Our firm is designed to be a trusted advisor on enhancing destinational magnetism and organizational excellence. And, while we are the ones being asked for advice, I often come away from assignments with informational nuggets that inspire me to think differently about the world around me.
With no disrespect to hoteliers, I often find the most holistic thought comes from the restaurateurs with whom I have the opportunity to interview. Maybe it's because they are married to the community while many hotel GMs are constantly moving. Maybe it's because they often have more direct contact with with consumer. Maybe it's because they don't have a flag to rest upon.
Whatever the reason, when a restauranteur speaks, I listen.
I always listen to Michael Klauber of Sarasota'sMichael's on East, who opened my eyes a few years to a concept that I have shared with clients ever since...and as recently as last week in Overland Park. People often confuse the pursuit of the Creative Class with the pursuit of Millennials. Michael winked when he shared that there are a lot of people in the Creative Class in their 40s and 50s...and they have the means to invest in our communities, where Millennials often do not.
This post was inspired by another restauranteur, the founder of The Toasted Frogrestaurants in Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck. Jonathan Holth was recently invited to speak to the Downtown Crookston Development Task Force and penned a great follow-up op-ed piece for that city's newspaper.
Let's consider that for a moment; the DCDTF asked an independent restaurateur to help them envision their future. Not an accomplished city planner. Not a Mayor of an aspirational community. A guy who runs a restaurant.
In regards to ramping up for the opportunity, a restauranteur in a small rural town that is about to get a casino said last week, "My personal belief is marketing an individual business is a lot harder than marketing a destination."
As they say in the South, "bless his heart."
Don't get me wrong, running a restaurant is one of the hardest undertakings to which a person can commit. But, that business can control hours of operation, pricing, product, customer service and ambiance.
Destination Marketing Organizations control none of those aspects of a business, yet are expected to make it rain visitors 365 days a year...even when the product sucks, is overpriced and underserved and the place is closed four days a week.
Hey, Jeremiah? It's not even close.
Note: The photo does not belong to Jeremiah's restaurant. It's that of an an eatery in Fairfield IA. I just love the sign. I mean, really...when's the last time you saw a restaurant scream "Spaghetti?"
They also take a shotgun and blow what's left of their right foot off by posting a snarky response to a playful ad from Burger King.
For those that have grown weary of the Burger Wars, the exchange between the two giants got really creative for a few seconds when Burger King ran a full-page ad, offering to partner with McDonalds on International Peace Day to offer the McWhopper...a mash-up of their two iconic sandwiches.
Yes, it was a ploy by Burger King and yes, I'm guessing that they might have been counting on McDonalds to do something stupid. Still...it was pretty inspired.
And, true to form, McDonalds did something stupid and rejected the offer with just enough snark to cause the internet to erupt.
Like anything the Federal Government does, they use ham handed formulas to make decisions that impact us all. In this case, they suggest that Americans spend more on prepared food by using NAICS codes that identify revenues in grocery stores and restaurants.
What it doesn't identify is food purchases from stores like Wal-Mart (the world's largest seller of groceries) because its NAICS code is different.
So, yeah...we're still spending more in grocery stores than restaurants. But...that it's close enough for a Federal Government study to get it wrong says a lot.
Yesterday, I featured a simply sensational property with an even more sensational management team and program. Called "Enjoy One...Share One," the Century House just outside of Albany NY provides funding for a meal through the Food Bank of Northeastern New York for every meal and room that is consumed at their Hotel and Restaurant.
Since 2009...that equates to over a half million meals. Which is another reason why I love the hospitality industry. It gives back like no other.
After the Century House received the highest award given by the Albany County CVB last Thursday, I had the honor to take the stage and share my thoughts on Destination Marketing in America and Albany's future as they begin construction on a downtown Convention Center.
And, as I was clicking through my prepared remarks...I was overtaken by a random thought. Which, of course, I blurted out.
I wondered how many other business people in the room gave back to their community like the Century House. Maybe not on the same scale...but, I bet there were a lot of people in the room that did. Because...that's just what hospitality pros do. We give back. It's who we are. But, unlike the Century House...most of us are never recognized.
I encouraged everyone in the room to catalogue their generosity and share that number with the CVB. If everyone does...that would be a number that would shock the community.
As I flew back to Madison, my thoughts drifted to a beloved tourism icon in my town that provided free hotel rooms each December for parents of kids being treated at the Ronald McDonald House. Sure, he had rooms to give at that time of the year. But, that he did set him apart from so many businesses in town.
Every one of our communities is blessed with hospitality businesses that give back. If you are a Destination Marketing pro, reach out and try to quantify what that impact is on our collective Quality of Life.
To the sophisticated traveler, it’s the little things that signal you’ve stepped into a superbly managed hotel or restaurant.
From something as little as the iron having water in the steam capsule to a shower head pointed toward the wall (and not your face), I can spot a sensational Head of Housekeeping in a heartbeat.
When your meeting room is set with table water, it's always a nice touch if there is a bowl of lemon and lime slices. It’s something completely different when those slices are presented as a tropical palm (click image to enlarge).
Of course, a lot of that comes from the caring culture of an ownership and management team that “gets it.” When you treat your people with empathy and respect, amazing things can happen. And, they do at the Century House Hotel & Restaurant, just outside of Albany NY.
Since its debut in the heart of the last recession, their restaurant’s “Enjoy One, Share One” campaign has been nothing short of amazing. For every meal served onsite and every overnight stay, a meal is provided to those less fortunate through the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
Since 2009, that would be over a half million meals. A half million.
And, it doesn’t stop there, as staff is encouraged to serve those meals from time to time at missions and shelters. And, they look forward to it.
To Colin Demers and his sensational team at the Century House: Your hospitality and customer service at every corner was simply superb during my stay last week. Merci.
But, it is your humanity and generosity that I will never forget.
Just one of the many reasons Colin and the Century House won the Albany County CVB’s Hospitality Excellence award last Thursday evening. And, again, congratulations.
While there are clearly some residents of this nation that benefit from the Affordable Care Act, it's pretty obvious that the majority of Americans do not. And, as much as we were all promised that insurance rates would not rise, I have yet to talk with a single business owner whose costs to provide insurance to their employees did not instantly increase.
Old news, to be sure. And, small business owners just had to grin and bear it. But, the Affordable Care Act's impact goes beyond simply how much business owners now have to shell out to insure their workforce. It also mandates that restaurants now need to post the caloric content of the foods they serve.
For In-N-Out Burger (which only features 5 choices), that's probably doable (although, more problematic if the Food and Drug Administration insists on the inclusion of their secret menu).
But, imagine Domino's. CEO Patrick Doyle asks a simple question: "How do we list the calorie count of our pizzas on a menu when we have 34 million different variations of pizza?"