provide an exceptional dining experience that makes them want to come back and tell their friends. Hopefully, if they continue to frequent the restaurant, they can be elevated to advocates – someone that is telling their friends, sharing your posts and bringing in new guests to dine.

Now it’s time to baby step the marketing plan. Step one is to win over the hotel staff and frequent guests. In a hotel environment, there is the luxury of having a hotel full of staff that are all potential advocates for the restaurant. From the front desk staff to the bell staff to the sales teams – all have interactions with guests multiple times a day and are frequently asked for recommendations. In this first step, it is critical to invite the team to experience the restaurant. Offer to do a menu tasting at their department meetings or create bounce back incentives for recommendations where the staff can bring their friends or family into the restaurant for a discount. Work with the team to share what you are doing, showcase the unique features and get the hotel team excited and proud of what is happening in the restaurant.

In addition, every hotel knows who their frequent guests are and should actively engage them in the process. These guests already have an allegiance to the property and/or the brand. Invite them to a menu tasting or serve them a complimentary dish that is in development for the new menu. Ask their opinions and get them involved in the process. If they are already connected to your property, in many cases you can take a transactional relationship to an emotional relationship. They will feel that they have played a valuable role for the restaurant and will become some of your greatest advocates.

Once the concept is ready, the team is excited and you are confident to deliver a fantastic experience, it is time to take it to the masses. At this point, it is critical to engage with a marketing professional. In many hotels, unfortunately, the restaurant marketing is left to the restaurant team. In some cases they do a very good job; but, this is rarely the case. Oftentimes, when speaking with the restaurant leader in charge of marketing, they will proudly show you how they spent the marketing budget on print ads for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day. Sound familiar? Although this may be considered a necessary act, one may want to consider the larger issues. Did these events actually make money or just break even? Also, how does this marketing strategy help fill seats in the restaurant the other 359 days of the year? This is why it is essential that a marketing professional team up with the restaurant team to build a comprehensive program using funds that are available. In most cases, the hotel restaurant marketing funds available are anemic when compared to an independent restaurant. In order to build the case to increase marketing funds, year over year progress must be shown in terms of increased covers, profits, acquisition of outside and new guests and positive results in reputation management.

Each hotel has a dedicated marketing team. However, typically because most hotel’s revenues and profits are generated by rooms operations, their efforts may be singularly focused to drive rooms revenues with little to no attention on food and beverage. Meet with the hotel’s Director of Marketing to discuss how they can assist and partner to build a marketing strategy for the restaurant. Ask if anyone on their team has specific experience in marketing restaurants. Depending on the amount of investment in the restaurant, the desired revenue, wishful reputation and positioning, it may be necessary to engage an outside marketing and PR team that specializes in restaurant marketing. Although this can be a costly undertaking, the benefit may outweigh the ongoing cost. All of this must be discussed with the leadership and ownership team with a clear business plan that justifies the investment. You must have confidence that the outcome will be beneficial and will exceed owner expectations.

In the case that utilizing an outside agency is out of the question and the marketing team does not have the resources, you may have to go at it alone. Shocking!

To begin, there are some basics that will need to be covered. Create a press kit for the restaurant that builds on the elevator pitch of the concept and its unique attributes; include a chef bio (include why she or he is the right chef for the concept and not just a rehash of the resume), a signature food recipe, a bio for the mixologist if it is important to the concept, a cocktail recipe and most importantly professional pictures. Create a unique format for the recipes that includes professional pictures, interesting anecdotes from the chef and complementary beverage recommendations. For the press kit, the team should absolutely engage with the marketing team or, at a minimum, a graphic designer to ensure that the style, design, language and tone are relevant to the target audience and professionally finished. These should be made and available for all press inquiries.

Next, it is time to decide where and how to get the message out to the potential target guests. In today’s complex world, it is very important to understand who the influencers are in the segment where you compete. These can be local writers, bloggers, sophisticates, trend setters, or frequent local guests – it’s always different. It is also beneficial to take a deep look at your competition to see what strategies they are successfully deploying to get their message out to the public. Once the influencers have been identified, it is time to start building relationships. Invite them to the restaurant and have the chef prepare a tasting menu to talk about all the special things in the restaurant. Continue to build the relationship through the year by inviting them to menu development sessions and send them unsolicited seasonal recipes for food and cocktails that they may be of interest. Become a resource for them and grow the relationship.

Now, it is time to reach out and become part of your local community. It goes back to grass roots marketing efforts to win guests one at a time. Don’t waste your efforts trying to get national attention when the goal should be to become a staple in the neighborhood. No hotel restaurant can survive on merely hotel guests; so it is critical to get the local community engaged with your restaurant. It is the locals in the restaurant that will give it the authentic feel that most hotel guests crave when traveling to new cities. To gain local recognition, reach out to influential organizations, become part of the local chef’s movement and participate in local and regional events that align with the restaurant positioning. Develop programs that make the locals feel special and want to spend time at the restaurant.

When discussing social media, many operators will go right to a setting up a Website, Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram site. This is acceptable if you are active and have followers. Again, this can be a very time consuming undertaking with little return. It requires planning and resources so the restaurant becomes something interesting to followers and not just a repetitive flow of “Come in for Happy Hour” solicitations with bad food shots taken with someone’s phone. Any social media program must be carefully planned and managed to be interesting and valuable to the follower. Keeping in mind that less than 10% of your followers will ever walk into the restaurant in any given year, it is imperative that resources are allocated to get the best return.

In any social media campaign, it is important to create a conversation to get guests engaged and curious regarding what is happening at the restaurant. This can be done by creating seasonal newsletters, sharing recipes, having the chef provide comments on the local farmers market or sharing insights from a local fisherman that services the restaurant. Those that are more adventurous can do crowdsourcing polls to obtain ideas for new items to be added to the menu or to build new menu items or cocktails and have social media followers vote on the items or ingredients used. It’s all about engagement and creating interest.

In many instances, the best marketing efforts may be to monitor reputation and maximize exposure on online booking agents like OpenTable. Understand how to better maximize the restaurant’s performance, drive business to soft times and increase guest mix. Read and respond to reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zagat and learn from them. Do not give the typical “Thanks for your comment, we will try harder” response. Provide real customized responses. Share these with your team and invite guests back. Although at times guest feedback can be a difficult to swallow, consider it a gift to improve your offering and potentially win the guest back.

A well designed marketing plan, successfully executed against a great restaurant, will only get more complex as it grows. Once the restaurant starts to achieve success and recognition, the desire for information and access will only grow. This is a fantastic problem to have but nonetheless, it takes time, resources and finesse. In the end, it’s all about winning guests one at a time and making sure that every experience is memorable.

While looking at new ways to attract potential guests, don’t forget that the most important guest you have is the one in the dining room right now.

Why-Hotel-Restaurants-Struggle-Personal-Preference-over-Guests-Needs

Why Hotel Restaurants Struggle: Personal Preference over Guests’ Needs

Why-Hotel-Restaurants-Struggle-Personal-Preference-over-Guests-NeedsLou Trope, President, LJ Trope & Co. LLC.

Things change, people change and guests’ needs change over time. As an operator one must always look forward and keep their eye on shifts in demographics, spending habits, market forces and countless other factors that can have an impact on their business. In the hotel restaurant, however, one of the biggest factors that can bring monumental change to an operation is a change in leadership.

A new Chef, Restaurant General Manager, Director of Food and Beverage or even hotel General Manager can singularly change the concept or direction of a restaurant because “it’s not what they do and they need to put their mark on it”. Think about it. Many times when a new Chef, Restaurant General Manager or Director of Food and Beverage arrives at a new property, one of the first things they will want to do is change the direction of the restaurant. Typically, this is a completely personal decision with little formal analysis, evaluation of the existing operation or competitive forces in the market. They are motivated because “things just aren’t working” but generally there is little effort put into diving deep into the operation and really understanding what could be the root causes impeding the restaurant’s success.

This is an anomaly in the business world because there is no other business where a new manager can come in and arbitrarily decide on a different direction for the business. Just imagine if you went into your favorite athletic shoe store to buy a new pair of running shoes and find out the new manager took it in a different direction and suddenly they are selling only cowboy boots. However, the name, people and ambiance is relatively all the same. Doesn’t make much sense, but it happens every day in hotel restaurants. People don’t do this on purpose to hurt the business. They truly believe that they are doing the right thing to make things better and build on a grand plan; but without a deep understanding of the business, market dynamics, financial requirements and finger on the pulse of the industry, it is like shooting fireworks. The restaurant may have some initial success and “look pretty for a moment”; but, in many cases, it ends up falling short of expectations.

Imagine the guest’s experience. They have been going to the same restaurant on a regular basis and come in for a meal expecting the modern Italian cuisine that they have come to know. When they arrive, they see the menu is now New Orleans inspired because that’s where the new chef is from and he has some great recipes. The restaurant has the same name, the same servers, the same uniforms and the place looks the same, but the product is very different. Every time a hotel restaurant makes a drastic shift in concept, most of the frequent guests are lost and new effort must be undertaken to attract new guests and retain previous guests. This is not to say that the food is not very good, but it is not what is expected. This requires a well-planned strategic marketing campaign to clarify the message on how the restaurant is different even though it is still the same in many ways.

It’s not just Chefs that make these types of changes to hotel restaurants. The Restaurant General Manager, Director of Food and Beverage and yes, even the Hotel General Manager, can all have a hand in steering the restaurant to their personal likings. For example, many times a new front of house leader will come in and they will not agree with the direction of the wine program. Again, this is generally done with little or no understanding of the current wine sales mix. So, they begin to purchase new wine that reflects their passion, reformat the list, change the wine by-the-glass selection and do an intensive training program on the new wines. This is great! The team will be well versed on new wines and ready to engage the guest. However, odds are that when an inventory is taken of the wine in storage, there will be many wines (could be from this menu revision or earlier) that are not even listed on the new list. This is a sunk cost and the wine will remain in inventory with no opportunity to be sold until someone either does a special to “blow out” the inventory or gives the wine to the kitchen to “cook it off”. Needless to say, this is not the most effective way to manage the inventory or cash flow.

All of these people have the best intentions in mind of how to better the business but are taking the wrong approach. It’s a given that nothing ever stays the same and as a responsible manager and custodian of the business, one must always improve the experience and the business. It is the operator’s responsibility to adopt, be nimble and most importantly to be smart. The restaurant concept is the foundation of the business and must be protected and enhanced over time. All decisions proposed for the restaurant must be evaluated for their appropriateness in regard to the existing concept. Just because on Top Chef last night they did great dim sum dishes doesn’t mean it applies to your restaurant and should be the nightly special. Even if the Hotel General Manager or in some cases the owner’s Asset Manager likes sushi doesn’t mean it applies to your restaurant. The restaurant concept must always be the true north for all decisions.

As an operator, one must be vigilant in growing and enhancing the business. Even through things may be performing well, one must be constantly asking: Is the space being fully utilized? Are there guests’ needs that are being overlooked? Are you overlooking shifts in your target guest’s dining habits? Is there a new competitor that can steal share? As an operator, these are the types of triggers that should initiate change. A typical restaurant concept has a useful life of about 5-7 years; however, some last much longer. Regardless, it is the management’s responsibility to constantly refine their story and concept. At some point it will be time to change the concept and possibly move some walls. When that time does arrive, it is imperative to build out a strong proposal to ownership that demonstrates a strong understanding of the market, the competitive set and provides clear direction for the new concept based on shifting guest needs or market conditions. Valid financial analysis and projections as well as estimated project costs, from construction, lost revenue during renovation, opening costs and the marketing campaign, must also be determined.

Operating a hotel restaurant is no easy task and comes with its own set of unique challenges. It’s a very fast moving industry that changes constantly and the temptation to change the restaurant direction as a quick fix is always present. It’s not uncommon that every year during budget discussions, the topic of changing the restaurant concept will be brought up. However, the best fix is to be vigilant on the integrity of the restaurant concept regardless of leadership changes and put the right team in place to nurture, understand and improve the restaurant experience on a daily basis while continuously refining the concept. There are many very successful hotel restaurants that rival their independent competitors and are leaders in their market. It’s a long road to success; but, by ensuring that every guest experience is special, the food is always great and the operators truly understand the business dynamics of their restaurant, any hotel restaurant can achieve the success it aspires to achieve.

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Why Hotel Restaurants Struggle: Price vs. Reality

why-hotel-restaurants-struggle-price-vs-realityLou Trope, President LJ Trope & Co. LLC

Hotel restaurants have long had the reputation for being overpriced and rightfully so. Most of them deserve it. Recently, several hotel companies have acknowledged this negative consumer perception of their restaurants and have made strategic moves to be more approachable in the pricing. Yet the question remains why do so many hotel restaurants still believe that they can charge top of the market prices without delivering a comparable experience and still expect to have a successful business? Are they being pushed by ownership, by the hotel General Manager to raise prices or are they just simply out of touch with reality?

Taking a closer look it’s important to acknowledge that hotel restaurants do, in most cases, pay higher wages and benefits and that this may influence the need for higher prices. But on the flip side they do not pay rent or utilities on their space as an independent restaurant would so this may be a wash. In many cases they also have the potential for banquet and event business that can provide a positive “cushion” to the operation. So why is pricing out of line?

Recently, I was visiting a hotel and the General Manager was very proud to share how they casually increased the menu prices in the restaurant and had seen a subsequent rise in average check. In reality this kind of short term solution for a quick increase in revenue quickly fades. Following price increases on the menu, guests may have a subtle case of sticker shock but continue on with the meal while looking to see what has changed to justify the price increase.Typically, unless something substantially has changed to improve the experience they may politely pay their bill, tell their friends about the increase and not return. A clear understanding of the value proposition being delivered to the guest is essential. Simply raising prices without improving on the guests experience, service delivery or quality levels erodes the guests’ perceived benefits driving current frequent guests to seek alternative choices.

The value proposition is the guests’ perception of the benefit the restaurant provides and does uniquely well. It is imperative to have a clear understanding of what makes a restaurant attractive to guests. Just because the hottest restaurant in town is charging $46 for entrees doesn’t permit a free pass for all restaurants in town to do the same. A thorough examination must be given to how their value proposition is being delivered taking into consideration ambiance, location, quality, service levels, design, crowd being attracted and reputation In addition careful scrutiny and understanding of what your guests are currently buying is imperative. Many operators conveniently ignore menu results if they are not telling the story they want to believe and negatively affect their perceived perception of the restaurant. A friendly hint, “you are not a hot cutting edge restaurant if you only do 30 covers a night”. As they say numbers don’t lie.

The same holds true when pricing and positioning beverage menus. We’ve all seen it on menus, the hotel lobby bar charging $375 for a bottle of Dom Perignon. This is fine if the hotel and lobby bar is positioned to draw that level of clientele, has the right vibe, is buzzing, and provides the appropriate service. However, if it is a typical hotel lobby bar, it would beg the question why is this being offered and who would buy it? Presumably, when that “once-a-year” order is placed, it takes twenty minutes to have it delivered because someone needs to find the manager to contact security to open up the storeroom to locate the bottle. . Sound familiar? Why have it? Does it improve the guest value proposition?

In the end, it all comes down to the elementary economic theory of margin vs. volume. Simply put, the lower the margin the higher the volume and vice versa. Operators need to clearly understand the optimal balance for the operation and where the breakeven point lies. Many operators will brag about high margins but a look in their restaurant is likely to reveal twice as many empty seats to occupied seats and low quality food to save costs. The goal should always be to find the optimal balance between margin and volume that ensures the operation is maximizing the opportunity of the space both in revenue, profit and guest experience. End of the day high margin on low revenue brings little dollars to the bottom line.

In many cases opting for a lower margin with higher volume is an optimal solution for several reasons. First, the higher volume provides better penetration into the market, capturing share and the opportunity to build reputation. Second, greater volume brings in more profit dollars, it will be at a lower margin but it is still more dollars. Additionally with the higher volume the fixed labor and set up costs are covered. Third, with higher volume product is moving faster, is fresher which hopefully results in less waste making the operation more efficient. Finally, with higher volumes, servers have the ability to make more tips which may ultimately reduce turnover and attract the best in the market to join your team.

In some cases a high margin, low volume strategy may be the right fit. However, this is for restaurants that provide a very unique product and are in markets that may have high barriers to entry. Regardless, there is a breakeven point that will need to be identified to know when fixed costs are satisfied and profit can begin to flow. Every restaurant, regardless of price strategy, should know exactly what revenue number must be achieved to begin the flow of profit. Keep in mind that a high margin, low volume operation may be an indicator that you are missing growth opportunities.

Each operation must decide with their leadership team and ownership group where the optimal balance falls within the margin volume conundrum. Once this is agreed upon, a clear strategic plan should be developed to achieve these goals. This requires defined goals for daily covers, quarterly or monthly sales/profit goals, reputation management and average check backed up with clear training programs to give the entire team the skills and tools to achieve these goals. In addition, verified analytical and business intelligence tools should be utilized to monitor the agreed upon metrics to identify positive and negative trends and take corrective action when necessary.

Many hotel or free standing restaurant operators fail to acknowledge that the single biggest cost in any restaurant is an empty seat. It is an extremely perishable product, every hour a seat sits empty is lost revenue never to be recovered. The pricing strategy you apply in the restaurant will have a direct correlation to number of empty or full seats. Consequently, the focus should be to ensure that each seat is filled, and turned as often as possible.

Many operators will reason that restaurant breakfast sales have dropped because of the “Starbucks” phenomenon which suggests that guests prefer a grab and go breakfast option. Is this really true, or is it more likely that guests can’t imagine paying $22 for eggs and toast? Or that they would rather leave the hotel than pay $46 for Sea Bass and $24 for a glass of Chardonnay? You will need to decide for yourself but those empty chairs are sure expensive!

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Why Hotel Restaurants Struggle: Ambiance

why-hotel-restaurants-struggle-ambianceLou Trope, President LJ Trope & Co. LLC

Ambiance is one area where many hotel restaurants struggle; yet it is one of the most impactful components that defines the concept and solidifies the restaurant’s reputation. A lackluster and mundane ambiance, even in the best designed space, can easily undermine all the efforts of a talented culinary or bar team. When thinking about ambiance, most will say its lighting and music. However, it is much much more. When thinking about ambiance with regard to the guest’s experience, consider everything that touches their senses aside from taste – sight, sound, smell and touch and how it all works together to create a differentiated memorable guest experience.

Consider what does the guest experience when they enter your restaurant? Let’s start with lighting. The basics are lights are brighter during the day then darken as the evening sets in. Unfortunately, too many times a restaurant will have their lights as bright as a hospital waiting room in the evening. Usually when this is the case, it is because they do not have a dimmer system or know how to work it. If your restaurant does not have a dimmer system, try to turn off sections, use candles or bring in floor lights. Anything you can do to help soften the space and create some type of mood that matches your concept will be beneficial in the long run.

Also take a look at your bar. Are there pin spots on your premium bottles on your back bar or are your bottles hiding in the shadows? Is your bar a beacon as guests approach? If you do not have lighting on your back bar, consider installing a rail of pin spots or placing some battery operated tea candles or pop lights behind the bottles to illuminate the bar. Let the guest see those premium bottles.

As the server approaches the table what does the guest see? Do they see a stylish well-dressed informed energized person ready to engage in a meaningful experience? Or, do they see a person walking over in a loose-fitting, frumpy expected hotel restaurant uniform with the obligatory hotel name tag hanging off their ill-fitting shirt? Hopefully, it’s the first. Unfortunately, for some reason, many hotels are determined to take bright energetic servers and put them in the most repugnant uniforms that draw the energy out of them. They go from being energetic engaged individuals that were hired to make the restaurant outstanding to basic order takers. Unless the restaurant concept has a strong ethnic theme where a specific style of dress reinforces the concept, there should be no reason the service team should not be stylish.

When deciding on a uniform style, take the Shopping Mall test. Have the manager put on the final uniform selection and walk around the closest shopping mall for an hour to see how it feels. If they feel embarrassed and odd, just imagine how the servers will feel wearing it daily. Get the team involved in the selection process and spend the extra time to get the uniforms fitted properly. If the team feels confident about their appearance, that will easily reflect in the service they provide to guests and be a major contributor to your overall ambiance.

What does the guest hear as they get comfortable in your restaurant? The music playing should directly correlate to your concept and target guest. There is great latitude in this area and it can play a prominent role in defining your concept. Gone are the days when soft jazz was the unavoidable default for restaurants. It’s ok to play the Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters in a Steakhouse or Red Hot Chili Peppers and Twenty One Pilots in a hip urban Ramen house. It all depends on the strength of the concept and the target guest you want to attract. Based on your concept, the volume needs to be at the appropriate level. Some concepts may require a louder vibe while others more subdued. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hear the music but not clearly hear the words.

I was speaking to a very talented restaurateur and he mentioned that each night in his restaurant they designate an “Ambassador of Vibe”. This person (could be a hostess, server or bartender) is responsible to ensure the right music is on for the right guests at the right volume and the lighting is right throughout the night. They are, in a sense, the host of the party. So if they notice it’s a consistently younger crowd for happy hour, they may alternate the music selection and change it as the crowd evolves during the evening to more dining centric. They own and manage the vibe of the space. It’s a brilliant concept and has applicability everywhere regardless of your concept.

Regardless of location, price point or positioning, all restaurants and bars must smell clean and fresh as the guest enters. There is nothing worse that entering a space and smelling stale beer or skunky drains. Many restaurants do an outstanding job of drawing guests in with aroma, whether it is a sweet smelling cinnamon bun, wood burning grill or roasting meats. All these tactics are extremely effective to set the tone and expectations for the guest. The last thing a restaurant should have is a manufactured scent machine that is not related to the food. A restaurant’s projected scent needs to positively reinforce the culinary experience they are going to receive or should simply smell clean and fresh.

Touch is one of the most underrated yet intimate ways we can communicate to our guest. When a guest is handed a menu, they immediately notice if the menu is pristine or not. If a paper menu is used, the weight and texture of the paper sends an immediate message to set an expectation of the experience. Is the menu printed on cheap copier paper that looks like it has been left in the rain or is it on a textured heavy-weight paper in pristine condition? If using a menu folder or book, is it spotless? Are all the pages in correctly? Are there smudges? All these little messages play a subtle role in your guests beginning to form an opinion if whether they will like your restaurant or not.

The same is true for the table top selections. Is the napkin correct for the concept with the right feel and texture or is it a generic napkin from the local laundry service? In some cases, it may be fine to use a generic napkin; but, it is to your advantage to reinforce your concepts’ attributes at every guest interaction. In addition, the items chosen for the tabletop – flatware, plate styles, glassware and service utensils – all have a huge impact on perception. It is important to invest time to find the right solutions for your concept. Be careful not to chase the latest trendy plate style because soon everyone will have it and in no time and it will feel very dated. Remember what looks great sitting on the back table may be a nightmare for the guest. Before committing to a shipping pallet of product, consider tabletop sizes, service style, meal flow and how the guest eats food from it. Consider your options and budgets before finalizing decisions and avoid going too deep in the latest trendy style because you may soon regret it.

Ambiance is a very large, complex and important component of any successful restaurant. What has been detailed above is just the basic blocking and tackling. To take it to the next level, the messaging throughout the restaurant from the copy on the menu, business cards, website design to bathroom signs must all work together to tell your story. Everything must work together and when the restaurant is busy, this can easily be overlooked.

Visit your restaurant for the first time again. Take it all in and observe your lighting, music and aroma. Do the servers look sharp and stylish? Are the menus pristine? Does the serviceware make sense? It all plays together to define who you are and the better you are at it the more it will positively affect the guests’ perceptions of your restaurant and reinforce the concept positioning. It’s ok, turn the music up.

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Why Hotel Restaurants Struggle: OK is OK

why-hotel-restaurants-struggle-ok-is-okLou Trope, President LJ Trope & Co. LLC

Odds are whether it is a luxury hotel, a boutique hotel or a full-service convention center hotel, the burger is the top seller. Although many operators will deny it, this pedestrian product has proven to outsell their culinary masterpieces. The fact is, in most cases, the burger wins; just check the numbers.

So the question is, if the burger is the top selling item have you done everything in your power to make sure it is the best burger in town, in the state, in the country? If not, why?

If it is the most popular item on your menu, why not ensure you find the best grind and the perfect bun, have the absolute best accompaniments, master the preparation and make sure the fries are “oh my” good? Why don’t you have the best burger in town? It has nothing to do with cost or size of the patty. Think about places like Five Guys, In-n-Out or Shake Shack; not a huge patty but really great burgers with people waiting in lines. It’s about making the commitment that OK is NOT OK.

Go into any restaurant and ask the server “What’s good?”. Odds are they will tell you their favorites and some will give you some insight on what to avoid. So how could something ever get on a menu that the guest should avoid? Equally important is that if the menu counts show that something is a consistently poor performer, how does it stay on the menu? It comes down to diligence and tenacity.

As an operator, I told my chefs when we were doing menu development that I would only ask them one question; “Is it great?”. If the answer was not an immediate “yes!”, it did not go on the menu until it got it to great. If it didn’t make it to great, it never made the menu. When reviewing menus either existing or in development you need to ask “Is it great?”.

A good way to do this is by rating the quality of food on a 1-10 scale. When doing menu development, if a menu item is less than an 8 it needs to get reworked until it gets a 9-10 rating. If it is unable to get past an 8, it should not be anywhere near your final menu. This goes for all meal periods with no exception. OK is NOT OK

The same is true for menu counts. When Jack Welch was CEO of General Electric, every year he eliminated the bottom 10%. The same should hold true for your menu; if items are not performing, they should be replaced. There is always the response that there needs to be a vegetarian or gluten-free item on the menu which certainly makes sense. The key is to create a dish that is amazing so that everyone wants to have it – not just those who are vegetarians or on a gluten-free diet. Just because it is prepared to meet dietary restrictions does not mean it cannot be fantastic. The same rules apply for all menu items.

This approach should also be taken with the beverage program – the house wine, the well spirits and the cocktail program. Just because a wine is a house pour or a spirit is a well spirit does not mean that it should be the cheapest possible regardless of taste and quality. These are all reflections on your restaurant brand and your positioning.

Let’s not forget the cocktail program. Making a cocktail is like baking, where exact measurements are crucial to the outcome. You would never make bread without measuring the ingredients and the same holds true for cocktails. All drinks should be carefully crafted using recipes and the best possible ingredients that support the concept from fresh juices, proper mixes and appropriate spirits using consistent techniques. In development, all proposed drinks should be tasted and rated; anything less than an 8 should be reworked or eliminated. The beverage program is equally as important as the food program and should be put through the same rigorous process to achieve the desired quality. Because OK is NOT OK.

We have all been there as operators and as guests, you look at a menu and can’t decide what to have because you know everything is great and that’s a fantastic feeling. It’s not an easy place to get to and in some cases takes months and even longer; but once you are there, it is so worth it. The guest will know, the team will know and your bottom line will know. It doesn’t matter if it is a burger, Buffalo wings, pancakes, black cod or a foie gras torchon; everything should be rigorously tested to be the best it can be. So no matter how difficult it may be, just know OK is NOT OK.

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Why Hotel Restaurants Struggle: Focus

why-hotel-restaurants-struggle-focusLou Trope, President, LJ Trope & Co.llc

Hotel restaurants have long been the angst of owners and operators. Although some are very successful, there is the large majority that struggle to make a slim margin or none at all.

We see it all the time, the hotel is running at a high occupancy yet there is a stream of guests walking out of the door. Sure there are the common excuses, “they have been here all day and need to get out of the building” or “they ate here for breakfast they don’t want to come back to the same place”. Although these may be valid, they are merely excuses that mask the fact that the restaurant is not relevant. The fact is that if the restaurant was successfully operating a clearly defined concept that resonated with a defined target guest there would not only be hotel guests filling up the room but also locals.

So it begs the question, why is this so? Well, it’s not an easy issue to solve and has many contributing factors to address. However, let’s start with the obvious. Lack of focus. The restaurant has no clear concept, no understanding how to execute at a reasonable level and/or no reason for being there except to be an amenity for guests who need something to eat and doesn’t want to venture out of the hotel. It is basically a ship without a rudder just there going along with no clear direction.

The easiest way to determine if this is an issue is simply ask the team. Go to the servers, cooks, front desk, bellmen, concierge, chef and managers. Ask them to describe the restaurant in 7-10 words. Odds are there will be a wide range of different responses. Also, ask the General Manager the same question, once again in most cases they will respond with a completely different answer. So it’s no wonder the restaurant is struggling. The classic hotel restaurant criticism is that it tries to be all things to all people and ends up being nothing to anyone. This is the brutal reality to many operators.

A successful restaurant needs to understand who it is. Although it sounds simple it is not always the case. A restaurant that describes itself as “ a regionally defined restaurant with seasonal menus, caring service and a welcoming atmosphere”, still has no identity. Descriptions like this are very common and mean nothing and have no relevance to the guest. A more appropriate description would be, “We are a Pacific Northwest Seafood Grill”, “ A California Bistro”, “A High Energy Sports Bar”, “ An Italian Inspired Coffee House”, “A Road Side Burger Joint”. In other words keep it simple.

Once the direction has been clearly defined it is time to start asking the hard questions. Some simple questions to ask yourself and the team to help clarify the concept are:

“ Why are you better?”

“How are your different?”

“Why should I, as a guest come to your restaurant?”

One the surface it appears simple; however they are not easy questions to answer and in most cases the first answer is not always the right answer. These are not questions that require a three minute dissertation; these are one sentence concise answers. Stating “ We are better because our food is better”; odds are that this is not the case. Take a hard look at the competitive set in the local market. Depending on the segment you are competing in food quality is a point of parity, meaning that most competitors offer a similar level of good food quality. A common response from a steakhouse restaurants is that they have a great wine list. Well, I would challenge you to name a steakhouse that does not have a great wine list. The real question is how is the wine list different from the competition and more importantly does the guest care? Is this a competitive advantage?

So what does success look like? Very simple, ask the guests. Ask them why they come to your restaurant, what they like and what you do that is different from the competition that makes them come back. More importantly, will they come back? Keep in mind that a competitive advantage that defines the concept may have nothing to do with the food. It could be a great view, convenient location to meet with groups, free wi-fi, an amazing beverage program, or super knowledgeable team. The goal is to leverage those guest insights into something real and tangible. Make sure you take an expansive view to help define the special appeal and if nothing is showing it may be time to take a deeper more critical look at the business.

Obviously, this is a very simplistic approach to defining a strong restaurant concept which would include a deep understanding of the competitive set, market positioning, a realistic assessment of the talent pool and strategic plan to achieve financial success. However, it is a great way to get a gut check. Are we in the business we think we are? If not what can we do to help define who we are, deliver the offering the guest expects and in some cases showcase an offering to the guests that has not been offered in the past. This is not a one stop solution to success but it is a great first step in getting a better understanding of the restaurant and more importantly what the guest expects.