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What would you do if you owned a restaurant?


April 24, 2011
For The Leader Herald

People love to talk about restaurants. Everyone has advice. Each time I visit the grocery store or go to an event, I hear a restaurant inspiration. "If I owned that restaurant, I would. yadda, yadda, yadda." Americans are born to ideas. We come from generations of entrepreneurial spirits. We know what to do, how to fix it, We know a better way. We are quick with a better idea, or a sure fire success scheme. Oh busboy.

The suggestions and ideas I receive are either shouldn't or shoulds. Most of the time these inspirations are triggered, or should I say cooked-up, by a specific dining experience or visit to a particular dining establishment. But sometime it's just restaurant "wannabes" expressing their lifelong longing to steer wait and kitchen staff to success.

There is something about the ability to eat that gives us knowledge about how to run a restaurant. There is something about the fact we eat out so often that gives us ownership or the desire to have a successful restaurant.

Oh busboy, what would you do if you owned a restaurant? What are absolutely five things that would be most important to the success of your establishment? I always have my ideas.

If I owned a restaurant today I would:

Have a wonderful website. To make this important connection, I would spend time looking at many other restaurant sites. I would spend time asking customers what they want to see and how they would use my website. I would make it surfin' simple, so easy a child could find the desserts on the dinner menu. On this important connection, I would spend money on a readable, attractive design. I would hire a professional. I would find one that knew how to sell, not just how to make things pretty. I would have beautiful pictures that would "describe" my restaurant and my food. I would extend this website with a connection to Facebook and maybe even an iPod "app." I would put the website on everything and have it running in the dining room. I would give out a business card with the check directing the customers to the site to get a coupon or join a frequent customer club or see the specials. Soon, I will serve up more ideas on surfing and selling.

Eat in my restaurant: At least every two weeks, I would arrive as a customer. I would come in the front door with a friend or family and be seated. No matter how much I might want to help my crew, I would see how they managed without my help. I would sit and be waited on and take notes. I would watch the staff and the customers and the staff with the customers. When ordering off the menu, I would look for new ideas and consider changes. I would come at different times and order different things. My presence would tell my staff that I'm involved and tell my customers I like the food.

Have a visible outside sign. I'm big into merchandising. If you don't' tell the customer, they won't know. I would start by hiring a graphic artist that knows that my logo must be seen from a long way away. I want a sign that "pops" to passersby. Within the limits of the zoning laws, it must convey the concept of the restaurant and create a desire to stop in. Tasteful is important but visible is absolute. I don't want a sign that has pretty turquoise script on dark brown or one that discretely hangs between two shutters. Restaurants rely on passers-by and I want mine to be seen. And, If the first sign don't make it, I will not hesitate in splurging on a re-do.

Have a menu that sells but is user friendly: The menu is the number one selling tool of any restaurant. My menu would be understandable and have words the customers can read. It is important that the menu creates an interest with tempting descriptions and many inviting choices. The print should be large enough to read and the color should be bold enough to see Fancy words - Calmars frits a l'Amricaine - can sell but they must be explained.

Keep the wait staff odor free. My wait staff won't use aftershave or perfume. I will have deodorant and mouthwash in the staff room. Customers want to taste their food. I want food marinated in vinaigrette not marinated in Chanel Number 5. One whiff of one strong smell can drown the taste buds. Please no odor with my order.

Have you wanted the new TCV show on NBC, "America's Next Great Restaurant"? I've seen it a few times and all I can think is that there must be more people with much better skills and much better ideas.

What are your ideas? What would you do if you owned a restaurant? What ideas do you have? Let me know by sending an e-mail to

Restaurant Watch: The next time you're out, check out the restaurant's website, menu and outside sign.



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