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“Gentlemen, this is a Football”

 

            If you’re a football fan of a certain age or if you’ve read a biography of the “Hall of Fame” football coach, Vince Lombardi, you’ll recognize the iconic statement in our title.  A little back-story if you’re not familiar, Lombardi took the head coaching position with the Green Bay Packers at a low point (winnings-wise) of the franchise’ history.  He discovered a team that he believed needed to embrace the fundamentals of the game. 

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What will Millennials “Kill” next?

 

            If you’re one of the 76+ million Millennials living in the U.S. no worries, we’re not suggesting you are to blame for current changes in the retail landscape.  Lately the Millennial cohort has been taking a lot of heat for driving changes in retail due to the size of their demographic as they currently outnumber “boomers”.  Believe it or not we’ll discuss how this affects the growth of wine sales in the U.S. via a circuitous route through seemingly unrelated territory.

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Beer Good, Sales Bad!

 

            Please don’t allow the title to confuse you, we are BIG advocates for beer and their other malt-kindred and in fact I used to home-brew throughout my college and graduate school years.  As my taste in beers have changed over the years I must assume I’m not alone as we have experienced a rise in micro-brewery openings and the new Renaissance of craft beer even in the smallest of burgs.  The issue our title suggests is the challenge to the mega-brewery brands and how we have arrived at this point in time.

        The Casual Dining Operators “Survival Guide”  

I admit I have a warm place in my heart for casual dining chain restaurants; however, as their sales continue to slip it appears my fellow Americans may not have their hearts in the same place.  We’re not going to berate the “casual dining set” as they appear to need all the support they can garner.  We’ll point out some differences between the chain-operators versus the independent operators through consumer feedback and attempt to offer some suggestions for the chains attempting a “come back” tour.

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Cause and Effect: Higher Wages vs. Restaurant Closures

 

            Our position is to advocate for operators to review their current business model and evaluate the options regarding wages to determine the “best fit” for their business.  To that point we’ll offer some suggestions and attempt to start the conversation as this issue affects both the business owner and their most important asset, the people who bring their concept to life on a daily basis.

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Casual Dining can be Fixed!

             Okay “spoiler alert” we’ll be discussing the casual dining segment this month but we won’t be “beating up” on them as some industry observers have over the past year.  What we will do is review how the segment came to be and what has changed historically from that point to the present.  Along with way we hope to offer some observations of our own and suggestions on opportunities to move forward for the segment.

Using “Wine Culture” to Drive Margin Gain

 

            As the title might suggest we’ll be speaking to the wine portion of our audience today.  Wine holds a special place in the fabric of our lives, we often drink some form of it in a toast for weddings, anniversaries, job promotions and retirement events. Wine is also used for sacramental purposes such as wedding ceremonies (not just the reception), baptisms and of course communions.

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          An attorney friend of mine once shared with me a general attitude they believe the public holds toward their profession and summed it up as, “An attorney is the most useless thing in the world, until you need one!” I was a younger then and at the time I had never heard the remark but with time have come to understand its’ general acceptance among the public.  So why discuss the benefits of legal counsel in a hospitality forum, the point to make here is about seeking professional advice and experience.

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Forecasts, Projections and Trends, Oh My!

             This is the time of year when industry observers and pundits traditionally offer up their respective vision or spin on the direction of the hospitality industry for the next twelve months.  We don’t claim to have a crystal ball but instead offer up our version of what might befall restaurant operators given industry facts alongside a healthy dose of human nature.

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For the Want of a Third-Party Opinion

             Independent restaurant operators have always been the backbone and life blood of the hospitality industry.  They bring a passion for food and service in the belief their concept is the answer to a void in the food and beverage offerings within their community.  This independent spirit is common among restaurant operators regardless if they intend to open just one unit or potentially thousands.  The premise is “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” and of course a healthy helping of ego may be involved as well.

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Casual Dining’s Death Spiral?

 

            Another month and another round of Medical Examiner Reports for the Casual Dining segment of the restaurant industry.  As interested and invested industry observers we trail-along to learn where the industry is trending regardless of the segment; however, casual dining has recently been examined by more than one publication for a preliminary post-mortem.  It wouldn’t be “business as usual” if we didn’t chip in our two-bits as well.

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Location, Location, Location

 

            That’s the answer to the classic question of what it takes to be successful in the restaurant business.  Of course that’s over simplified as industry veterans know and understand that while a good location is helpful, especially for high volume – low margin operations, it isn’t the “cure all” for restaurant success.  Many other elements affect an operator’s bottom line; however, as advertised we will ruminate oh how local geography contributes to the bottom line.

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Is the “demise” of Casual Dining premature?

             I just read another industry trade article regarding the decent of the fortunes of the casual dining segment, http://nrn.com/casual-dining/casual-dining-fights-survival, and there were some fairly gloomy statistics about its’ current state of affairs.  I’m not going to “pile on” any criticism or profess to have all the answers but will offer my personal view based upon a lifetime working within the food service industry and benefit of multiple hospitality degrees. 

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Is Casual Dining so “Yesterday?”

 

            I came up through the fine-dining segment of the restaurant industry and witnessed casual dining operations in their infancy and learning to walk.  Clearly casual operators did an excellent job of learning how to walk and then run away with growth for several decades.  Now it appears those same casual dining operators are feeling the pinch of the demographic changes that are driving so many other aspects of current society experiences.

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Are you a “Late Adopter?”

 

            If you keep up with current events in either the news or any trade journal you may have heard the term “early adopter” when the author speaks of the use or review of any form of technology intended to increase an efficiency or task common to a specific industry.  This begs a question of food service operators, if you could use technology (usually in the form of software) that could shorten your daily management tasks allowing you more contact time with guests and the opportunity to support your staff would you “adopt” and use that technology?

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The Pursuit of Human Capital

 

            As a young culinary student I recall my instructor sharing some of his accumulated wisdom with our class when there was a learning opportunity.  One day as he was either waxing philosophically or recalling a challenging situation he shared the following two statements which I will address separately on their own merits.  Please keep in mind that regardless of the employer / employee dynamic, in the end we all usually reap what we sow.

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Navigating the “New-Wage” landscape

 

            New York City’s minimum wage for quick-service restaurant employees is $10.50 / hour, soon to be $15 / hour when new legislation takes effect.  The California state legislature has created and the Governor has signed a bill gradually raising the state minimum wage to an eventual $15 / hour as well.  Several cities around the nation have also raised the minimum hourly wage within their geographic limits so what are food service operators to do?

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Training Never Ends

 

            While I attended college, pursuing my Master’s degree, I taught undergraduates in the hospitality program in primarily freshman and sophomore level courses.  Infrequently I had the opportunity to teach a management course where I would entertain feedback from the upper classmen who were rapidly becoming “experts” in their field.  During the give-and-take of these exchanges one student offered a statement regarding how they looked forward to graduation when they could go to the job and “never have to crack another book”, just work.

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Creating Brand Success – by the Numbers?

             How do you measure success, bottom line, number of units or guest satisfaction scores?  The truth is many operators may consider all of these criteria and more as a measure of their progress and brand worth.  We are always curious to learn how industry observers determine new brand achievements and the criteria they use as their respective “measuring stick”.

            We took notice of a recent article (Breakout Brands 2016; NRN, 2/17/16) and the criteria used to measure the progress of ten emerging brands.  The authors used eight distinct factors by which to measure the significance of these new food service operators (article link is below).  Being inquisitive souls we took a deeper dive into what the criteria were telling us about how brands are perceived even if it’s only the perspective of industry observers.

Hey McDonald’s let’s see if this sticks to the wall!

 

            I continue to read articles and blogs about what McDonald’s needs to do to prop up their sagging sales and haven’t yet seen the answer that could be the simplest.  Recall the last quarter of 2002 when McDonald’s stock was trading a tad above $12 a share and many industry observers were talking about the “good old days” as it appeared the venerable burger giant was slipping backwards.

            Just as when a struggling sports franchise is faced with a losing season(s) and they fire their “head coach” there was a quick game of musical chairs in the boardroom.  Out was a CEO who was focused on a new cooking platform and “In” was a CEO who was focused on the fundamentals, or perhaps better execution of those fundamentals.