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Archive for May, 2010

Atlanta Jazz Festival

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

May 29–31, 2010 in Atlanta. For more information, visit


Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance Ollin Conference

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

May 26, 2010 at the Hotel Allegro in Chicago. For more information, visit MFHA.


International Wine, Spirits & Beer Show

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

May 23-24, 2010 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.  For more information visit


National Restaurant Association Show

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

May 22 – 25, 2010 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.  For more information, visit NRA show site.


Tour de Champagne

Friday, May 21st, 2010

May 21, 2010 at 103 West restaurant in Atlanta. For more information contact Tour de Champagne.


Buckhead Business Associaton Expo

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

May 20, 2010 at Grand Hyatt Buckhead. For more information, visit Buckhead Business Association.


GRA – On the Menu, Recipes for Success

Monday, May 17th, 2010

May 17, 2010 at the Hilton Atlanta. For more information, contact the Georgia Restaurant Association.


Your $4,000 Marketing Plan

Friday, May 14th, 2010

May/June 2010

By Richard A.L. Caldarola, D.B.A., CMA, CFM

This is not quite the question you thought it was when you saw the headline—this is not New York. No, this is a question of what might be more important to you, attracting new customers or keeping your present ones. Of course you want to do both! What restaurant operator would choose to lose valuable customers and not attract a new loyal following? But just what do you get for that $4,000 marketing investment that you made?

You have what would seem to be a plethora of choices when it comes to spending your advertising budget, from mailers and door hangers, to radio spots and print ads in newspapers and magazines, and even collateral pieces that can be distributed in hotel lobbies. If that wasn’t confusing enough, you also have to decide whether you are targeting new customers, trying to urge past customers to visit you again, or perhaps some combination of both.

Then there’s the message – should you have a percent or amount off coupon, or perhaps list your address with the menu and prices and with your restaurant’s tag line and logo prominently displayed, or should you have a special event to try to prompt an immediate response from the reader such as Come to dinner tonight! What should you do?

Perhaps we should consider first what not to do. Do you find that any of these fit your restaurant’s situation?
•    We estimate our target market by intuition, past experience and sometimes by what we think just might work.
•    We assume that the lack of complaints means that customers are satisfied and therefore will return for additional meal purchases.
•    We expect to be able to attract the same customer (types) to every daypart.
•    We think that coupons work to bring in new customers.
•    We believe that marketing is just advertising.
•    We have no idea how well our advertising works.

If you can answer yes to any of those statements and your sales aren’t increasing the way that you believe that they could, perhaps your message isn’t getting across the way it should.

It might be that you targeted the wrong audience or have the wrong message, or even have cannibalized your sales by offering coupons to attract new customers but find that the only ones using them are loyal, repeat customers.

So – what do you get for your $4,000? If you don’t know, it isn’t because of the marketing communications system that you use. It’s not only that coupons don’t work or print ads don’t work, or even that your image advertising spots on the radio don’t work. How would you know for sure unless you have a comprehensive measurement system? The more likely reason is that the design of the entire marketing program has a hitch in it, and the general cause for program design problems is when we equate Marketing with Advertising.

You know about the Marketing Mix, the now well argued 4 Ps of Marketing, of Product – Price – Place – Promotion. So certainly your product and service quality initiatives are well designed and implemented. Clearly you have price points for every daypart that represent a quality transaction for the customer and are very competitive. Your location was well researched and your signage is distinct and attractive. And of course you have your advertising promotions.

Those are all fine, but they all miss the 4 Ps of Strategic Marketing, the components without which even the finest products, the most competitive prices, the best location and the most creative advertising just won’t generate the results you expect. Strategic Marketing includes:
•    Probing (the market) – Market Research
•    Partitioning (the market) – Market Segmentation
•    Prioritizing (the market) – Selecting Target Markets
•    Positioning – Your special message to your Target Market in which you present your competitive advantages

Without strategic design and post implementation measures, the marketing mix is developed in a vacuum without clear direction, and there is no obvious way to know if your new product, coupon discounts, physical décor changes, or even that $4,000 in advertising have done what you intended.

Your restaurant should earn a reasonable return on all the investments that you make. That includes investments in the messages you send to your current and prospective customers, from your hostess stand, to your servers, to the print ads, radio spots and coupon mailers that you use.

Unless you first consider your Strategic Marketing program design and incorporate that fully into your Price, Product, Place and Advertising and other Promotions, you won’t know if you selected the right target markets, have the right value message for them, or even if your proposals for them—that is, your advertising messages—are telling the story that you want and need to tell. And in the end, don’t you want to know what you will get for your $4,000?

Richard is an Associate Professor of Business at Troy University’s Atlanta campus. He teaches graduate courses in Marketing, Strategy, and Managerial Accounting. As an integral part of their learning, Richard’s Marketing course students often provide Client-Based Consulting services to Atlanta area businesses. Richard can be contacted by email at
Troy University has several graduate and undergraduate programs in business, including a BS in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Hospitality and Tourism degree and a Master of Science in Management with a concentration in International Hospitality Management.


New Employee? – What to do to start on the right foot

Friday, May 14th, 2010

May/June 2010

Debby Cannon, Ph.D., CHE
Director, Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality , Robinson College of Business
Georgia State University

The most important time for a new employee is the very first days on the job. Research has consistently supported that most turnover in the first six months of an employee’s tenure can be traced to the first week of employment. These first days are crucial, but there are ways to orient new employees and acclimate them during those first weeks of employment to not only make employees stick around longer, but also reduce the potential for inferior performance and employee frustration.

Everyone has anxiety about starting a new job – whether it is a person’s first job or his or her 20th.  The first few days can confirm the new employee’s speculations: “I made the right decision to come to work here. This is going to be a great place to work” or “I think I’ve made a terrible mistake by taking this job.”

These first impressions are extremely important to the socialization process of becoming a committed and engaged employee. Individuals who are engaged in their work and committed to their employers have greater job satisfaction, perform at higher levels and are not as prone to leave their jobs compared to non-committed employees.

While employers may think the main function of a new employee orientation program is completing required forms and paperwork, this should only be a minor part of orienting a new employee. The beginning is an excellent time to provide information on the restaurant’s history, the founders, what is special about it and how the new employee is an important part of the company’s mission as well as vision for the future.

If looking for a company to benchmark, Disney World is one of the best in orienting new employees. The Disney culture is brought to life for new cast members, from the refreshment cart worker to one of the restaurant’s chefs. Through a variety of methods including tours, videos, demonstrations, presentations and games, new employees get memorable information that forms the foundation for their Disney careers.

Smaller employers can be just as effective in orienting new employees. Top management support and involvement are crucial, involving spending time with new employees to discuss what is important to the company and what is expected of employees.

Of course there is additional information important to the success of the new employee such as understanding employee standards of conduct, policies and procedures. The company’s service culture can be reinforced through the orientation process with incoming employees learning the basics of working with customers and guests as well as fellow workers. These service basics should be continually refined and expanded throughout the employee’s time with the company.

One of the challenges in orienting new employees is providing too much information to the point of being overwhelming. Rather than trying to present everything in the first few days of employment, it is important to prioritize and provide the necessary fundamentals.

What is vitally important for the new employee to know from “day one” of employment? Employees can be faced with safety and emergency issues for which they should be prepared. For example, any employee regardless of seniority can face a fire emergency and should be prepared for such. Failure to prepare employees for potential safety and security hazards could result in liability for the company under the legal doctrine of negligent training. Another facet of negligent training involves not providing information and materials that can be comprehended by non-English speaking employees.

Documentation of training, including the material covered in orienting new employees, is important. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including having employees sign that they have been informed of policies and procedures, which is typically done by reviewing the employee handbook. Likewise, they can sign statements that they have been taught the basic emergency procedures or safety/security practices. Other employers have selected a more targeted approach in testing employees on material covered in orientation to not only document but also validate that the information was understood.

The first impressions of a company are not formed solely on information presented. New employees must feel genuinely well-received and welcomed by managers and fellow employees. Quality service starts with a commitment to internal service. What are ways that you can make employees feel good in their new work place?

•    Existing employees are sometimes in cliques that are intimidating and less than welcoming to newly hired individuals. Be aware of these cliques and their potentially negative influences. If existing employees are involved in some aspect of selecting, orienting and training new employees, they tend to be more interested in contributing to the success of their new associates.

•    Communicate to existing employees the names and backgrounds of new employees who have recently been hired with your company. Encourage existing employees to introduce themselves and to help make the new employee feel at home. This can be done through employee newsletters, bulletin boards or in pre-shift meetings. Always keep your restaurant’s goals clearly in focus for new and existing employees as well as progress being made towards the goals. Working together to achieve goals is one of the best ways to bring employees together as one team.

The “sink or swim” approach that involves starting employees immediately in their respective jobs results in inferior performance and employee frustration, which often leads to turnover. Providing an orientation for new employees is vital to the success of the restaurant operation and to the success of the individual employee. Starting the new employee on the right path, starting with that first day at work, will provide valuable momentum to the training, coaching and development that will follow.
The Cecil B Day School of Hospitality is located in the highly ranked Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.

The school offers three different programs: A B.B.A. degree with a major in hospitality; a certificate program (a post-baccalaureate program) in hospitality operations, event planning and meeting planning; and an M.B.A. degree with a concentration in hotel real estate. Visit the School of Hospitality’s website at or call (404) 413-7615.


Embracing the Local Community – Ruth’s Chris Style

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Insights from Nancy Oswald


Every Ruth’s Chris Steak House, whether in a large metropolitan city or smaller town, takes pride in being not only a restaurant, but also a part of the local community.   Decisions to invest in a community are the driving force of any new business decision we make.  We follow general business principles when selecting cities to open new restaurants, examining population and income demographics, executing detailed analyses of exact restaurant locations and consulting our experienced legal counsel Charles Hoff.  Our Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses in Huntsville, Ala., and Columbia, S.C., are located adjacent to convention centers, enabling us to appeal to traveling groups, convention audiences and locals alike.  We have partnered with premium hotels including Embassy Suites, Hilton and Crowne Plaza in Birmingham, Ala., Huntsville, Columbia, Greenville, S.C., and Kennesaw, Ga., providing strong and synergistic relationships.  The overall economic aspects of a potential city and opportunities within the local dining community are always very important, but we examine closely a variety of situations and facets to help ensure the success of Ruth’s Chris in that particular market.

We have found Ruth’s Chris is successful in smaller cities predominately because the areas open our restaurants have embraced the Ruth’s Chris brand and greatly welcomed us. The towns’ pride in having a Ruth’s Chris Steak House has elicited an endearing degree of support.  When we opened in Huntsville, in October 2006, then-Mayor Loretta Spencer attended every opening event, leading our signature jazz procession for the Ruth’s “Chris”-ening with parasol in tow.  A Ruth’s Chris “raving fan,” she was such a visible fixture during our first few weeks open that we designated her favorite table as “The Mayor’s Table.”  Her kindness in honoring the restaurant and visiting Ruth’s Chris corporate executives with keys to the city remains a highlight of the restaurant’s history. The Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County’s executive team invited us to their offices and educated our local team on the area’s economic background, position and goals to ensure we were well-informed about the Huntsville business scene, enabling us to make strategic decisions with that knowledge.

We experienced similar Southern hospitality in Columbia. The city’s Mayor Bob Coble, affectionately known to citizens as “Mayor Bob,” declared our opening day of August 20, 2007 as “Ruth’s Chris Steak House Day” in the City of Columbia.  In addition to the mayor, our Columbia opening was attended by many local dignitaries, including University of South Carolina football Coach Steve Spurrier, the governor and lieutenant governor. The city embraced our arrival and afforded us rare opportunities for high-profile media coverage that might not have been available in more intensely news-laden metropolitan areas.

Further, our success in areas less populated than Atlanta is the way Ruth’s Chris immerses ourselves in new communities.  In Columbia, we dedicated our pre-opening charity events to South Carolina’s Harvest Hope Food Bank following their devastating loss from a cooler’s sprinkler malfunction. The pre-opening events raised more than $16,000 for the food bank, immediately creating a corps of dedicated supporters who understood that Ruth’s Chris is a civic-minded business and awakening the food bank’s desire help us succeed.
Our restaurants have thrived in part because of our direct involvement with key community organizations.  We make a point of establishing caring partnerships and have been fortunate to engage in instantly reciprocal processes – processes that must continue long past opening festivities.

One of Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s four core values is that we are good civic citizens, continuing to honor the legacy of our founder, Ruth Fertel, who was passionate in her belief that commitment to community involvement is our part in developing society.   Much like Fertel, my Sizzling Steak Concepts, LLC franchise partners, Jim Brooks, Phil Brooks and Mark Oswald and I are dedicated to community and caring for guests by serving the highest quality food with exceptional service in warm and inviting atmospheres.

Nancy Oswald is a Sizzling Steak Concepts, LLC partner, owner of 8 Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses and a former Chairperson for the Georgia Restaurant Association’s Board of Directors.

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