Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: December 2012

Amazing video to end 2012…

I bet I’ve watched this video twenty times. Jake Wolf of Capital Club 16 in Raleigh, N.C. gets into a riff on what it takes to be a successful restaurant owner, and it’s pure poetry…


(If you are reading this post in an email and don’t see the vid, it’s here.)

If you love this video as much as we do, please share it with people who own or hope to own restaurants, or people who manage or work in restaurants, or, heck, anybody who might appreciate great business advice from an awesome guy like Jake.

You can drop it into Facebook or Tweet it or email it with this link here: http://vimeo.com/55639685

Thanks so much for watching these vids. We’ll keep ’em coming in 2013.

Wil

New video! Jake Wolf talks about creating a following…

Capital Club 16 in Raleigh has created a big following of loyal customers who keep coming back again and again. Here’s how they did it…


(If you are reading this post in an email and don’t see the video, it’s here.)

If you like this video, you might also like Jake’s first video in which he talks about how his restaurant is an extension of his home, and other videos in the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series.

Video: Jake Wolf’s restaurant is an extension of his home

The Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series continues with Jake Wolf of Capital Club 16 in Raleigh, N.C. Jake and his awesome wife Shannon opened their doors three years ago, and they run one of the most popular and successful restaurants in a city with an fantastic culinary vibe and a great restaurant scene.

In this video Jake tells how what he learned in culinary school and while working at a large franchise is helping him today, and why he and Shannon look at their restaurant as an extension of their home.


(If you are reading this post in an email you probably don’t see the video. It’s here.)

We are so honored to have the opportunity to tell the stories of people we admire. Jake is an absolutely great guy. He’s a salt-of-the earth, humble, genuine soul who cares about things bigger than himself, and the same goes for Shannon. It’s fun and inspiring and reassuring to see folks like them be so successful, and we’re stoked to have the chance to serve them and their team.

Wil

If you like this video, we have a bunch more like it right here. You also might like our book.

Why we don’t ever want to be "sticky" with customers

Lots of software companies talk behind closed doors about how they need to be “sticky” with customers. The idea is to be so entrenched that it is hard to peel them off, hard to stop doing business with them.

This philosophy typically involves complicated software and set-up fees and training and the knowledge that the more time and energy the customer puts into installing it, the more vested they become on the front end, the less likely they will be to ever want to unwind it. And even if they did endeavor to make a change one day, it would be more trouble than it’s worth.

It is unfortunately a deliberate and calculated (and lazy) strategy designed to secure revenue and profit for as long as possible. And it is a terrible way to do business.

Sure, you’ll keep benefiting from the annuity stream and fat margins, but the downside of that outcome far outweighs the upside of continuing to pocket your customers’ hard-earned money. It creates resentment. And bad karma. And it incents the customer to tell friends and family and colleagues and anybody who asks that they don’t like your software and recommend they not get stuck doing business with you.

Better to make it easy to turn your software on and easy to turn it off. Let a customer that finds a different provider that better meets their needs pull the plug easily. Bid them a thanks for the chance to serve them and a fond farewell. They’ll hold no ill will towards your business and likely will recommend it to others who they think are well-suited for what you offer.

So focus your energy on that, not on how to slyly make it hard for customers to leave you. Focus on being incredibly easy to do business with and make it fun different than what they expect (the “sticky” strategy is widespread so people’s expectations are low right now) to be your customer. Make everything easy. And refreshing.

Ultimately you’ll build a more successful and profitable and enduring business than if you take the short-sighted “sticky” route. And most importantly, you’ll sleep easily at night knowing that the people who use your software do so because they want to. Not because they feel trapped.

Wil

P.s. If you like this post you might also like Why we let stars and chemistry determine Schedulefly’s fate.

The time I tee’d it up with Shaft

While in college, I was a waiter at a great seafood restaurant in Wrightsville Beach NC called the Bridgetender. At the Bridgetender we would occasionally see a celebrity in the restaurant. Wilmington has a movie studio where some pretty big movies have been filmed over the years. Well one evening Richard Roundtree came in and I waited on him. Depending on how old you are, you may or may not recognize the name…but in the early 70’s he was better known as Shaft. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaft_(1971_film). Since those days he has had quite a career in acting…but he was definitely best known for his role as Shaft.

Waiting on him was awesome. He was really cool and was very chatty with me and the rest of the staff that got to meet him. We were real careful about not making a fuss over celebrities because we wanted them to feel comfortable and keep coming back. Most of them that came in were quiet and did not care to chat or be bothered by us or by other patrons. I don’t blame them. And this was back in the mid 90’s when there were no cell phone cameras – I can’t imagine what it must be like these days to be a celebrity at a restaurant…

So anyway, after his meal, the owner of the Bridgtender (Jim) stopped by the table to say hello and somehow the 3 of us started talking about golf. The owner and I would play together often and Shaft was an avid golfer. {Hence forth, I will call him Shaft and not Richard}. Shaft asked about courses in the area and which ones he should play. We told him about a few and then told him we played every week or so at a course called Porter’s Neck and that he should definitely check it out. Well, we wrapped it up and he headed out.

About a week later I was at my house and the phone rang…it was early in the morning I remember. I answered and the person said…

“Wes, Roundtree”.

I paused for a sec…and said “what?”. He said “Wes, it’s Richard Roundtree. I called Jim up at the restaurant and got your number. Can you tee it up with me today at Porter’s Neck?”. I flipped out. I held it together long enough to say HECK YEAH! and asked him what time. He said “how about in an hour?”. I said “See ya there” and hung up. I remember banging on my roommates door (who was still asleep) and yelled – dude, I’m going to play golf with Shaft!”.

When I got there he was in the club house talking to the guys in the shop and they were clearly looking at me wondering who in the hell I was and why I was playing with Shaft. By the way it was just me and Shaft….like 2 buddies playing. They got his autograph and we headed to the first tee. A few people gathered around to watch him hit his first tee shot and we were off. The rest of the day was just great – we smoked a giant cigar (he brought 2 nice ones), talked about his movies, hit a few nice shots and some bad ones, had a beer or two and then shook hands on the 18th green and took off. It was such a memorable day…..and well worth skipping the 11am and 1pm classes I had that day!

Well that night he came in again for dinner and asked to sit in my section. We talked about the round and agreed we would try to play again. We never did and I’m sure he probably doesn’t remember me now, but I’ll always remember that round!!

Wes

20 tips from successful indie restaurateurs…

Here’s a great list of business wisdom from successful independent restaurant owners (all of them use our web-based restaurant employee scheduling software in their restaurants).

1. “You have to think long term when you choose your investors. It’s like marrying into a family. They have to trust you explicitly. And vice versa.” — Dave Query, Big Red F Restaurant Group, Boulder, CO.

2. “You’ll never have happy customers unless you have happy employees. Focus first and foremost on your employees. Treat them well, and treat them with respect.” — Keith Paul, A Good Egg Dining Group, Oklahoma City.

3. “If you are going to raise money, start your pitches with your worst prospects. By the time you get to your best prospects, you are going to have a much better presentation, and a much better deal.” — Scott Maitland, Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, Chapel Hill, N.C.

4. “You have to have that attitude of saying that failure is not even close to being an option. It’s amazing how your body and your mind will respond if you think that way.” — Matt Frey, Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream, Carmel, IN.

5. “If you have a partner or partners, you have to think out the partnership as much as you do the plan for the business, because the issues and problems that arise from a bad partnership can cause the business to fail.” — Richard Taubin, Friends Coastal Restaurant, Madisonville, LA.

6. “Be great at a few things, not average at a lot of things.” — Phil Roberts, Parasole Restaurant Group, Minneapolis.

7. “Be ready to work when everybody else is playing.” — Phil Roberts, Parasole Restaurant Group, Minneapolis.

8. “Keep your business simple if you want to expand.” — Jon Myerow, Tria Café, Philadelphia.

9. “Being a business owner is a very lonely road.” — Jon Myerow, Tria Café, Philadelphia.

10. “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.” — Jon Myerow, Tria Café, Philadelphia.

11. “If you spend lots of money to get started, you are that much closer to failure. If you can do it really lean, your risk is much lower.” — Mic Heynekamp, Socorro Springs Restaurant & Brewery, Socorro, N.M. and Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery, Buena Vista, CO.

12. “50/50 partnerships don’t work. Own more than 50% of your business so you always have the final say.” — Chester Kroeger, Fudpucker’s, Destin, FL.

13. “Do what you’re good at and find others to fill your gaps. Interdependence, rather than independence, is incredibly freeing.” — Joe Johnston, Joe’s Real BBQ, Liberty Market, Joe’s Farm Grill, Gilbert, AZ.

14. “A solid business plan demonstrates to investors that you have put in the time and effort and thought to make the investment low risk on their part.” — Joe Johnston, Joe’s Real BBQ, Liberty Market, Joe’s Farm Grill, Gilbert, AZ.

15. “Take your ego out of the equation. At the end of the day, it’s a business. If you approach it through your ego, you’ll fail.” — Emad Yacoub, Glowbal Group, Vancouver, BC.

16. “Don’t expand too quickly or you could destroy your entire business.” — Chip Bair, Beau Jo’s, Denver, CO.

17. “Just like you think your baby is cuter than all of the others, no one is going to operate your business the same way you would.” — Kevin Doherty, Emmit’s Irish Pub & Eatery, Chicago, IL.

18. “Learning to delegate is critical to growth.” — Chris Sommers, Pi Pizzeria, St. Louis.

19. “No matter how well you know your potential business partner personally, make sure you know what he/she is like on the heat of battle.” — Jim Parker, Red Hat on the River, Irvington, NY.

20. “Be transparent with your staff and you’ll earn their loyalty and trust.” — Scott Leibfried, Arch Rock Fish, Santa Barbara, CA.

Wil

If you like this list, you might also like our book and our video series. Both contain a wealth of tips, advice and wisdom from successful owners from all over the country.

Our book is a great gift…

If you’re looking for a great gift for somebody who owns a restaurant, aspires to own a restaurant, manages a restaurant, or is interested in learning business wisdom from successful independent restaurant owners, we recommend our book, “Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Twenty Owners Share Their Recipes for Success.”

It’s $12 for the book or $5 for the Kindle version, and well worth the investment. But don’t take it from us – we’re obviously biased! Rather, read what some of the Amazon reviewers have to say.

Five stars “In twenty interviews with restaurant owners, this book provides a treasure trove of good advice on how to start and operate a restaurant. The owners discuss just about every important facet of restaurant ownership including getting financing, buying equipment, layout, hiring, managing employees, dealing with investors and partners, choosing a concept, setting up a menu, promotion and much more. I literally found a worthwhile bit of information on every page.

If you’re looking for tips and ideas on how to start or run a restaurant, my advice is to savor this book – read a chapter at a time and absorb the information. If you try to read it too fast you’ll miss some important points. Although the editor tries to make things easier on the reader by listing 5-6 key points after each chapter, I found that there was a lot of excellent points not listed in those summaries but could only be gleaned by reading the chapter.

Best of all, the interviews are informal and entertaining to read so you won’t feel like you’re being force-fed information. All in all, I highly recommend this book for anyone in, or with a desire to be in, the restaurant business.”

Five stars “There are too many people giving too much, really bad advice for restaurant operators. Wil’s book highlights some of the most practical and successful thinking about issues faced by every operator in the country.”

Five stars “If you are considering opening a restaurant, then I would highly recommend this book. The interviews are often very entertaining, and in each you will find nuggets of wisdom to help you plan your venture. Many themes are repeated by different owners, which helps to hammer the point and highlight the more important ones.

This is not a step-by-step guide to opening a restaurant. It will only give you advice on things to consider and things to avoid. If you just want to know what a lot of people have had to go through to open a restaurant, you will also find this an enjoyable read.”

If you’d like to read some of the content before buying, please check out this series of posts from our blog. And if you have any questions, shoot me a note at wbrawley at schedulefly.com.

Wil

P.s. If you enjoyed our book or look forward to enjoying it, you may also like our Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series, which was inspired by the book.

Why your restaurant staff should come first…

Michael Chernow, co-owner of The Meatball Shop in NYC, had this to say in his interview for our Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series:

“I put my employees first. Before my guests. Before my business partner. A happy staff and a happy team translates straight through to the plate.”

I asked most of the people I’ve interviewed for our book and our video series, “Who comes first: your staff, your customers, or your partners and investors?” Everybody has a different answer, and of course none of them are right or wrong. I simply found Michael’s response to be very memorable. And hard to debate.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear ’em. I’m at wbrawley at schedulefly dot com.

Wil

Independent restaurants are repositories for culture…

Scott Maitland, owner of Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill, N.C. said this during his interview for our Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series:

“One of the things I feel very passionate about is that independent restaurants are in fact a repository of culture for a community. People don’t think about it that way, but I think if you ask anybody what they like about where they live, and what makes where they live special … at some point in that conversation there’s going to be a discussion about restaurants, because that is where culture in a community actually happens. So if we remove all of the independent restaurants and put in chain restaurants … and by the way I’ve developed a lot of respect for chains restaurants, it’s amazing what they do … but it’s not unique, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect the culture of the town. I don’t look at myself as being in the restaurant business. I look at myself as being in the Chapel Hill business. And that’s what makes me want to get up and do it again each day, because we’re the front porch of the town.”

When Scott said this I immediately knew he was onto something important to share with anybody working with independent restaurants. If you view yourself as doing something much bigger than simply serving food to people who walk through your doors, but rather as being a part of the epicenter of culture for your town, it gives you an entirely different perspective on how meaningful and valuable your work is.

Wil

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