Blog

Meals I've Eaten, Issues I've Seen & Operations Advice

11
Mar

Tip #2:  Front Door First Impressions Why the garbage?  Read on... How often do we have to be told first impressions are important?  Well I’m going to tell you again, but with a bit of a twist. Does your parking lot, building, lobby, foyer, reception area, reception desk (or whatever you might have) make a good impression?  You need to be sure it does because your clients are making decisions about you before you even talk to them. And what about your gatekeepers?  Your hosts, receptionists, front desk support? Have you ever been to a restaurant with a grumpy host or hostess.  Not fun huh? This job is often overlooked, but is actually one of the most important jobs in the place. Make sure you hire someone amazing for this role! Someone who always smiles and never has a chip on their shoulder. If they don't smile in the interview, you can be sure they won't once they work for you. Also make sure they are great on the phone.  And please, no robots. Come up with something better for them to say than,”How are you?”, "Have a good day." and "Thank you"  Be ...

10
Mar

This week I had the honor of speaking at "Leader to Leader," a biannual business leaders event organized and executed by those sharp & savvy brand builders over at The Creative Company. The Creative Company is an award winning digital media, web design and PR agency that has been helping build brands in Madison, Dane County and beyond for 25 years. Twice a year, Laura Gallagher and her amazing team, pulls together some of the areas finest leaders from a wide variety of industries. This weeks event included leaders from construction and architecture, local retail leaders like Vom Fass and Little Luxuries , professional service firms such as Wegner and Cresa Corporate Real Estate and banking and finance leaders as well. We had an ambitious agenda that included learning from world class leaders who shared, via video, how they weave storytelling into their brands and we brainstormed how each of us can be a more conscious and effective leaders. I spoke on the art of customer service and shared my top 5 tips for making restaurant hospitality work in ANY business.   Here's segment#1. Watch ...

13
Feb

Valentine’s Day Best Kept Secret

For years now I’ve been faithfully going to a little chocolate & candy shop in Madison. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but I was hooked once I did.  It reminds me of old fashioned shops I went to as a kid and they still do things that old fashioned way here today. Their candies fill vintage jars all over my home year round and their dark chocolate nonpareils and divine pastel cherries were carefully tucked into brown craft paper boxes, tied with orange raffia and sent home with all the guests at our wedding 13 years ago. It is probably not the one you think.  And it's probably not your second guess either. It's James J Chocolate Shop. They are in a little unassuming spot squeezed between an acupuncture clinic and Mexican restaurant (what??) in a strip mall just off of HWY 12/18 as you exist onto Midvale. They are easy to miss, but should not be!  Madison is filled with wonderful chocolatiers, caramel, toffee and truffle makers for sure.  I love them all, but they get lots of attention. James J doesn’t seem to.  Maybe they are so busy they don't need to advertise? ...

11
Feb

This evening I'm giving a presentation to the Council of Independent Managers at The Madison Club. I thought I'd share one of the topics I'll be discussing here on the blog: How can we ALL be more safe in our OWN kitchens? How safe is your kitchen?  What grade would I give it if I came and did a private health inspection?   The FDA estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually –that's 1 out of 6 Americans getting sick each year. These illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths every year. That means 60 people in each of our 50 states will die this year just from something they ate! Here are the top priorities restaurants have in place, and the ones YOU should too, to keep your family safe?   #1 Wash Your Hands (before, between & after prep) Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, sneezing, handling pets, handling raw meat, smoking, eating or basically touching anything besides the food you ...

30
Jan

It's January in Wisconsin and the snow is falling.....and falling.....and falling.  Snow days are terrible for the restaurant and retail business, but owners should not be so caught off guard. Let me tell you why..... Owners and managers need to be clever about getting customers in the door on days like today or other inclement weather days. They need to think about their winter plans and promotions well in advance.  When cool weather arrives in fall, plans should be made for “Winter Warmer” bar specials, additional soup offerings, snow day discounts and social media scrambling. Pictures of your restaurant or bar full of customers having a great time, should be taken so you can pull them out, post them to Facebook and say, “Hey, you should be here, it’s awesome!” If you build a reputation as a place that’s a warm, welcoming and fun hangout during the storm, they will come.  If you serve amazing soup and comfort food that appeals to your region, they will come. If you build a social media following and invite your tweeps over, again, they will come. One of the best examples I’ve seen this season is a