How Do Restaurants Survive?

Starting one’s own restaurant from the groun dup can be a very complicated endeavor. It takes patience, the passion for food, and of course, money. However, once a restaurant is started, it is just as important to keep the establishment open, and keep customers interested and coming back. There have been many different strategies used by chefs and owners alike to keep their dreams alive, while also satisfying their customers.
One particularly unique example of a restaurant owner maintaining a steady business is that of Arron Silverman. Silverman is the chef/owner at Rose’s Luxury, in Washington, D.C. Rose’s was ranked by Bon Appetit magazine as the best new restaurant of 2014.
Andrew Knowlton, the reporter who profiled the restaurant for the magazine, captures this unique strategy. “While chef-owner Aaron Silverman is clearly concerned with the food that goes out on his plates, he pays even closer attention to the people eating it. And that’s when it hits me: Rose’s isn’t just in the restaurant business; it’s in the making-people-happy business.”
Silverman and his staff employ many unique strategies to try and keep people happy. Whether it is keeping the bathroom clean, offering drinks and dishes “from us,” or marking up menus for people with allergies, this restaurant is certainly one-of-a-kind. So the fact that the line is 30 deep before the restaurant even opens is a testament to the success of Silverman’s efforts.
Knowlton ends his piece with a key factabout the restaurant business and those who indulge in it. “People go out to eat for all kinds of reasons. Some for the dishes, some for the service, and some just because a food magazine told them to. But at the end of the day, everyone goes back to the place they enjoyed the most.”
He says that the fact that Silverman understands this and applies it so uniquely makes it a “culinary revolution.”
One does not have to be ranked number one in a food magazine to still understand how to keep a business maintained. Pete’s Famous Pizza, in Center City Philadelphia, PA, takes a much simpler root. Pete’s has been opened and thriving since 1980. The restaurant may not be large, but it’s home-like diner atmosphere, with a great cook and very friendly servers, some of which have been working there for over two decades, make it a very comfortable and welcoming experience to dine there. It’s current owner, Pete Kada, stresses the importance of customers. He does not use any particularly unique strategies, but he focuses his efforts on keeping customers coming in. The menu has a plethora of items for all meals, from sandwhiches to pasta dishes to of course, it’s pizza. He says that customers are the number one key for any business and keeping it open, and through dishing out the “best product you can,” along with good customer service, one can run a successful business.
Kada, who took over ownership of the restaurant from his grandfather in 2010, also talks about consistency. “In the restaurant business especially, consistency is very important. If you come in and get a cheesesteak, you want it to be the same way on Wednesday that it will be next Wednesday.”
Kada says that this is something that falls in line with his grandfather’s goals, goals that kept the place opened for 30 years before Kada took over. “My grandpop was all about quality, consistency and passion, and those are some of the things I’ll never change, because those are the things that build us, and that’s what we’re based upon. And that’s the key to success right there.”
One can have all the passion and consistency they want, but sometimes, one’s dreams may notwork out as planned. WSJ reported the story of Thomas Sergio. Sergio had dreamed of owning a restaurant since he was a young boy, helping his mother in a kitchen. He traveled the world, and trained in executive work, then went to achieve those dreams. After careful research, he found a small new chain called “The Grape,” which fell in line perfectly with what he had always pictured, the “wine-beastro” format. He baught a chain in North Carolina, which he thought, based on demographic research, would be home to those of elegant taste. As it turned out, this was far from the case. People were not interested in wine, and were not willing to try new things. Customers treated the place as more of a relaxation spot than an eatery. One customer, for instance, feeling abliged to put her feet up on an empty chair. This act suggests that the restaurant itself may not have been a very comfortable environment to dine in. Furthermore, Sergio was willing to stick to the pricing guidelines given by the Grape, so he could not reduce pricing to try and make even a slight profit. This lead to the eventual downfall of his restaurant after about a year and a half. Sergio went against the keys to success that Kada and Silverman went for. He based his thoughts of how to keep his business open on research, demographics, and assuming that a certain group of people in a market would like a certain type of food and atmosphere. Also, he made those assumptions about a market he had never lived in, which shows that something may seem better in theory than it is when you practically apply it. He kept rigid standards, which customers clearly were not happy with.
WSJ says that after he left the franchise, he now works in the baking industry, and he has learned from the failed experiment. “I’ve taken my licks, learned my lessons. And I’m still trying to make my dream happen in a culinary concept, but very cautiously, one step at a time.”
Whether you run a fancy restaurant ranked in a food magazine, or a small pizza joint, customers are what maintain good business. There are many different ways owners and/or chefs may try to keep customers coming back and enjoying the experience, but it all leads to the same thing, that Pete Kada stated. Customers are clearly the number one thing that keeps a business going, and it can also lead to disappointment, as Thomas Sergio found. As Kada rightly stated, “Without customers, you have no business.”


How To Deal With Failure

In this article, three “quick service” food CEO’s discuss that failure is part of the business. It is something that everyone, in the food industry or not, has to deal with. One example in the story is Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, which allows the general public to have full access to it’s failures, via the “Flavor Graveyard,” in which flavors that failed for one reason or another are buried, tombstones and all. But all 3 CEO’s (the other two being a Greek restaurant chain owner, and a pizza chain owner) talk about how it is important to learn from those failures, and not to give up. If a menu item or flavor fails, don’t be afraid to just immediately move onto something else. At the same time, the CEO’s say that too much success should not raise one’s eago. They have to be able to help people who may be more involved in the failure than the CEO is, as well.
This is a story that discusses an overlooked aspect of the food industry, failure. After researching this industry for some months, there is very little coverage of chains, or other food establishments failing, or why they did. But it is important to know these things, especially if you work in that industry. It is important for people who have failed at something to get back up and try something different, as this story says.
This story can be found here:

Restaurant Closing After 60 Years

This story from the Tennessean tells of the closing of Dotson’s, a southern comfort food joint that had stayed opened for 60 years. The restaurant was sold. In this story, are emotional testimonials from customers, including one that had been going there for 39 years. It is certainly a testament to keeping business good and maintained. Customers are said to have called the service “like family,” and reported the food was “exquisite.” It shows that even if you have a good running business that has maintained for more than half a century, sometimes a good enough sail offer can trump that. The sign announcing the closure suggested the emotional attachment the staff had to the place, suggesting that “greed” had been a factor of why the place was closing. The word was removed.
This is a good example of a reporter connecting with a community that will undoubtedly miss the old restaurant. With the emotional quotes from customers and staff, and the hope that the place may reopen in a new location, one is left with the feeling that the closing is not all bad.
This story can be found here:

Dining Can Also Be Unusual

In this list story from “The Daily Meal” by the Huffington Post, the author describes some of the strangest restaurants in the world. Some of the ideas listed here are outrageous, from a restaurant that serves food in toylet bowls, to a grill that serves butterfat milkshakes, refers to orders as perscriptions, and lets people who weigh over 350 pounds eat for free. The story talks about how for some people, simply going out to eat isn’t enough, there has to be uniqueness to it, which is certainly offered at these establishments.
This story has no interviews, but there is a photo for each restaurant, showing it’s uniqueness.
This story is found here:

A Very Unique Dining Option

This video package from the CBC tells the story of a restaurant in Toronto called Signs. It is unique in that the wait staff is entirely made up of deaf people. Patrons must order in sign language. Help is provided next to each menu item, and via a “cheat sheet,” for those who don’t know how to sign. It is doing quite well.
The reporter interviews the owner, and several advocates for the deaf community. This is a very important step for people with disabilities, deaf or otherwise, as it gives an opportunity for the deaf to work in a field they may not have had the chance to work in before. The story also features an interview with one of the deaf waitors, via an interpreter. This brings up the uniqueness of interviewing via an interpreter, which might be unnerving, since you have to depend on the interpreter to properly convey the interviewee’s thoughts, rather than getting them directly from the subject.
This story is found here:

What do Chefs Think?

This report from the food network is the summary of a survey of chefs, that provide some very interesting information one might not hear anywhere else. It discusses that chefs actually do eat fast food, bribes don’t always score tables, and one of the most interesting, that specials on menus aren’t usually about boldness, but a chef merely experimenting with new ideas to see if it clicks with anyone.
This report is not so much a story, but a brief summary of numerous chefs’ responses to questions. Occasionally, a unique response by a chef will be quoted or delivered in anecdotal form, but usually, the information is delivered so that what you might not assume/expect is highlighted.
This article can be found here:

Whose Number One?

This article from Bon Appetit magazine profiles their top new restaurant of 2014, Rose’s Luxury in Washington D.C. The ranking is warranted, since the chef-owner is uniquely interested in making people happy, and he employs staff that feels the same way. He goes to unique lengths to help that happen, such as allowing customers to order things not on the menu, and providing mark-ups for the menu for possible allergies. He is, like any chef, of course concerned with serving good food, but his main concern, which is what keeps the line at his establishment out the door consistently, is the happiness of the customers coming in.
This is an interesting way of reporting. Magazine reporting is a more informal science, and this is no exception. It is written as a timeline, since the reporter is tailing the owner for 12 hours. So, you take an in-depth look at an average day at the restaurant, and you can quickly see why this magazine ranked it number one.
This article can be found here: