Leaders should always be a few steps ahead of their team

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my 30 years as a business owner and consultant, is the importance of good leadership … in all areas.  Maintaining focus, a cool and calm demeanor and thinking about 10 minutes ahead of my staff is an everyday practice for me, and serves us all well.

Our industry is not necessarily unique, but I do think we have a very detailed profession and there are so many important pieces to every meal, every event, every new restaurant concept and every day.  Thinking ahead enables us to stay on target and also helps us circumvent any potential “disasters du jour”. I am grateful when I come across a small detail that was left behind but which we can now adjust because we are ahead of the game.

Mental lists give way to written and typed lists and all of it works to keep us organized.  Back in the day … my little scraps of paper were everywhere, but they worked.  Today my notes are digital and follow me wherever I go.  Neatly organized on my laptop and synched to my phone where I can disseminate almost any kind of info with a few swipes and pecks.

I feel lucky to have the benefits of technology but my brain still really gets a good workout. Today it’s rest and relaxation, time to shore up the energy reserves and gear up for the week ahead.

 

 

Put on your catering hats.

It’s raining here in Chicago and I would like to suggest that you put on your catering hats! What I mean is that as April showers bring May flowers, so arrives the party season and the best time for all things catering.

With Communions, Mother’s Day, Graduations and summer entertaining around the corner, it’s an opportune time to think about catering. If you are a restaurant owner without a catering sector, it might be time to consider how catering might impact your business.  If you are a restaurant owner with a catering sector it’s time to take a look at your catering menus and see what needs to be done to improve and fine tune.

Catering for restaurants is a great way to build relationships with your existing customers, to make use of your kitchen in low traffic periods, to allow your culinary staff to flex their culinary muscle with new ideas and creativity and to create a broader revenue stream with a very good ROI.

Catering is not just for caterers.

It’s that time of year.  In the Midwest, when we feel that first nip in the air, generally our foodie minds turn to homemade soups and chili and baked apple goodness.  However, when you are a seasoned veteran of the catering industry like me, my foodie mind turns to holiday parties!

What can we do as foodservice professionals to bring in more business during this very busy time of year?  If you’re a restaurant owner, you can consider seasonal specials, or perhaps opening your restaurant to groups for a new day part in which you are normally closed. Group business is good for business especially when you control the menu, production and staff required. Offering the corporate customer a way to bring in a group for a special breakfast, lunch or even cocktail hour celebration in addition to dinner business is a win-win for you and your customers.

Catering is another great option for the holidays. Your customers are busy this time of year and will appreciate the opportunity to order some of their favorite items from their favorite restaurants.  If your kitchen can handle the prep in the off-peak hours, and you’ve got enough refrigeration and space to assemble, why not consider putting together a limited catering menu for pick-up and/or delivery?  If you can offer curbside pick-up, it’s even more appealing to the customer.

Here’s what you need to think about in the short run. Peruse your menu and pick a few items you know can be prepared a bit in advance, and which will transport and hold well.  Instead of preparing individual portions as you would for carry-out, prepare larger quantities of these items to share and offer your specialties by the tray and platter.  Figure out how many each will serve and price accordingly. Ask your vendors what they have available for packaging and see what your options are.  Include warming and serving suggestions with every order.  Keep the menu small.  Stick to your specialties that will heat, hold and travel well.

Promote catering within your operation via table tents, menus or server suggestions.  Promote it in email marketing, social media and on your website. If it works well for the holidays, think about how you can turn catering into a more permanent revenue stream year round.  If you do it well, catering will help you to build your relationships within the community and will drive more business into your restaurant. 

 

Spring into Catering

It’s raining here in Chicago and I would like to suggest that you put on your catering hats!  What I mean is that as April showers bring May flowers, so arrives the party season and the best time for all things catering.

With Communions, Mother’s Day, Graduations and summer entertaining around the corner, it’s an opportune time to think about catering. If you are a restaurant owner without a catering sector, it might be time to consider how catering might impact your business.  If you are a restaurant owner with a catering sector it’s time to take a look at your catering menus and see what needs to be done to improve and fine tune.

Catering for restaurants is a great way to build relationships with your existing customers, to make use of your kitchen in low traffic periods, to allow your culinary staff to flex their culinary muscle with new ideas and creativity and to create a broader revenue stream with a very good ROI.

Catering is not right for every restaurant but if you think it can work in your environment, now is a good time to check the competition and conduct a little market research.  Talk to your staff and see what they think, explore the items on your menu that might transfer well to catering and start small.  You can always add to a catering menu and in fact, catering menus are best when they change with the seasons.

 

The pleasures of butterscotch

How about a trip back in time … can you remember the last time you had some Butterscotch Pudding?

For me, I had the pleasure of visiting my cousin in Tucson last year about this time.  We went to a restaurant called Wildflower and had a fabulous dinner.  Deciding to indulge in dessert, we ordered what they had on special that evening.  I can’t remember what it was exactly … but there was butterscotch involved!  It was the most wonderful taste sensation and brought me right back to my childhood. Since that evening, I have wondered what happened to butterscotch and why it has not been a part of my last 40 years.

When I returned to Chicago, I had butterscotch on my mind for awhile and thought I’d do a little research.  But then, as often happens to those of us in the industry, I got sidetracked and forgot all about the butterscotch … until a couple of weeks ago.  A friend of mine who is moving to Indy, sent me a recipe for Butterscotch Pot de Creme that needed to be converted to ounces from grams.  She was having a major craving and wanted to take the recipe to Indiana, get settled in her new home and then make it as a reminder of comfort and joy.

I consulted with a couple of my peeps and we did the conversions. However, I took it a step further of course, and I’m thinking you probably already know what I’m about to say.  Yep, had to make it myself and found the perfect occasion.  Last night there was a little farewell party for my friends and I volunteered to bring dessert.

Knowing it would be a great surprise and a great comfort for my friend, I sought the best Butterscotch Chips (Guittard), indulged in a fresh Vanilla Bean and set out to create these little pots of butterscotch pleasure.

Oh my. Topped with a little whipped cream and chocolate, there was indeed audible moaning going on around the table last night!  If you haven’t had a little butterscotch in a long time, I encourage you to go for it, click on the link for the recipe, you will not be sorry.  Enjoy!

Butterscotch Pot de Crème

Butterscotch Pot de Creme

 

Peru

I was invited by clients to visit Lima Peru for an immersion into the cuisine and culture.  We are going to help them build a Peruvian Fast Casual Concept here in Chicago.

It was an utterly fascinating experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity.  It was so gracious of our clients to invite us and it was everything I expected and more.  Lima is a very large city in a developing country and we had the chance to visit the ocean as well as attend the wholesale markets on the outskirts of town.

At the markets we saw celery that looked as if it were on steroids! Absolutely gorgeous.  The types and styles of potatoes goes on for days.  Different starch content to each one and a variety of traditional and authentic recipes for each type.  The mangoes were incredible and available every morning as part of our breakfast ritual.  They have a purple corn in Peru which yields a terrific beverage called a Chicha Morada … love it!

Legumes and fresh seafood are other staples of Peruvian Cuisine and we were so delighted to enjoy their traditional Cebiche at La Mar, a very well known restaurant where the service is so phenomenal.  Not stuffy, young and hip, friendly and attentive. There are close to 10 million people in Lima and no real rules of the road so to speak.  We put our trust in the hands of our driver and off we went.  I have never had an eating trip quite like this one.  By the last day, we were overstuffed.

We are full of ideas and ready to work on our menu.  It’s going to be fun.

20130303_132003      20130303_120530

 

 

A forum for support

Okay, we’ve made it through January and we’ve got some momentum going for February.  As small business owners we have thought out our strategy for 2013 and we’ve put our marketing plan on the calendar.  A great start, let’s take a moment and pat ourselves on the back.  Or maybe indulge in a little Ben & Jerrys.

What’s next?  How do we keep our pipelines filled with prospects, open and flowing? How do we keep our focus and stay in the game when it’s 20 degrees outside and all we want to do is cozy in?

I find it helpful to band together with other small business owners and share the load.  Meeting for coffee or a meal with another like-minded person always lifts my spirits and keeps the juices flowing.  It doesn’t have to be lonely at the top.

In fact, this year, part of my strategic plan is to form a group of dynamic small business owners who would benefit from a monthly forum of support, sharing stories and being there for each other.  If you are interested in joining my group, send me a text, email or smoke signal and we’ll see who shakes out and what can unfold.

A New Year Begins

New Year, new blog, sweet beginning.  My resolution is to write more often and to have some tasty fun with it.

It was a wonderful holiday season.

My clients were busy and their events and festivities were grand and successful.  Most are approaching this new year with a positive outlook for more business opportunities, and the time to learn and grow.

I was busy assisting current clients and fielding inquiries for new opportunities.  I feel great about what lies ahead, and I am excited about the many possibilities to expand my reach and my spheres of influence.

Let’s all get busy with our strategic plans for 2013.  Let’s take the time to set our intentions,  and create the opportunities we are seeking instead of letting our businesses flow over us.