Saturday, July 18, 2009

So You Took My Idea...

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The restaurant business is very competitive and everyone is looking for the next hot concept. What they should be doing is improving their own food service and having something worth ordering. A few weeks ago, I heard that Baja Fresh was serving Korean BBQ Tacos at their new concept store in South Irvine. I read that the burritos and tacos were different from Kogi Korean BBQ Tacos (http://www.kogibbq.com/) but thought they were working together. This week, I found out that the two aren't working together. Is Baja Fresh is doing fusion food now? I guess I'm confused as it doesn't fit their Mexican menu. Baja Fresh has taken Korean beef and chicken and put them on their menu calling it "Baja Kogi." This week there was talk that Baja Fresh used the "Kogi" name and it's trademarked and has since changed to "Baja Gogi". Also, I thought their new look reminded me of Chipotle Mexican Grill. I get it, but does it confuse the consumer?

Examples of my ideas being used:

Example 1: I met with a restaurant company that needed my help. They have a unique business that others have tried to copy. Unfortunately, the current owners (finance guys) purchased this business from the founder and since it’s not their vision, they have no idea on how to successfully grow it. The look of their restaurants and graphics are from the 70’s, so I know they don’t know what to do to bring them up to date. This week, I saw that they have a promotion going on now, something that I pitched to them about 7 years ago, so I went to check it out. They took the shell of what I was saying, but didn’t know how to execute it, so they filled in the blanks on their own with the 1970’s graphics. I’m not sure if they’ll break even on this promotion and maybe they’ve “Jumped the Shark” and on their way to closing soon. Stuck in 1970, promotions that will put them out of business, and marketing to the wrong target audience.

Example 2: About 5 years ago, my business partner and I were talking about a sports sushi bar. A chef who was there took the idea, found a place, hired people, and opened up the business. It’s a sports bar, but when you walk in, you would think it was just a restaurant with TV monitors. Nothing in there says “Sports”. The big reason why they aren’t successful is that they don’t know sports. The service is not very good, they’re back kitchen guys and don’t know how to train servers. The menu doesn’t reflect “sports” or “sports bar”. They’re having a tough time due to the menu, service, location, and marketing.

Example 3: We took a restaurant owner to a seafood restaurant for lunch and told her that something like this would do really well with some tweaks. She went off and opened a knockoff of this place in another city. She recently called us for help on another concept, her seafood concept crashed and burned. Probably due to pricing, menu items, and no marketing.

My point to these examples, just because you know food service, you need to have a plan and vision for the growth and/or success of the business. You can take a concept or idea, but when you get stuck, you don’t know what to do because you didn’t get the information to get unstuck. My aunt tells me to keep my mouth shut and do it myself. I’m actually learning from these people, although I wouldn’t have done it like they did in the first place. It’s funny, they still call me for help. I guess they’re trying to get more ideas from me, too bad that they only take the bad ones. What if they actually paid me for a good one?

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