Sharing Success

Happy New Year!

Around this time of year, I look back on how the world has been changing and think about what the future may hold, especially as it relates to our family’s business.

As I look back over the past ten years, I am amazed at the acceleration of change. During that time, Maureen and I enjoyed watching our three sons evolve from curious boys into confident young men. It is hard to believe that Conner, our youngest, is starting to look at colleges!

The business landscape has also shifted since 2009! Here are just a few of the changes impacting your business and ours:

1) Employment is up (especially versus 2009). On the positive side, it means more consumers have a little extra to spend on eating out. But for businesses, it makes finding entry-level employees harder. Similarly, minimum wage rates are rising. So are the costs of healthcare, insurance, etc. There is nothing you or I can do to change these new realities.

2) Younger employees tend to be motivated differently. They often place greater value on “making a difference” over financial rewards. So for example, when employers give employees the option to work “overtime” hours, where older generations might embrace the opportunity to earn premium “overtime” pay, younger generations might pass up the chance to work longer hours in favor of more “personal” time.

3) Electronic Word of Mouth travels faster. Regardless of whether or not restaurateurs like (or strongly dislike) online review websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, the fact remains that the internet has accelerated how quickly consumers hear good feedback (or bad) about peer restaurant experiences. Therefore, consistency in food quality and service quality is more important than ever.


What has NOT changed:

1) Superior food quality is non-negotiable. Providing truly superior food can provide a powerful competitive edge, especially against the chains, during good times and bad.

2) Customers still value superior service. But service excellence is defined by what customers expect.

3) Large chains remain predictably price-driven. When choosing between improving quality and cutting costs, they sacrifice quality to cut costs.


Challenges are also opportunities. Guess what. Your competitors are facing the exact same conditions.


Business success comes from developing advantages over the competition. The way to maximize those advantages is identifying opportunities to further excel where your competitors fall short. For example, you might consider the following:

1) Widen your quality advantage! When faced with rising costs, short-sighted competitors look to reduce ingredient costs (which inevitably leads to reducing quality). Actively seek new ways to make your food even more flavorful.

2) Don’t overlook individual ingredients. Long ago, I learned “Little things are not ‘little’ in the big scheme of things.” In other words, if you make a soup from a handful of extraordinary ingredients, their flavors together are “greater than the sum of the parts.” On the other hand, skimping on even one ingredient can “spoil the whole pot.”

3) Keep motivating your employees. Regardless of age, employees prefer working where their contributions are valued and recognized. Regularly reinforce your dedication to superior quality and how each employee’s role directly contributes to that. If a goal is having your food recognized as among the “best of the best,” also educate your team on specific steps you take to achieve that goal.

4) Think outside of the box. Consumers care most about great food, not necessarily how or where it is served, which creates opportunity. Two recent restaurant trends, “fast-fine” counter-service eateries and gourmet food trucks which greatly reduce required labor, while plowing the cost-savings back into maximizing ingredient/food quality.

On a personal note, I hope that you and your family enjoyed the holidays. On behalf of everyone here at Stanislaus and Corto Olive, Maureen and I wish you and yours the best in the coming year! Until next time, Ciao!