I admire people who can write succinctly and with clarity of voice, and not let other people’s opinions steer them from what they are trying to say. As I worked on the Introduction to our book, I realized it is hard to do.
It seems simple to convey why we are publishing this book, and what it’s about. You write something, edit it, tweak it, and get it to a point where you are happy. Easy enough, right?
But for several weeks, I’ve been attempting to nail down the Introduction. It appears below, and I’m sticking with it, come Hell or high water.
My determination arises from realizing I made the mistake of sharing my introduction with too many people, and getting too much feedback. I was falling victim to the perils of group-think. I finally remembered to pay heed to the lessons I learned from the owners I interviewed.
I recalled a story Dave Query (of Big Red F Restaurant Group) told me, about how at one point he listened to too many people’s opinions on one of his restaurants, and kept making changes. It got to the point where the restaurant was “schizophrenic” – it didn’t know what it was about any more. Then I remembered advice from Jon Myerow (of Tria Cafe and Biba Wine Bar), who said, “You have to believe in what you are doing, and you have to stay true to it.”
Ultimately, I realized that the voice and the message needs to be mine. Otherwise, I’d never really like it, no matter what anybody else thought. So after nearly mutilating my first concept of the Introduction by incorporating too many pieces of conflicting advice, I went back to the square one.
Here it is…
Wes Aiken, Tyler Rullman and I own Schedulefly, a software company that helps restaurants schedule, communicate and get organized online. Restaurants are our customers, and like many people, we have a dream to start our own restaurant one day.
Unfortunately, most restaurants fail. Perhaps 90%. That’s not good for our business – we need restaurants to thrive – and it’s not good for our prospects of fulfilling our dream.
With that in mind, we decided to uncover what it takes to be a successful restaurant owner. Doing so would enable us to help people in the industry we serve, and help us increase our chances of fulfilling our dream. The idea for this book was born.
Restaurant Owners Uncorked is a collection of interviews with a diverse range of owners, such as the legendary and colorful Phil Roberts, founder of Buca di Beppo and The Oceanaire Seafood Room; Scott Leibfried, a renowned, high-energy figure in the culinary industry who is part of the cast of the hit television show, “HELL’S KITCHEN”; and Chris Sommers, a former Silicon Valley technology executive who makes Chicago-style deep dish pizza (in St. Louis) so well that he was invited to the White House to cook it for President Obama and the first family.
I learned during this process that there isn’t a single recipe for restaurant success. It’s just not that simple. If somebody tells you they have the secret, run away. They’re just trying to help part you from your money. While most of these owners agreed on the importance of ignoring your ego, of putting your staff before everything else, and of treating partnerships like marriages, their opinions varied greatly on most topics.
For example, Jon Myerow of Tria Café and Biba Wine Bar (Philadelphia, PA) does no traditional advertising, and said, “To me the biggest competition is not for customers. It’s for staff. If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow.”
Meanwhile, Jim Parker of Red Hat on the River (Irvington, NY) said, “I’m a big believer in advertising. People say, ‘I see you everywhere.’ Well, they don’t. But that’s the perception because we are effective with our advertising.”
Jon’s strategy works for him, and Jim’s works for him. The interviews that follow will help you determine which strategies will work best for you.
This book isn’t useful only for aspiring restaurant owners. It also provides practical advice for anybody who currently owns a restaurant or who simply wants to understand and be entertained by reading the business philosophies of 20 successful entrepreneurs. In fact, all of the people I interviewed, even those with the most experience, were excited to read these interviews and learn from their peers. I admire their collective, humble philosophy that there is always room to grow, room to get better at what they do.
As you read these interviews, you’ll feel like you are sitting down with the owners over a cup of coffee or a beer, picking their brains and finding out what makes them tick. You’ll learn why restaurants don’t have to be risky at all, what chain restaurants’ collective Achilles’ heel is, why having a good CPA is as important as the food you put on the plate, and much more.
At the end of each interview, I’ve reiterated what I believe to be the most salient points. Read these chapters in any order. Enjoy.
We finished the edits today and the book is going to print. It will be for sale on Amazon in March.