Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: February 2016

If bob jumps off a bridge, are you going to?

This morning on the way to drop my son off at school – we were talking about only worrying about ourselves and doing our best. I think all adults would agree this is a good thing to practice as a kid. He’s in 2nd grade and like many kids his age – he’s noticing that some kids are faster and some get better grades. We talk often about taking our time – forgetting about the other kids – and just doing the best we can do. It takes a long time to learn and I think it’s because not worrying about others requires focus and confidence. Two things that a typical 2nd grader doesn’t yet have. But anyway – he’ll get there.

So let’s fast forward 10 years and pretend he has done well and has been accepted by a university and will attend business school – like I did. In business school and in business – he will slowly be taught to forget what he has learned as a kid – and to worry about what other people are doing and to over analyze the competition. Literally – projects will require in depth analysis of what other companies are doing.

Business school tried to teach me to think a lot about competition and how what I was going to offer stacked up against other people and other companies. And maybe because I was still a kid at heart – I had a really hard time thinking that was important. It’s almost as if fear was the reason I was supposed to do this. It didn’t make sense to waste any time thinking about what other people are doing. And maybe that’s why my grades mostly sucked.

So at the very end – my entire business school experience culminated with a group project in a business management class where we created a business plan for a make believe business. We were required to do the proven (yet very tired) SWOT analysis and utlimately give a stressful presentation to our class at the end of the semester – detailing who was out there that might threaten us and how we would compete in that market. Our grade in the class was determined by how well we did on that final project. All that hard work in trying to identify threats to what we were going to do and weaknesses in our approach and comparing ourselves to other people who had their own reason for being in business was just so lame. I really can’t believe I went through with it. Thank goodness I did not carry this strategy with me after I graduated.

Looking back I find it ironic that when I was a kid, like my son, I was taught to only worry about myself – and that was a really tough thing to do. Then as an adult in college (and beyond) I was taught to worry about others and over analyze the competition – which was very easy for me NOT to do. Weird. Maybe I just don’t like to be told what to do and how to do it? Could be.

Moral of that story? I am not sure – but I think it’s that you really don’t have to care about what other people are doing in order to be successful.

Wes

"We never once thought of doing what everybody else is doing"

Kimberly Shingledecker started Pies & Pints along with partner David Bailey in Fayetteville, WV in 2003 in the basement of a house. By 2005 they had two-hour waits and needed to buy a building with more space. The growth hasn’t slowed down much since, and today they have nine locations. When I interviewed her for our podcast, Kimberly talked about consistency being critical, never closing earlier than the time posted on your door, the challenge of educating your market – and your staff – when you are doing something new, the importance of finding a way to say “yes” to customers, being kid-friendly, and the most important question to ask people interviewing for jobs.

Here is an exchange that stood out to me…

“In 2003 in Fayetteville, a rural town in West Virginia, our pizza was different than the pizza they were used to. In other parts of the country this was nothing new; everybody was doing high quality stuff back then. We put our sauce on top; we don’t put it on the bottom. And our thought on that is that cheese bakes into the crust and the sauce doesn’t make it all soggy. We use fresh herbs instead of dried and we are really letting people experience what they never thought was possible with pizza. Putting grapes on a pizza; people had never heard of that. All of that stuff made us stand out, made us be different. It started a conversation. People said, ‘Oh, you got to try this pizza place; they put grapes on the pizza. I know it’s crazy but, you’re going to love it.’ We tried to raise the bar on everything we did.

We really push the envelope on our toppings. We had this Cuban pork sandwich with pulled pork in Colorado somewhere, and we thought, ‘This would be awesome on a pizza.’ And that’s one of my favorite pizzas. We make our own pork butts in house. And then the pizza – pork, pineapple, jalapenos, cilantro – it’s just full of flavor. We finish it with crème fraiche and it’s really good. All of that stuff made us stand out. And another thing – people said you’re never going to be able to charge twenty dollars for a pizza in West Virginia. But price was not an issue; it really wasn’t.

I learned that you can educate people. Just sticking to your plan and knowing as long as you see a couple more people every time and you have people that tell you they really appreciate what you’re doing. We never thought, ‘Oh, let’s just cave in and do regular pizza.’ We never once thought about cutting corners and doing what everybody else was doing. Not one time. If anything, we try to go in the opposite direction.”

If you like hearing from successful restaurant owners like Kimberly, you might like our book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked. It’s full of interviews with 20 owners. We’re working on our next book now.

Wil

"Necessity is where creativity thrives"

Angela Salamanca came to the U.S. from Colombia, South America in 1993 as a 17-year-old rent high school graduate. She went to work for her uncle, who owned a popular Mexican restaurant in Raleigh, N.C. By 2007, she was planning the opening of a new restaurant with that same uncle, when he suddenly left the country to get married. He told Angela, who had a young child and a baby on the way, “You don’t need me, I know you can do it on your own.” Angela now calls his unplanned departure the biggest gift he could have given her. Rather than crumble under the stress and pressure, she rose to the occasion and used the situation to her advantage. Necessity forced her creativity tot thrive, and Angela wound up building the restaurant of her dreams, Centro, while bucking conventional wisdom and trusting her vision and her instincts. This is a highly inspiring interview with a wonderful person. Enjoy…

http://restaurantownersuncorked.podomatic.com/embed/frame/posting/2016-02-04T12_08_43-08_00?json_url=http%3A%2F%2Frestaurantownersuncorked.podomatic.com%2Fentry%2Fembed_params%2F2016-02-04T12_08_43-08_00%3Fcolor%3D43bee7%26autoPlay%3Dfalse%26facebook%3Dtrue%26height%3D85%26width%3D300%26minicast%3Dfalse%26objembed%3D0&notb=1

Why we don’t hope our videos will "go viral"

Recently a friend paid a nice complement to our “people of indie restaurants” video series. He told me the videos are fantastic, and asked why we don’t have a YouTube channel for them. “Wil, I could just see tens of thousands of people watching those videos. They could go viral!” The funny thing is, that’s the opposite of what we hope will happen.

That may seem silly. After all, we make them to highlight people we think are awesome and inspiring. We spend time and money on them. We are proud of them. So, why wouldn’t we want tens of thousands of people, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of people to watch them???

Well, it goes back to focus. We have a clear focus at Schedulefly: build a brand independent restaurants admire and love. Now, if all we care about is independent restaurants, why would we want a gigantic general audience of people to view our videos? What’s the upside? Maybe they share the videos with restaurant people? I don’t know. All I can think of is people from all sorts of random businesses liking the videos, checking out our web site, seeing that have a scheduling software, thinking “Hey, we have scheduling problems, let’s try this!” and signing up for free trials. That’s the opposite of what we want.

Just as we’d rather have one restaurant sign up for a free trial over ten non-restaurants, we’d rather have 300 baristas watch our new video, The Barista, than 30,000 random people.

Wil

P.s. We have to house our videos somewhere, so we chose Vimeo over YouTube. Less traffic, no ads. And we also have them all here on our blog.

"Our goal wasn’t to be wealthy"

We’re working on our second book, and one of the interviews is with Van Nolintha, owner of Bida Manda, a Laotian restaurant in Raleigh, N.C. Here’s an exchange that has stuck with me since he and I spoke last May…

It’s well-known in Raleigh that the level of hospitality at Bida Manda is phenomenal. What are you doing to provide that kind of atmosphere consistently?

“I think the consistency is difficult and especially providing an intimate, meaningful, personal experience each and every time. I think it’s very difficult in any restaurant. At Bida Manda, for example, we serve more than three thousand meals a week. So how do we create that kind of consistency? It’s an ongoing challenge. But our goal wasn’t to be wealthy; our goal wasn’t to create the best restaurant in Raleigh. Our goal was to make sure that we share our narrative, food and culture with our community the best that we know how.

I think it’s that authenticity to what you love and allowing that to be the beginning of every decision-making process. I think it will always be something that’s organic and true. And I think ‘hospitality’ is an interesting word because for us it really is us hosting and welcoming people into our home. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. I think food is such a basic life offering. And I think when we overcomplicate that experience, that’s when it gets tricky. For us it really is about how we continue sharing our story and welcoming our guests to our home, and caring for them like we were caring for our friends. And that is our basic principle at the restaurant. We try to care for our friends and family and community.”

How have you been able to find people on your staff that were able to also share that same passion and provide the kind of experience that you and your sister would?

“I think sourcing the right team is probably the most important ingredient in what we do. How do we create a team that’s cohesive and creative and fires all together to yield this experience? We spend a lot of time on the frontend of the selection process. We put a lot of attention and resources into that beginning phase of training and recruiting. It is so important to us that it doesn’t matter if that person does not even have to have service industry experience. What we are looking for is always someone who’s capable of caring; someone who is genuinely passionate about life. And that doesn’t have to be food. We have a lot of artists; we have a lot of ‘makers’ in the world; we have a Yoga instructor; we have a lot of students who are waiting to go to medical school; we have last year law school students. We are looking for people who are passionate in what they do, and in turn, they bring that aliveness to what we do and it adds a level of complexity and meaning to what they do.

‘Intention’ is the big word in our training process. And intention is actually really hard to train someone that doesn’t already carry that sense of pride in what they do. How do we make polishing glasses as meaningful of an experience as talking to a guest as a table? What we have learned is that when we find someone that takes a lot of pride and meaning in what they do and love what they do, that translates directly to our guests’ experience. We have such a phenomenal team and community at the restaurant that I’m so grateful for.

I think a lot of our success comes directly from that team. Developing and co-creating that team is very important to us. A good example is we take our annual staff retreat once or twice a year. We take three or four days off from the restaurant, and we spend some time somewhere else. The first year we went to Asheville and last year we went to Wilmington. It’s just really allowing our team to go through a shared experience, setting intentions and goals, and showing them how to work for each other’s development. We are just a community of passionate people who are just absolutely in love with what we do, and wanting to care for our guests.”

Do do you close the restaurant for a few days when you do this?

“Yes, we do. It’s always a few of the best days of the year, especially for back of house and front of house to coexist in one home. We usually rent a big home and just cook together. Last year we had Tim leading a Yoga class. And we have massages. We share common readings and reflection times. I do my cooking class. I think it really is about being present and intentional together. I think when you have that seed, it’s really easy to develop at work. This restaurant is an extremely aggressive and intense environment. So for us to go into a shift feeling that you are with your team and you are with your family, I think it helps with the operation of this.”

I’m not going to take away from the beauty and brilliance of Van’s philosophy by offering my thoughts. His words say it all. Bida Manda is without question one of the best restaurants in Raleigh. And now you know why.

Wil

P.S. We are excited to launch or new book this spring. In the mean time, you might enjoy our first one if you haven’t read it.

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