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.

Comparing motor racing and kitchen productivity: 1981 vs 2019

There’s a dramatic difference between these two – vital minutes in a highly competitive event.

I’m wondering how this compares to kitchen and restaurant productivity? What’s lost and gained in the much faster 2019 process?

Safety should not be compromised, given that everything is calibrated and practised many times. The staff (about the same number) in the later process may be less skilled – they do just one thing, very fast. Will flavour be compromised? The original ‘recipe’ is probably not the same as the 2019 one – a different result for different times and customer expectations.

Worth discussing with your team how this could apply to a busy bar or kitchen – what new equipment is needed to match the speed of modern motor racing? Share your thoughts in the comments…

Tax time coming up in Australia – what can you claim?

The Australian Tax Office has released a long list of concessions that can be claimed by small businesses – worth checking and discussing with your bookkeeper or accountant.

In addition, it’s worth relistening to these Profitable Hospitality podcast interviews on tax savings and concessions:

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

How to Get Work Instructions & Recipes Written Up Quickly & Cheaply

Two finger typist? You’re not alone, but when it comes to typing up the recipes in your black book, or preparing an instruction manual, it can be yet another excuse to put it off… again.

Two low-cost online services can do the work for you in a few hours – I use them, and find them fast and accurate.

1. Typing Up Notes with Fiverr

Fiverr is a service that does a wide range of small tasks, usually for about $5 each – photo or video editing, logo design, menu translations, fixing spreadsheets, resume writing and lots more. I recently used Fiverr to have 40 hand-written forms typed – it cost $US 11 and was done overnight! A job that would have taken me hours, or more likely never be done – I scanned them as a pdf and uploaded to Fiverr.

Have all your recipes typed: I know of chefs who have scanned their hand-written recipes and sent the images to a Fiverr typist. Use a PDF Scanner app on your phone, and as you photograph each page it turns into a pdf, adding one page after another.

Tip: send the person you are considering for the work a message with a sample page, to see how they handle it – can they read your writing? If you want the recipes set out in a particular way, give a sample with your instructions. The $5 fee is for a short job – expect to pay more for longer jobs, but it’s still way less than the value of your time.

2. Typed Notes from a Voice Recording

An interview with a staff member may need to be written up, or it could be quicker to read aloud instructions for your new Kitchen Systems Manual, have them transcribed, then tidied up in a Word document. Get the words out of your head and onto paper!

For these transcriptions, I recommend – a brilliant service that turns transcripts into recordings, usually within a few hours – all for $US 1 per minute! Use their recording app, or upload a recording you’ve done from the voice recorder on your phone. I recently had a 10 min. recording written up for $10, producing an 8 page document – something I could never have done myself. Another time I sent them the link to a fairly technical YouTube video, and shared the transcription with people who wanted to read it.

This is just the start of outsourcing the time-consuming jobs in your restaurant – start here and look around for lots more possibilities…

Also relevant: this Profitable Hospitality podcast on How to Outsource Hospitality Administration & Design Work.

How to Promote Harmony Week: 17-23 March

Harmony Week celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. Hospitality is uniquely placed to celebrate this event – we employ, and depend on people from so many countries. With a world in conflict, let’s promote the people who are the foundation of our business success. The dates coincide with the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Here are some celebration ideas…

  • Take lots of team photos – staff working, group shots, setting up, cooking and serving.
  • Share the photos on your Facebook page, Instagram and other social media accounts – take a few with people holding up a Harmony Day sign…
  • Make an extra feature of the kitchen – it’s often like the United Nations, and sometimes forgotten because they work behind the scenes. People are always fascinated by how kitchens work and the life of a chef.
  • Use the #harmonyday or #harmonyweek hashtags so others see your posts on Instagram and Twitter
  • Tell some team stories – about Ketut the chef from Bali, Connor the Irish manager or Mohammed the apprentice from Iran. It just needs a photo and a few sentences about when they came to Australia, where they trained and what they like about hospitality. Share them on your Facebook page, newsletter or website – these are the type of post that are shared widely.
  • Promote the event internally – sharing food, family photos and stories.
  • Tell the local paper about your great team, with a tie-in to Harmony Week. Talk about your business representing the face of modern Australia, with people from, for example, 12 nationalities serving more than 1500 customers every week.
  • Use the customisable posters and resources on the Harmony Week website.

There’s also a serious side to workforce diversity – be aware of the stress many staff are under with immigration and visas.

These processes are lengthy, complicated and expensive. It’s become an undignified political football, and the changes and politician rants are felt keenly by people who are waiting for permanency or citizenship. Your support and understanding will be greatly appreciated…

7 restaurant decoration ideas – make a splash without much cash

When you deal with thousands of customers a week, everything is on a BIG scale – and the decorations should be the same. If you want to make an impact, here are 7 ways to get tongues wagging and photos being taken (and shared).

100 balloons. Don’t waste money on helium to have them floating to the ceiling. It looks great, but the next day they’ll be sinking to the floor – all that money for only 24 hours. Instead, tie them onto strings, or a long ribbon. Blowing them up is a fun exercise for 3 or 4 people – stick to one or two colours, and the metallic gold or silver ones look very deluxe. They will last for a week, then remove – balloons are cheap.

BIG vase of flowers, preferably not like they have in a hotel foyer, but something more rustic – as if you grabbed 3 fabulous bunches from the markets. Here’s my collection of flowers in cafes, and you can see more of them on Instagram under #cafeflowers.

BIG decorations. Not Christmas decorations from the department store, but you’ll find them at specialty retail display shops – a giant red bow, massive red baubles or big red hearts for Valentines Day. Where you could use K-Mart decorations is filling big glass vases with shiny red or gold baubles – masses of one colour look great.

Old-fashioned Bunting. The coloured flags that were strung up for the village fairs of times gone by. Not plastic – go for the wonderful cotton ones from the Cotton Bunting Company. Buy several lengths, then roll them up to use again in a few months. The nautical flags are fun.

Fresh produce. Don’t hide all those bright red tomatoes, fresh lemons and shiny eggplants in the cool room. Put them in a big bowl on the counter or side table. Showing fresh is more believable than saying it.

Party lights. Strings of coloured lights are always available from a hardware, or the tiny white bud lights that we see everywhere at Christmas. For coloured lights, the cheap ones will make an impact, and if you can find them, brighter and bigger bulbs make a much bolder statement, especially in a big space. Same for bud lights – the K-Mart lights are OK in a small room, but brighter (and dearer) commercial ones will get the comments in a big courtyard or garden.

Chinese Paper Lanterns – they look wonderful illuminated, and are way beyond just being used in Chinese restaurants. Check the huge range at the Lantern Shop, and also buy the bulbs or strings of lights to illuminate them – can be very inexpensive. Ideal for an occasional splash, then fold them up for another six months.

Harassment: Urgent Action to Protect Your Restaurant Staff and Reputation

Sexual harassment is all over the news, and likely to remain there for some time to come. And as journalists and celebrities find the courage to speak up, everyday workers will also find the confidence to talk about their past experience, or draw the line on something they are going through right now. The smart restaurant manager or owner is doubling down on anti-harassment action  – here’s what I suggest:

  • Bring out your Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Bullying, and Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies and give everyone a printed copy in a plastic binder, with their name on it. This shows how seriously you take the issue. Don’t have one yet? The Profitable Hospitality downloadable versions are an excellent start. Put some extracts or quotes in poster form on the noticeboard.
  • Hold a number of short staff meetings where attendance is compulsory. Go through the policies line by line and invite questions and discussion. Listen more than you talk. Ask for examples of what people may have experienced at another workplace. Request that it not be named, but by talking about somewhere else, this can sometimes give people the confidence to take part in a discussion.
  • Talk about those jokes. It’s challenging for many people to accept that what they think is just funny, could be regarded as harassment by someone else. That joke about the apprentice’s new girlfriend? All the guys laugh, but how did the women in the kitchen react? Talk about his car instead, and respect his relationship. Does Sleazy Stan the barman need a private chat about his behaviour? Hopefully he’ll get the message and clean up or move on.
  • Be real. Acknowledge that you’re uncomfortable talking about this, but it’s in the news and you know people may have questions. Renew your ‘my door is always open for a private talk’ promise – provide your email and phone number. Is there a rumour you should act on, and reach out to someone vulnerable?
  • Explain that managers have a special responsibility. Meet separately and explain their duty of care, and how they should handle infractions. Get them to listen to this podcast interview on Reducing Sexual Harassment Risks with lawyer Richard Edwards and HR specialist Natasha Hawker. This is hard but necessary work for all managers to do – role-play some situations and promise backup when they need to handle a situation.
  • Get rid of questionable products from your menu: how can we have a serious discussion about this and still sell ‘Blow Job’ and ‘Sex on the Beach’ cocktails? Delete them, and no-one will notice.
  • Be friendly, but not friends with your staff. This is a challenging one – so many hospitality businesses are run like a big, unruly family, with all the usual banter, joking and excuses. Get real – your staff already have friends and family of their own – as owner or manager, they want you to be kind and friendly, but they’re not after friends who may be twice their age.
  • Cut the swearing. It’s ironical that the F, C and Sh words are now used freely on TV,  but I’m suggesting they should be eliminated from daily use by staff, managers and owners. There are other ways to express your anger and frustration. When you clean this up, there’s an improvement in the emotional tone and the way people relate to each other. A challenging one!
  • Protect your staff from customer harassment. Alcohol changes everyone’s behaviour, and young attractive female and male staff are often groped or ‘hit on’ by customers. It’s not OK. Give staff a method to alert their manager if they feel threatened, and be ready to politely but firmly ask those customers to leave. Another challenging situation, upending decades of tolerated behaviour in bars and everywhere alcohol is served.
  • Make the Christmas party a test for future socialising. Many restaurants have their party in January, after the rush. It’s good for everyone to relax and let their hair down, but the same rules apply about behaviour, intoxication and harassment.
  • That’s my quick list – any other actions you have taken? Drop them into the Comments below, or on the Ken Burgin Facebook page…

Positioning is why people don’t ‘get’ your special food concept

Feel like eating out?
Let’s go to a Thai place – red curry, stir fry, fish cakes… mmm
Or maybe Mexican – spicy beans, tacos, burritos… yum!

What about that new Filippino place? Or the Ethiopian one? Huh??
Most people are fairly conservative in their tastes, and 8/10 want the same as last time. They may range across Pizza, Mexican, Thai and Subway, but each of these concepts has a clearly defined position in our brains – we understand the flavours and experience when just one word is mentioned.

It can even happen with countries – if you’re thinking about a holiday in Italy, Spain or Thailand, each of them brings up clear images that have been built up over a long time. What about a few weeks in Belgium, Estonia or Bulgaria? You hesitate because their positioning is weak, and people who are unsure usually decide not to spend.

Positioning as a marketing concept was first popularised by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their classic book Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind – there’s a new 20th anniversary edition now available and it’s a great read. It’s one of the basic books I’d like everyone who does my Restaurant Startup workshop to study!

Understanding positioning is also important if you’re not the first, the best or the most famous cafe, gelato shop, Italian or Turkish restaurant – you need to create a new and understandable space not claimed by the leader.

And if you do want to showcase food from the Philippines, or Ethiopia, Sudan or Myanmar, you will have some special challenges to help people understand what your food is like and why they should plan to visit this week! Not unsurmountable, but just being proud of your cuisine isn’t nearly enough – there’s a big city you also need to educate.

Getting it right with Sponsorship Applications…

Do you have an endless stream of community groups asking for sponsorship and donations, way more than you can afford? Or maybe you are after sponsorship from a liquor or food company for an event.

Most sponsorship applications are poorly thought out, offering few tangible benefits to the sponsor. They talk about how worthy they are, and offer ho-hum ‘opportunities’ of logo placement, banners, mentions and dinner invitations. But no mention of how the sponsorship will help drive the sponsor’s sales, or promote their business objectives. This is not denying the value and integrity of the organisation or event, but when you receive an endless stream of these applications, it’s only the ones that stand out and offer mutual benefits that will get a second look.

One of the best people to explain this, and the whole world of sponsorship, is Kim Skildum-Reid. Here she is with a short, sharp pep talk on how to create a successful sponsorship application. Highly recommended, and could also be useful for your sporting club or charity group if they’re seeking funds from an organisation…