- Culinary consultant for restaurants and food companies, assessing menus and recipes and creating original recipes to fit client specifications.
- Accomplished food writer who develops stories for publications such as Every Day with Rachel Ray and Westways.
- As senior food editor at Bon Appetit, managed recipe testing, worked with writers and chefs, developed the popular Fast Easy Fresh column.
- Author of three cookbooks and editor of three others.
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The restaurant business, and the entire food industry, is extremely competitive. Owners, investors, operators, managers, marketers and chefs have to know what the competition is doing and stay informed about trends.
Smart operators aren't content to rest on their laurels and risk looking dated or out of touch. Giving ever-evolving, often trend-seeking consumers what they want is key to success. This is as important to your business plan as food costs and salaries.
That's why you need to take a hard look at your menu and dishes at least once a year while staying current with trends in the food industry. Monitoring customer feedback year-round is critical as well.
Often an independent, objective eye and palate are needed to analyze, assess and recommend changes. Those on the front line – owners, managers and staff – are sometimes too close to daily operations to be objective. Sometimes they're just too busy with day-to-day operations to take time out to assess, research and develop.
In an annual review, give a fresh look at every dish. Think about trends and what's popular, what items might need to be re-thought. Should a dish be removed or tweaked? Sometimes a new presentation is all that is required to refresh a dish that still tastes great. Most important, take into account customer feedback and how well dishes are selling.
Making changes should be a well-thought out process. Just as customers can get bored without any change in the flavor profile or menu offerings, they can be disappointed if a favorite signature dish disappears from a menu. Too much change is as risky as none.
Sometimes the impetus comes from the kitchen. Other times from the owner, manager or a marketing director. It is important to get input from top down; and get buy-in to changes from the bottom up. Thoughtful and purposeful owners and operators ask for help to determine what isn't going right. They may know something isn't right but be too close to the situation to know what needs improvement.
Smart restaurant management:
- Keeps up with what’s going on in the industry via dining out at the competition and at trend-setting restaurants to see what they serve and who their customers are; reading culinary newsletters, blogs, and food-industry and food-centric publications; monitoring customer feedback to service staff and on consumer websites like Yelp.
- Remembers that success is based on a loyal customer base. But success also requires wooing of new customers as existing customers age.
- Recognizes and responds to megatrends, including healthful alternatives, especially gluten-free and vegetarian; local and sustainable; smaller portion options.