Category Archives: Workshops for Food Businesses

Just measure it

Running a business has to be among the most stressful things you can do: you don’t always get to make all the decision but in the end you’re responsible for all the mistakes and somehow you still need to sleep at night.

I take the view that stress is caused by lack of information. (And if you think about it even if you have all the information you need today, you can never have perfect information about what will happen in the future.)

So it follows from this that the way to deal with stress is to get better information; find something to measure and measure it!

How do you choose what to measure?

Obviously just recording everything will not help: the key thing is to measure stuff that helps you build good business information to back up good decision making.

So the skill is to identify the right information that gives you an accurate picture if what’s going on. This is going to be specific to your business individually, but it will be based on a thorough understanding of what constitutes “good” – which sales or customers you target, how much output is reasonable.

This may sound pretty obvious: I’m an accountant and I think that more numbers are the answer!

In truth most businesses have more financial data than they not what to do with; probably causing more stress rather than helping. But knowing that you financials aren’t good enough doesn’t help you work out what to do differently. You need more detail to give you better information and this can radically change your perception of what’s going on too.

Last year I worked with a new restaurant who felt they needed to increase their marketing efforts because they were not attracting enough customers.

But when we looked at the figures that were available from the tills and booking systems we could see that they were getting more customers than they had expected but actually the spend per head was too low because of mistakes in menu pricing and too generous special offers. Also they were turning away diners on Friday and Saturday nights but struggling to get bookings at other times.

So the answer wasn’t a simple “Do more marketing” it was more nuanced; increasing some prices and focusing special offers on the times when they wanted more business.

This not only improved their sales numbers, but made more profit as well.

In our world of cloud based applications it is now becoming much easier to get access to information, although you still need to be clear about what presents useful, actionable messages and what just adds to the confusion.

The key thing is to work out what the information you are collecting says about what you need to do to drive your business forward; what to change but also what should stay the same.

It’s worth spending some time thinking about this, and if you need help get in touch to ask about a free information review.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity

At the Food For Thought workshop on 22nd March Richard Evans shared the insights into social media marketing that he gained while developing social media strategies for national brands such as Greene King, Wagamama and Kwik Fit. This was easily the section that generated the most discussion of the day as Richard challenged the audience to get out of their comfort zones and really engage with their customers.

The most debated point related to negative feedback on TripAdviser and other review platforms. Every customer facing business is aware of this problem, and whether or not the complaint is justified, the question remains: how do you respond, given that your response will be visible to the world at large?

First Richard used an audience survey to illustrate the importance of responding to negative feedback: everyone in the room had used TripAdviser to research unknown venues, and everyone agreed that they would look in detail at the negative comments rather than the compliments.

This illustrates the power of reviewing sites, and the value in building a good reputation on them, but the more interesting conclusion has to be that your response to a negative comment will be read by a large percentage of your prospective customers; probably far more than notice the carefully crafted marketing blurb on your website or promotional material!

Using a real life example of a complaint from his time working in a restaurant business in 2018 Richard illustrated how to use a polite response to diffuse the complaint. Within a carefully crafted reply he:
– responded directly to the complaint
– included references other customers positive feedback
– included highlights of special offers, and
– most importantly, he offered the customer the opportunity to discuss the issue further in an email exchange, in order to avoid having a “he said, she said” war of words in public.

All the businesses in the room ran highly regarded operations delivering excellent customer service, but it is a fact of life that you can please everyone – this line of defense is not designed to ignore the customer’s complaint.

Often the first reaction to a complaint is to be defensive and offer money off a future visit, but it is clear that with the reach of the internet it is essential to do more than just address the actual issue in the complaint. If you look on your response as your opportunity to offer potential new customers more information about your business you can make much better use of your efforts.