Recently I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion on issues facing restaurant operators in California.  The panelists were Joseph Pitruzelli owner of Wurstküche, Francis Drelling General Counsel at Specialty Restaurants Corporation, Naz Moin former director of Human Resources at PizzaRev, and Madelyn Alfano owner of Maria’s Italian Kitchen.   

 You can listen to the discussion on my podcast available on Spotify (link here) or iTunes (link here).

 Even though the discussion is focused on the hospitality industry, the lessons are applicable to companies, owners, and human resource managers operating in nearly every type of company and industry.  This Friday’s Five covers the top five points I took away from the discussion: 

  1.  There is no one background that is best in determining success.  As you will hear, the panelists all are successful in their respective companies, but all have different backgrounds, and backgrounds that you would not necessarily think would make them successful in their respective positions.  Pursue what interests you, and you will be successful.   
  2. Single restaurant owners face the same issues as multi-unit operators.
  3. Hire for personality – everything else can be taught. 
  4. Back of the house workers do affect the company culture. 
  5. Employees should not be surprised when they are let go.  Constant coaching, counseling, and documentation is critical in managing employees.  Also, remember to give positive feedback to employees who you see doing exceptional work.   

I would like to thank the panelists again for joining me for the excellent discussion.  I hope you learn as much as I did from the conversation.

When he opened his first restaurant at 27 years old (Union Square Cafe) and it took another 10 years after that for Danny Meyer to open his second restaurant, Gramercy Tavern.  But then four years later there were two, and the rate he started opening restaurants quickly grew, becoming one of the world’s most successful restaurateurs.  This Fridays Five summarizes five of the key issues about running a successful restaurant/business/career to take away from his interview on the AskGaryVee Show.  Restaurateur?  Perfect, these lessons are on point for you.  Not a restaurateur?  That’s fine too, the business lessons discussed by Danny and Gary are universal truths applicable to all industries.

1. Key lesson: Leave your camp sight cleaner than how you found it. 

Danny’s primary lesion was one that he learned when he was 10 years old at camp:  Leave the world a little better than you found it.

2. Four types of competitive personalities.

A successful leader/entrepreneur/person must understand who they are and their personality type.  Key to this understanding is the type of competitor you are.  Danny believes there are four competitive types of personalities:

  • A-competitive – i.e., not competitive at all
  • The person who competes primarily motivated to crush others
  • The person who compete because they hate to lose
  • The person motivated to compete to out-do their personal best

While there is no “right” personality, it is key that individuals understand what drives them, and their motivation.  Another takeaway related to competitive personalities: Leaders have to surround themselves with people who want to be champions.

3. Some of the most successful businesses are born out of accidents.

Danny admits that Shake Shack and Daily Provisions were born out of accidents.  It is important to stay flexible and be able to deviate from a plan to see new opportunities based on the facts/surroundings/people/resources that you are dealt.

4. Create permission to be held to a higher standard.

Invite criticism.  If you won a lot last year, you just need to win more this year.  The minute you start believing in your own success you are destined to fail.

5. Best ways to leverage social media.

People are confused and often link having a strong social media presence to having a successful brand or business.  This is not the case.  If your service and food sucks, social media presence simply speeds up the process of failing.  Social media followers does not equate to being a good restaurant.  After you get people into the funnel, what is important is what happens next.

The traditional PR companies are going to be out of business in 10 years.  Danny use to spend 80% of his marketing budget on public relations five years ago.  Today, 80% is spent on social media and marketing.  Some other key points about social media Danny and Gary discussed:

  • Owners should not be hung up on who is posting to social media.
  • If a company is bullish on social media, then they need to spend money on it.
  • It is all story telling. The form is just changing, it used to be Michelin, Zagat, and then Google.  Now it is social media.  Whatever is the technology of the time is what companies need to use for promotion.
  • The way not to be at the mercy of a third-party is to be a good communicator through the medium that is relevant to the end consumer. Two executions: produce the best product or be the best communicator in the current moment.  The holy grail is to do both.
  • The opportunity for restaurants has never been greater since the communications landscape is changing.
  • Not all of us are natural users of the various social media platforms. Use the social media platforms that you are comfortable with.  However, there is one cavate: companies need to be able to change with the times and don’t be romantic about the first platform you started using if it is clear that your customers are moving to a different platform.
  • Instagram is key for restaurants today.
  • Restaurants are not widget factories. They are about food and love.  Tell a story.

Danny concluded the interview with the question of the day: Restaurants are able to create a social atmosphere, but how can restaurants combine what people want: quick, less expensive, where they want it, with the hug that they are used to giving in their own places?

Yes, this week’s post was a bit off-topic for an employment law blog, but I represent a lot of restaurateurs so I found this interview very fascinating.  Hope you enjoyed this deviation from the law.