Monday, July 13, 2009

Upscale Restaurants: ACT IV - The Tragedy

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It’s been awhile since I’ve driven around town for no apparent reason. Last week, I drove around to see the current restaurant landscape in Beverly Hills. I went into one restaurant and the manager was telling me about the restaurant closures in the area. It’s very sad.

Warning: Another rant from me about restaurant management…

An upscale restaurant on Restaurant Row was sold after 2 years in business, the company that built it spent about $18 million and it seemed like 5 years to build the building. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful building, but 5 years? They didn't know what they were doing and had problems with permits, staff, etc. When it finally opened, it was a total mess, the management didn’t know the customers, the servers didn’t know about the food, operation problems, and it went on and on. I’m not sure what the PR agency did or didn’t do, but there wasn’t a SPLASH for the opening. PR people love having something to promote, but this restaurant couldn’t deliver and the PR agency seemed to be out of their league. My guess was that it was both. It's funny, there was a negative blurb in the paper about the restaurant's management on the same page as a similar restaurant down the street, their review was great - this made them look even worse. Not sure what the new owner will be doing, but I’m sure it will be more of the same. I would love for someone to give me that kind of money to open a restaurant and then say “Oh well, time to sell.”

Most upscale restaurant owners all do the same thing and are not willing to spend the money to train their staff on the food and what the focus is all about. OK, management doesn't know either and is reflected in their staff's training. They can’t get customers in the door or sell the food that they have on their menus. Rather than to fix it, I guess it’s just easier to just bring in new management or try to sell it. I’ve been telling people for years, MARKETING is so important when you’re selling an upscale product. It's also a different customer and approach. But all restaurants do the same thing, because they follow what the guy across the street is doing. I could go on and on, if they would only call me for help…

In LA, there are about 50,000 people that frequent upscale restaurants on a regular basis. With new restaurants opening all the time, there isn’t a wide target audience to draw from on a daily basis. They just do the same daily business hoping that people will come. Times have changed and these guys don’t know what to do, “value added” is not in their vocabulary and they’re stuck. So, they put up a banner offering “50% OFF”. If you’ve ready my blogs before, you know that restaurants can't survive by giving that much away on a regular basis, they close soon after the "50% Off". If they just offer a value added bonus or better service and get people to return to spend their hard earned cash. But they try to get too fancy and offer items that only a small percentage would want. I just don’t get it and have told owners that, but they know better than I do, as their business goes down the drain.

As you can tell, I get frustrated when I see restaurants playing follow the leader into the ground. It’s sad but very true. What they need is a marketing expert to reshape their focus during these tough economic time. You can't be everything to everyone!

Attention Restaurant Owners: Give me a call, I can help!

1 comment:

Chef Luna said...

Thanks for an insightful article! I agree totally! I went from an upscale dining environment to a winery, where desserts didn't sell. Once I intitated a tasting whenever the menu changed the servers loved it & desserts flew. As the pastry chef, this was great. The Exec Chef didn't like all the interaction, the owner gave him carte blanche....and now none of his most trusted reliable people work there. Such a simple act brought in more money & got people excited about desserts! Its that easy.