Community

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What Politicians Get Wrong about Us

What Politicians Get Wrong about Our Industry

by David Klemt

Restaurant and bar with exterior windows open

It still stings that the 43 senators chose to vote against replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The fact that four senators didn’t vote at all on S.4008 is nearly as insulting and painful.

Now, while all the “nay” votes came from Republican senators, I’m not here to bash one party in particular. Four Republicans voted “yea,” as did two Independents.

Unfortunately, given how hostile Democrats and Republicans in Congress seem to be, it’s difficult to be objective. Right now, it appears that the RRF was left to die a slow death because many—not all, of course—Republicans in power don’t want their Democrat peers to “win” at anything.

To be used as political pawns and be left out in the cold… It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Cornerstones

Too many politicians, it seems, view restaurants and bars as they would other types of businesses. Perhaps the perceived success of national and global brands paint the picture that independent venues and small chains don’t need any help.

More disappointingly, maybe politicians, from local lawmakers to state representatives, take our business’ role for granted.

Look at the history of restaurants and bars, of hospitality. Think about the rich history of hospitality in America alone, let alone globally.

Yes, independent restaurants and bars are small businesses. But like so many small businesses in so many towns across the country, they’re so much more.

Restaurants and bars are pillars, cornerstones of the communities they serve. These are businesses that welcome people in, treat them like family. They’re there for them as they move through their lives.

People who were seemingly at odds with another routinely found common ground over a bite and a sip. More often than not, that’s still the case.

Operators and their teams give back to their communities through food drives, quietly feeding those in need, and finding other ways to give back.

And they look out for their communities.

Lifesavers

Last week, the team at a cafe in the Bronx called the Chipper Truck helped rescue a woman from an alleged hostage situation.

Permitted by her assailant to place a food order via Grubub, the victim thought quickly and sent a life-saving note with her order:

“Please call the police… don’t make it obvious.”

A staff member read the note in the “additional instructions” section of the order and called one of the owners. Nobody at the Chipper Truck knew if the situation was real but they chose to err on the side of caution.

When the alleged assailant—who was arrested and charged with a list of serious offenses—opened the door for the Grubhub order, he was met with police officers.

A Facebook post from the cafe addressing the situation read, in part, “I’ve often heard of this happening but never thought it would happen to us. Thankfully we were open and able to help her.”

It’s terrifying that this happens enough that the cafe owners hear about it “often.” But it’s telling of the role restaurants and bars play in their communities that they’ve saved multiple lives.

This is to say nothing of the restaurants and bars that have put coded safety systems in place to help patrons who find themselves in danger.

No Such Thing as “Just” a Restaurant or Bar

There isn’t a restaurant or bar out there that’s “only” a restaurant or “only” a bar.

Every one is a source for food, for socializing, for an escape from the stresses of life. Restaurants and bars are committed to service and sacrifice.

They’re pillars of their communities, the cornerstones that play important roles in our everyday lives and the special moments as well.

Perhaps our politicians, local and otherwise, need to a reminder. Restaurants and bars play crucial roles in the lives of the people politicians are supposed to represent.

Too many politicians claim to support small businesses while their actions and votes prove otherwise. Talk, as we all know, is cheap.

Restaurants are not “just” restaurants. Bars are not “just” bars. We deserve better.

Image: Scott Webb on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Is Your Brand Engaging the Community?

Is Your Brand Engaging the Community?

by David Klemt

Sign on wall that reads, "We like you too"

Many speakers at HD Expo 2022 are focusing on an important element of design and the hospitality industry: the people we serve.

In other words, designers, their collaborative partners, and their clients want to engage communities.

Now, it’s true that HD Expo 2022 speakers were mainly talking about the hotel side of hospitality design. However, much of what they have to say on the subject of community relates to restaurant and bar projects as well.

Below are helpful insights into engaging the community your business operates in and serves.

Valuing the Community

Crystal Vinisse Thomas, vide president and global brand leader of lifestyle and luxury brands for Hyatt Hotels is bringing Caption by Hyatt to life.

A core element of Caption is community engagement. Yes, travelers are crucial to the success of a hotel brand. However, so are the locals.

After all, hotels, restaurants, and bars employ people from the community. Engaging the community leads to the creation of a loyal guests. During slower times, those loyal locals keep those registers ringing.

As Vinisse Thomas says, operators need to focus on locals as much as travelers. Further, she defines her approach to community as creating a space that’s open to everyone.

One way that Caption is staying true to Vinisse Thomas and Hyatt’s vision for the brand is the Talk Shop. As the name suggests, this is a hangout space. Talk Shop is a communal workspace, a a restaurant, a coffee shop… It’s a hangout for everyone, hotel guest or community guest.

However, Vinisse Thomas does admit that there are challenges when designing and operating for community engagement. One of those challenges is scalability.

Then there’s another big challenge. Designing and operating with the community in mind looks great on paper. But there’s no guarantee that this approach will give an operator an edge of the competition.

To that point, Vinisse Thomas suggests it may be best to speak with one’s competitors to partner on community engagement efforts.

Honoring the Community

An additional challenge when attempting to engage a community is authenticity. It’s a great buzzword, as Vinisse Thomas says, but it needs to be more than that.

Dyonne Fashina, principal of Denizens of Design, has some thoughts on community engagement and authenticity.

Putting it bluntly, Fashina says that honoring a community requires more than a Google search. Rather, designers and operators need to spend time in a given community. They need to get to know the people, the culture, and the vibe.

At KRG Hospitality, we agree. One of our services is site selection. We conduct intensive research to identify the best site for a concept.

However, operator clients need to ensure they know the location. Not just the ZIP code, not just the address, not just the cross streets—the community.

After KRG identifies ideal sites, the client should spend time in those communities, speaking with the people who live and work in them.

Fashina also has another excellent piece of advice for operators. The project, as we often say at KRG, isn’t over after the grand opening. Fashina’s advice speaks to that point.

If an element of an operator’s business isn’t working for the community, she says, they need to be flexible enough to fix it. For owners who perhaps don’t spend every day inside their business or businesses, Fashina recommends visiting to analyze community engagement.

Hospitality is about service, and service requires commitment to being a responsible host and steward. To that end, operators should ensure their concepts improve communities rather than exploit them.

Image: Adam Jang on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How Operators Can Support Ukraine

How Operators Can Support Ukraine

by David Klemt

Ukraine flag flying against blue sky, perspective shot

It’s normal to feel like there’s not much we can do as we watch in horror as Russia invades Ukraine, but there are ways to show support.

NATO alliance countries are struggling in their responses to Russia. A country with thousands of nuclear arms invaded a sovereign nation without such weapons. The response from NATO nations must be measured and de-escalate, not provoke. Consider that Russia seemingly threatened Sweden and Finland, and put its nuclear deterrence forces on “high alert.”

So, it’s understandable that the rest of us aren’t sure how much of a difference we can make.

However, restaurants, bars, hotels, and other hospitality businesses do have the power to help.

Zirkova Vodka

John and Katherine Vellinga founded Zirkova Vodka around 2016. Initially, the brand was named Slava Vodka.

The Vellingas are Canadians. However, they consider Ukraine their home country. In fact, the two worked in Ukraine for about five years.

During their time in Ukraine, the two worked with brewers and winemakers. Over the course of those five years, John and Katherine decided to create an ultra-premium Ukrainian vodka.

It’s important to note, however, that Zirkova’s mission isn’t simply to create world-class vodka. You can read their full mission statement here.

In part, the brand’s mission statement reads: “Built in the DNA of the brand is a deep-rooted belief in the goodness of humanity, an abiding commitment to freedom and human rights for all.”

Zirkova’s foundation One+Together has raised money for human rights and humanitarian throughout Canada, Ukraine, and New York City.

Now, the brand is donating 100 percent of profits generated from sales of Zirkova at the LCBO to Ukrainian humanitarian funds.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by ZIRKOVA VODKA (@zirkovavodka)

It should also be noted that the province of British Columbia has banned the sale and import of Russian liquor products.

Donations

On the topic of donations, operators can support a number of charities that focus on helping the people of Ukraine.

For example, World Central Kitchen. WCK has already mobilized, setting up in Poland to help Ukrainians who have had to flea their homes.

The non-profit organization also has a relief team on the way to Romania as well. Donations to WCK can be made via this link.

If you have a question about the legitimacy of a charity, look it up on a site like Charity Navigator. Unfortunately, bad actors (scumbags) latch onto crises to scam people out of their money.

Rejecting Russian Vodka

Some restaurants and bars are making more assertive statements via the products they’re now willing to sell…or no longer sell.

There are restaurants and bars emptying their inventories of Russian vodkas by dumping them out.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Eric Gladstone (@ecgladstone)

The above post is just one example of operators, restaurant workers, and bar teams taking a stand.

In addition, there are operators seeking to add Ukrainian products to their menus. Will these businesses ever carry Russian products again? It’s far too early to tell, of course.

Individual operators will have to decide if refusing to sell Russian products is the right decision for them. If they choose that path, they’ll need to decide if doing so quietly or publicly is the best approach.

In simplistic terms, too many politicians and leaders are beholden to corporate money and influence. Realistically, as regards Putin, the opposite seems true.

Still, impacting the bottom lines of Russian companies, millionaires and billionaires may have some impact on Putin, though that’s unlikely to lead to peace any time soon.

Interestingly, reports indicate that at least two Russian billionaires have called for peace in Ukraine.

Safe Communities

It’s alarmingly easy for strong emotions to drive just about anyone to make harmful decisions. Fear, sorrow, frustration, and anger are powerful.

We must all remember something incredibly important: The Russian people are not to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One person—along with his inner circle of sycophants and enablers—is to blame: Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Feeling powerless to help the Ukrainian people can lead to feelings of anger. It’s crucial that we not allow violence or harassment of Russian people in our communities.

We can support Ukraine without harming Russian people. Restaurants and bars are pillars of their communities, and keeping people safe is non-negotiable.

Some of us may react to feelings of anger, fear, and frustration by lashing out. We can’t let that lead to violence in our streets.

Do not tolerate harassment or violence in or around your business, and make it clear your business is safe for all guests. The last thing we need now is more divisiveness, harm or fear.

Image: Daria Volkova on Unsplash

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