Showing posts from June, 2009

Remember to Support Local Businesses!

Last week, I went to the post office and had to park around the corner. I walked by a fish & chips place that had been in business for 20 years. They were closed and had a sign thanking their loyal customers for 20 years of patronage. It’s sad to see places like this close due to the economy. I always remind people to support local businesses because in a tough economy, these are the first ones to go. Sure, I like the prices and selection at the big box retailers, but remember that small businesses are the backbone of this country. If it wasn’t for the independent retailer, you might never find that hard to find item or someone to repair the broken clock over the fireplace. Real estate on store shelves are very expensive and retailers will only carry products that sell at a certain threshold, just ask any CPG company. If we don’t support local restaurants, get used to eating at the chain restaurants. So many of them are closing. Now I admit, some of them had to close due to

Who's the Customer?

I work with a lot of Asian companies who want to sell to “Americans.” I figure that’s why they’re doing business in the US. In the last two weeks, I’ve talked to or have been contacted regarding marketing projects. My first question is who do you want to sell to? 9 times out of 10 the answer is Americans. Then I’m the one you want to talk to! The next question they ask is, "do you speak Vietnamese, Japanese, Mandarin, etc.?" I answer "No." The conversation/interview usually pauses here. When I mention "I thought you wanted to sell to Americans and I understand Asian products & culture, and a marketing expert all in one", I get a funny look on their faces or no answer over the phone. I'm not the typical Asian. I understand that they want to hire someone that “Fits” on the team, understands the customs, culture, and is an easy addition to your company. But business is business and I thought they want to grow the business in the US. Why hire someone w

Final Call...

Within a week, I’ve learned that six restaurants have closed or will be closing and one that was sold at a loss. The economy has hit all of us really hard, including those in the restaurant industry. It doesn’t matter what type of cuisine, fast casual or upscale, all restaurants are having a difficult time. I cringe when I’m watching a morning show or the news and someone is saying “don’t go out, stay home and eat.” I’m all about saving money and consumers need to save money by eating at home these days. Don't forget about the local restaurants in your area, they might not be there when the economy improves. Consumers are looking for value right now and probably for the future too. Local restaurants should take clues from the chain restaurants and offer value added meals. McDonalds has been successful with their value meal promotions and Subway has a $5 foot long sandwich promotion too. Hey Restaurant Owners! Take a clue from the big boys and start offering VALUE to your customers,

Sustainable Seafood

Last week I was listening to the World Ocean Day Celebration Webcast from the Monterey Bay Aquarium with Julie Packard and Alton Brown. I’ve been a fan of Alton Brown and of the Monterey Bay Aquarium for years and truly enjoyed this webcast. Now that they’ve taken on the sustainable seafood issue, I’m glad that they’re one of many who are making consumers aware of the current situation. As a sushi evangelist, I’m always being asked about my thoughts about the seafood supply. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve had Blue Fin Tuna (BFT) and it was Kindai tuna, the first tuna ever raised in captivity. It’s an expensive alternative and not available in many places. Why is BFT popular? Over the years, Japanese chefs have promoted premium items to their customers, such as the BFT red meat or the Toro – the fatty belly. They’ve educated their customers about toro and charged a premium price too, rather than other fish served with an exotic sauce. Taking a fish that needs to be marinated before

Restaurant Industry Wedding

Last night, I went to a wedding for a chef that I known for awhile, we actually went to the same high school. OK, so I went 15 years of so before him. I met Bobby when he was a culinary student and I was teaching Japanese cuisine. He’s a very creative chef, but understands food service and the need to fit within the kitchen operation and cost structure. I called him for one of my earliest projects and he came through with flying colors. When someone like Bobby tells me that he won’t let me down, I knew he was the right person to call. I only wish that there are more food people like Bobby. So last night he married his beautiful bride Sophia in a festive setting surrounded by family and friends. For me, it was more of a reunion to see industry people that I haven’t seen in awhile. We all talked about the same thing, increasing revenue and surviving during this tough economic time. But last night, it was all about Bobby and Sophia. They were gracious in thanking their guests fo

LOST and Found: Management LOST!

I had dinner at a restaurant that I really wasn’t too jazzed about going. The reviews were not very good and didn't seem that they had a signature dish that everyone was talking about. I usually take a new restaurant reviews with a grain of salt, but this company has 3 restaurants. I went with a couple of people who really wanted to go, still to this day I don’t know why. We arrived to an empty restaurant, they spent a lot of money on the interior and the menu was really hard to figure out. Not that it was hard to read, it just didn’t make much sense and I didn’t get the feeling that our server felt confident in knowing the menu either. We ordered the sampler platter to try a few of the appetizers, everything was really salty. When the server asked how everything was, I mentioned that the potatoes were really salty. He told me that they’re supposed to be like that. OK, I like salt, but even for me to say this is salty. Our next couple of dishes came and were uneventful. I guess the

Lost in Translation

I work with Asian food companies who want to come to the U.S. and set-up business. They’re very successful at home, but when they come here, most fail. In my opinion, these companies fail for many reasons, one of them is “Lost in Translation.” Somewhere along the way, it doesn’t translate properly. This causes headaches for the foreign nationals at the U.S. office. Here’s an example about a Japanese Yuba and Tofu restaurant. This company buys a building and builds a beautiful restaurant in Beverly Hills. They hired a PR agency to promote the restaurant and the opening. The restaurant received very average reviews and customer comments. I met a cook who worked there and ask him how many people come in and ask to sit at the sushi bar? The restaurant didn’t have a sushi bar and his response was, “How did you know, been to the restaurant?” The PR agency didn’t know the food or how to explain what Yuba is or the Kaiseki style of dining. The restaurant closed within a year. What should they