Is this Your Hero’s Journey to Restaurant Success?

You’ve seen the story in Hollywood movies, adventure novels and the rags-to-riches business stories. They often follow a classic structure called ‘The Hero’s Journey’ – it’s been used since mythological times.

Here’s how the structure works (watch the video first), and think about what parts of it you could share with customers and staff – they love to be inspired. We often overlook the way our own story would fascinate and inspire others. Each step along the journey could be a short blog or Facebook post, building the adventure and your status as a business hero. Seriously!

Life in the Ordinary World – the regular job, the same routine, but there’s a dream you have about your own cafe, bar or restaurant.

Get a Call to Adventure – you travel and your eyes open, or hear about someone just like you who’s started a business. Daily life may be feeling a bit ordinary, so this call is all the more tempting. Maybe you see a cafe that’s closed and the landlord is desperate…

First Refuse the Call – you weigh up the ideas, and decide that because of money, responsibilities or the opinions of friends, it’s not the right decision.

Meet the Mentor or Sage – a person who challenges you and shares new insights. You talk first-hand with some successful operators, attend some business courses or read books that show that this dream can be a reality.

Cross the Threshold to Adventure – it’s time to quit the job, take out a loan, or take on a new job where you’ll be working in a cafe or bar and learning how a good business operate.

Tests, Allies and Enemies – the work is harder than you thought, and setup is more expensive than imagined. Government approvals and uncaring landlords stand in the way – you learn new skills at negotiating. Your enthusiasm and positive outlook also wins you friends in unexpected places.

Overcome Fear of the Innermost Cave – you sign the lease on premises, for a length and cost that’s much greater than anything you’ve ever committed to. What if you lose everything? 😮

Face the Supreme Ordeal – the first year in business is hard! Long, long hours, you don’t see friends, relationships may not survive and you have to find more financial help. Customers are indifferent to what you thought would be a great concept, but you’re constantly adapting and finding out what does work. You move to a smaller apartment to save costs.

Reward for Hard Work – it’s two years later and you are now generating a good profit, creditors are happy and customer numbers are improving all the time. There are good reviews and a solid team of committed staff.

The Road Back to Life – it’s time to find more balance in your life and reconnect with family, your health and the area you live in. You take the first holiday you’ve had since you started the new business.

Resurrection as a New Person – maybe there’s a new relationship, you move to a more comfortable home, go back to the gym or start a regular morning walk. You’re listening to music again, and can afford the concerts you’ve always wanted to attend. You have a holiday to Japan, Paris and New York  – all eye-opening experiences. You make new friends who are successful like you – previous friends have dropped away, because they don’t understand your new priorities.

Return to Where You Started. But things will never be the same again – you still love your family, friends and staff, but see them  with new eyes. They see you are different – some miss the ‘old you’, and most of them love the new maturity, wisdom and prosperity you’ve created.

Short video honours the hard work of Kitchen Hands…

This Canadian documentary spends time with the kitchen hands at several Montreal restaurants, highlighting the fast, heavy and relentless pace of their work.

Without them there are no clean plates, no pans for chefs to cook with, no clean floors or cutlery for the table. It’s a job often done by people of colour and the marginalised, showing how the hierarchy still works in manual labour. We say we ‘couldn’t live without them’, but they’re rarely given a proper uniform or a bearable, efficient work space. Ever worked in one of those plastic aprons in a hot space? It’s tough.

The video gives an unflinching view of this hard labour, and the humanity of the people who do it…

The Restaurant Management Blogs I’m Finding Most Useful…

Have to admit I’m an information glutton, and part of my job as Community Manager at Silver Chef is to keep employees updated on what’s happening in the wider hospitality community. Generally I prefer to follow blogs and twitter, instead of receiving email newsletters – here are the ones I find most useful at the minute. And I’m very open to suggestions…

Aaron Allen, Quantified Marketing Group – blogging on restaurant marketing internationally

Jim Sullivan of Sullivision – blogging on restaurant management

David Scott Peters, Restaurant Expert – blogging on restaurant management

Typsy, online staff training – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Toast Tab – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Restaurant Insider – blogging on restaurant management & marketing

Ask a Manager – blogging on general employment issues

Delaget – blogging on restaurant security

Retail Doctor’s Blog – always relevant to hospitality service

…and one where I write, apart from here 😉

Hospitality magazine – Australia’s leading restaurant magazine, and the articles are featured here, often as a video summary.

Restaurant Robotics – Two More Examples

We’ve already looked at robots cooking stirfy, and robots delivering plates.  Here are two more examples, both in early development but showing plenty of promise.

The Hiring Robot, with an improvement to the speech and intonation, would be good for a first interview. Asking questions verbally is likely to get more responses than a set of written questions. You’ve probably already related to ‘people’ like this when you make banking or airline inquiries.

It’s also early days for this robot Burger Maker, but it won’t take long for the process to be much smoother. Japanese precision food processing, like sushi-making machines, is already highly sophisticated. With this one it almost feels like the Americans are playing catch-up, and are creating the Disneyland version. Watch this space!

Dealing With Copycats…

Tell the truth – most restaurant and foodservice ideas are some version of what you’ve seen or eaten before. You could call it ‘creative swiping’ instead of copying or plagiarism, but it’s rare for any chef or restaurateur to create a full set of completely original ideas for a new menu or cocktail list. Remember that trip to Chicago, Bali or Barcelona – tasting, taking photos and dreaming up how you could do an Aussie version for your customers?

And sometimes true originality does happen – a magic combination of sauce, spice, protein and fire. An unusual chocolate cake, upside down ice-cream or lethal cocktail – the stuff that drives word-of-mouth, Instagram and crazy return customers.

What can be copied? A recipe, decoration and furniture ideas, a menu layout, fonts, website design or even a name – how many times have you seen an Aussie concept that copies a US original?

What can be stolen? Your chef, your manager, the best waiter and some of your customers…

READ the rest of my Copycat article on p.24 of this months Hospitality magazine

Bar and restaurant found in Madrid…

Restaurant Robotics – a Couple of Interesting Examples

There are more and more examples – these two intrigued me from the cooking and the service side. Maintaining consistency and quality, freeing up staff to have more interaction and quality time with customers or the food they are cooking.

In fact the revolution is well underway – hand-held ordering has eliminated errors and kept servers close to the customers, and kiosk ordering is gaining traction. What have you seen?

Cooking with robotic woks…

Bringing the food to the server…

And a couple more recent developments for Burgers and Interviews

Simple Ways to be a ‘Thought Leader’, Even If You Dislike the Term…

A recent comment on LinkedIn got me thinking:

“LinkedIn is an amazing B2B lead generating tool, but if you are not actively reaching out to prospects and showcasing your thought leadership through regular posting it’s unlikely that you will generate any quality leads…”

‘Thought Leader’ – can’t say I love the term, but I realised there are many ways to share ideas and observations, so people become interested in your experience and opinions. You will stand out because you put them out publicly.

Here are some suggestions to get started, and LinkedIn is a great platform for sharing most of your content. When people Google your name, the LinkedIn profile is usually the #1 entry, so it makes sense.

Share a photo or two of something interesting you’ve seen, with a comment about it’s relevance to the industry eg a new shopfront, a plate of new food, a bar design or some clever lighting. 1 photo + 2 sentences is all you need.

Take better photos with your phone. Concentrate on the lighting and composition, then crop and edit so it’s focused on the main subject. Find photos that tell a story eg the busy restaurant with staff flying past, or the untidy back-lane that gives a lesson about hygiene – this is a very visual industry.

Review places you like on TripAdvisor or Yelp – it gets you in the habit of writing and thinking about how businesses operate. 3 or 4 sentences is plenty, plus a photo if you have one.

Write in a positive tone, focusing on what is useful and interesting. If something is poor quality, talk about it being ‘disappointing’ or ‘not what you expected’. Explain why, and also find at least one positive. Don’t just describe things as ‘crap’ or ‘rubbish’ – only write what you’d say to someone’s face. If it’s really bad, write nothing and move on – negativity shows you up in a bad light.

Share interesting articles or videos you find online – this is much easier than writing everything yourself. It also shows that you’re watching industry trends – most people don’t have time to do this, and depend on people like you as ‘curators’. It’s an important role.

Focus on LinkedIn, and also consider having a separate Facebook business page and Instagram business profile. Keep your private Facebook profile firmly locked – don’t mix business and personal content. Here’s how I keep a  separate business Facebook Page.

Use good Facebook Groups to share information and opinions on the industry. I find the Australian Chef Network and the Australian Cafe Owners Network are excellent for this.

Build your confidence writing short posts and opinions, then you’ll be ready to write something longer… like this blog! Or submit opinion or knowledge pieces to trade magazines – they’re always after good, factual content.

Whether we like the term ‘thought leader’ or not, there’s a hunger by most people for industry information and thoughtful opinions. Put your fingers on the keyboard and start leading!


Understanding the Science of Timing – When to Take Action [Short Video]

Social psychologist Dan Pink has released a fascinating new book called When – the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

I love the way he does a massive amount of research, then presents his conclusions in an appealing way that can assist us all to be more effective. Here’s a short interview with Dan Pink about his research, and how to work out when is the optimal time to do our best work. Short videos like this are great discussion starters for staff development sessions…

Also check Dan Pink talking about his previous book Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

It’s World Backup Day – When Did You Do It Last?

March 31 is World Backup Day – and apparently 30% of people have never backed up their data, ever. Or maybe you did it a long, long time ago…which is equal to never. All your employment records, emails, sales data, recipes, booking information, customer lists, tax records, your website… let alone all the personal information and family photos. One in 10 computers is affected by viruses every month.

You need to be backing up to a local hard-drive, and a cloud service. I now use cloud-based service Backblaze, for a measly $50 per year. Very easy to set up, and it quietly backs up my new and changed data every hour, without me noticing. Double security, and highly recommended.

Imagine your laptop, phone, iPad and POS system all stolen or destroyed, or your system hijacked – what would it take to recover?

8 Enterprise Skills – the New Essentials for a Well-Paid Hospitality Career

The New Basics is a very interesting report on the Enterprise Skills young people need for the new work order. It’s been prepared by the Foundation for Young Australians, and they have a steady stream of good articles about work and wellbeing.

Enterprise Skills are transferable skills, and Technical Skills are those specific to a particular industry. It’s a good checklist for people who are thinking about moving into or out of hospitality, and finding a well-paid job.

I’ve had some recent conversations with chefs and managers about where they will take their careers after restaurant work – this is useful to see what they need to strengthen. I’m guessing #1 would be on most people’s improvement list…

I’ve taken the 8 Enterprise Skills they’ve listed (in the order of increased demand for these skills), and added some examples from hospitality – what else would you add under these headings?

  1. Digital Literacy – using business software, POS and cloud-based services, typing, Google searching, managing email, using photos and editing images, managing social media.
  2. Critical Thinking – comparing supplier quotes and proposals, weighing up options for menus and events, choosing between a number of job candidates, examining options for business changes.
  3. Creativity – recipe and menu development, music and entertainment, events, improving restaurant design and atmosphere, motivating staff in new ways.
  4. Problem Solving – handling conflict between staff, managing a sudden growth or decline in business, dealing with critical customers and staff not performing as expected.
  5. Financial Literacy – recipe and menu costing, working out wage costs, using a calculator and spreadsheet, reading POS reports, working out Return on Investment for equipment purchases, understanding a Profit & Loss statement.
  6. Presentation Skills – explaining changes to a team meeting, talking on your feet, presenting a new menu to senior management, justifying the cost and benefit of a proposal, using PowerPoint, talking to prospective employees eg school students.
  7. Communication – having a constructive conversation with staff, writing a report, expressing praise or dissatisfaction to a supplier or staff member, effective emails, having a good sales manner with prospective customers – phone and in person.
  8. Teamwork – organising and running a meeting, monitoring performance and results, supporting staff who are not performing, creating a team with a positive mix of skills and personalities.

The biggest increase in demand is for skills in 1, 2 and 3:  Digital Literacy, Critical Thinking and Creativity.