Today's Special: An important lesson from Applebee's CEO

DID YOU KNOW… On May 30th, Mars will be at it’s closest distance to Earth since 2015? You can easily see it shining like a bright red star new to the moon this week.

Today's Special

Today’s Hack: Leader’s Lead: Do what you say you’re going to do [Hack #052]


Why it’s important to you: High cost of living is fueling the war for talent

Bay Area restaurants are having a bit of a worker shortage problem and the culprit isn’t poor work environments or an awful boss. It’s a ridiculously high cost of living. Even California’s $15/hr minimum wage is of little help. Working 40 hours per week at that rate comes to $2,400 (pre-tax). The average studio apartment in the area goes for $2,120, forget all the other bills that there are. So local workers are either going to need to work overtime (and there are new OT payment rules coming) or they’re going to need a second job just to survive.

Obviously this is a huge problem for restaurant workers who are trying to scrape by, but it’s also a problem for restaurant operators. Many servers and line cooks are leaving the industry or moving out of the region, making it more difficult for restaurants to properly man their FoH and BoH. And with turnover costing restaurants more than $140,000 annually, this is a major problem for Bay Area operators, too.


Why it’s important to you: A lesson from Applebee’s CEO Julia Stewart about making a splash

If you have ever looked around your restaurant and thought, “This place needs a change!” then you know exactly what Applebee’s CEO Julia Stewart must have felt as she announced the installation of real wood-fired grills in all 2000 locations. In an interview she gave to Yahoo Finance, she focuses on the problem with incremental change versus a more splash-worthy initiative.

Her point was that consumers don’t notice the basics, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. However, if you want to get people’s attention, you have to make a change that is noteworthy. Clearly Applebee’s $75MM menu and equipment makeover is such a change. It’s a bit like trying to turn the Titanic before it hits the iceberg. Sure it’s a huge endeavor, but the results will justify the effort.

For independent and small chain operators, the same rules can apply. While you can’t get a nationally syndicated web publisher to profile you, certainly you can get attention in your local market. Look around your community, figure out what they care about and do something that will earn their attention. Whether it’s a charitable aim, big time promotion/prize or taking on a cause, give your guests a reason to reacquaint themselves with you. Think big and think without limits. Who knows what could come from it.


Why it’s important to you: Security matters…but how it’s delivered also matters

Any Doctor Who fans out there? It appears Daleks have landed at the Stanford Mall in Palo Alto. A company called Knightscope leases an egg shaped robot equipped with sensors and high-tech solutions that allow it to hear breaking glass, log license plates and even interact with people. Knightscope was founded after the Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut revealed, if the police had been there just 60 seconds earlier as many as 12 lives would have been spared.

The argument is that intelligence is what makes for effective policing and protection. It goes without saying, if there were a way to save 12 lives through technology, considering it would be a moral imperative. However, at what cost? This device reads license plates, captures facial images and generally records the movement of people. Shouldn’t we at least resolve the role independently managed technology has in our society before we deploy it? No judgement, just a cautious approach to complicated issues that we as operators need to consider. You manage a restaurant and bar. How do you think your patrons would feel if they knew they were being recorded as they enter and left your establishment?


Why it’s important to you: Your social media reputation matters

It has long been known that eye witness accounts are both unreliable and highly inflammatory. Add the viral character of social media and you get a toxic cocktail of destructive misinformation. An Australian man was with his children at a Target and took a picture with a Darth Vader display. He explained what he was doing to another group of children nearby and their mother saw the interaction, followed the man outside the store and took his picture. Then she did the only logical thing she could think of…she posted it on Facebook and accused him of being a pedophilia. Suffice to say, it exploded and nearly destroyed the man’s life.

We have dozens of interactions daily that a typical guest wouldn’t understand if they saw it out of context. A male manager leaving a ladies room after inspecting it’s cleanliness or a pointed conversation with a server about performance could easily be captured and turned into something questionable on social media. That is why it’s crucial you be aware of your social media reputation and respond quickly to any negativity. You don’t have to be defensive, just respectful and thoughtful. What you can’t do is ignore it, because on the Internet nothing goes away.