by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Use this Powerful Communication Style

The Powerful Communication Style You Should Be Using

by Jennifer Radkey

Graffiti that reads, "It doesn't have to be so complicated"

There’s a powerful method of communication operators can learn to use that promotes workplace collaboration and solves problems.

How to communicate with team members is a topic that comes up regularly in my coaching sessions with restaurant, bar, and hotel owners. Most of the concerns center around how to speak to employees when they are not following company policy; their level of service is not meeting company standards; or the quality of their work has decreased.

These are legitimate concerns when you are attempting to not only run a successful business but foster a positive work culture in your establishment.

After coaching my clients through understanding what their current style of communication looks like and how it is or is not working for them, I introduce them to a style of communication that I feel leads to the most effective overall results: the use of declarative language.

The declarative language approach was first introduced to me through a positive parenting online conference I attended. Author Linda Murphy wrote the Declarative Language Handbook, which teaches parents, caregivers, educators, and others how to communicate with children (particularly those with social learning challenges) to feel competent, connected, and understood.

As I dove into learning about this style of communication, I realized just how powerful it would be in the workplace. It is a method that can promote respect, collaboration, and empowerment. It can also, in turn, remove judgment, assumptions, hostility, and blame.

What is Declarative Language?

To answer this question, I’ll need to take you back for a quick grammar lesson.

Sentences can be categorized under four main types: declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory.

Declarative sentences are statements. These can be a statement of a fact, an observation, or a feeling. For example: “It is raining out.” “I’m going to open a new bar next month.” “Pineapple should never be on pizza.”

Interrogative sentences ask a question: “Why are you late for your shift?” “How can I make a million dollars this quarter?” “Who ever thought it was a good idea to put pineapple on pizza?”

Imperative sentences give a command. “Go clean those tables.” “Follow me.” “Pick off the pineapple from that pizza.”

Exclamatory sentences show something that we would shout or emphasize with an exclamation mark: “I made a million dollars this quarter!” “Yikes!” “Pineapple on pizza is the best ever!”

Powerful Communication

So, now that you’ve had a grammar refresher, let’s take a look at how declarative language can be a powerful method for communicating, and why the other styles may not be creating the results you want to see.

As an owner or manager, you may often find yourself falling into the use of interrogative and imperative statements. The problem with this is that both styles can stir up negative emotions in the person on the receiving end.

Interrogative statements (questions) tend to incite the fight, flight, or freeze mode. People feel put on the spot and may become defensive or anxious.

Imperative statements (commands) tend to be authoritarian in nature and have the potential to create fear and/or resentment. Employees are looking for team leaders who they can respect and turn to for guidance, not someone who is constantly telling them what to do.

Declarative language, when used to state observations, can be a way to open up discussions without defensiveness or fear. It also leaves room for facts instead of assumptions. The declarative language approach that I suggest my clients use looks something like this:

  • Make an observation statement.
  • Be silent.
  • Actively listen.
  • Collaborate.
  • Actively listen.
  • Proactively decide on solutions.
  • Gratitude/Positivity.

The easiest way to demonstrate this practice is through an example or two. First, we’ll look at an example with “Sam.”

Example #1

Sam just showed up for his shift at the quick-service restaurant he works at out of uniform. His manager notices and approaches him. The declarative language approach would look something like the example below.

Manager: Hey Sam, I notice that you aren’t wearing your uniform. (Declarative observation that quietly gives time for Sam to respond.)

Sam: Yeah, sorry, I spilled coffee all down the front of my shirt on the way here and didn’t have time to go home to change.

Manager: Okay, I understand, life happens. Any ideas on how we can resolve this? (Puts power to solve the problem in Sam’s hands.)

Sam: Do you have an extra shirt I can borrow for today’s shift?

Manager: Yeah, I actually do. Great plan. Let me go grab it for you and you can use the staff washroom to get changed.

Sam: Thanks.

Manager: No problem. Have a great shift! See you out there.

As you can see from this exchange, the manager did not make any assumptions as to why Sam wasn’t in uniform. Instead, they demonstrated empathy and respect. By asking if Sam had any ideas for resolving the issue, the manager provided room for collaboration as a team. Further, this approach empowered Sam to take responsibility and come up with the solution.

Example #2

Now, let’s look at “Lisa.”

Lisa is typically very punctual for her shift working concierge at a hotel. However, the past two weeks she has been regularly showing up 10 to 15 minutes late. Below, how the owner of the hotel would use the declarative language approach to discuss this issue with Lisa.

Owner: Hi Lisa, I’ve noticed that you have been starting your shift 10 to 15 mins late the past couple of weeks. You aren’t typically late for work. I’m curious about what’s changed. (Declarative observation; the owner then waits quietly for Lisa to respond.)

Lisa: I’m so sorry, I had to switch my child’s daycare and it’s on the other side of town. I’m struggling making it here on time with traffic.

Owner: That sounds stressful. What do you think we can do to work with this change to ensure that you can still arrive on time for your shifts?

Lisa: Would it be possible to switch my shift to a later time?

Owner: Let me look into that option for you. You are an asset to our team and I’m sure we will find a solution to this. I’ll get back to you later with some options, and you can let me know what would work best.

Lisa: Thank you so much for understanding.

In this exchange, the owner does not make assumptions as to why Lisa has been late. Rather, they show genuine curiosity as to what’s going on. Again, the owner empathizes with Lisa’s situation and then places power back into Lisa’s hands to think of a solution. The conversation ends on a positive note with gained clarity, respect, and appreciation.

Lead by Example

If you are looking to build a team of empowered individuals who can solve problems and collaborate, you need to lead by example. The use of declarative language can help you accomplish exactly that.

However, it is crucial to note that if you decide to try this method of communication, your intention needs to be positive. Declarative statements will not be as successful if your tone is sarcastic or accusing. Your approach must be casual, caring, respectful, and matter of fact.

Additionally, not every conversation will go smoothly using this method. You may receive “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” as an answer. But for the most part, this method of communication allows for respectful discussion that acknowledges facts, promotes responsibility for one’s own actions, and decreases assumptions.

If you would like more information on how to use the declarative language approach, or would like to set up a coaching session to be coached on how to use this communication style with your team, please reach out to me!

Cheers to professional and personal well-being!

Image: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Be a Student of the Game

Be a Student of the Game

by David Klemt

Street art portrait of Rich Uncle Pennybags

The key to success as a restaurant, bar, nightclub or hotel operator is a change in mindset and a commitment to being a student of the game.

That game, of course, is hospitality. To succeed, one must truly love this industry and their own business. Love digging into the minutiae and learning about every element of operations; love their team members and guests; love mentoring and finding mentors; love embodying the spirit of hospitality;  and love their own brand.

This is the exact message Michael Tipps drove home during the first Invictus Hospitality-led education session of the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo.

“The doing and the how is important, not the what,” says Tipps. “Be a student of the game.”

But what does Tipps mean when he says that?

The Successful Student Mindset

Before we begin, a note about reporting on other consultants and agencies. At KRG Hospitality we don’t pretend to know it all. When a peer says something and has an approach to this industry we find insightful, we want to share it. Keeping it to ourselves because they’re a “competitor” doesn’t help anyone or our industry.

We consider Invictus cofounders Michael Tipps and Homan Taghdiri friends and colleagues. Their values and mission align with ours.

So, when Tipps says successful operators are students of the game, we agree. Our team is passionate about learning so we can better serve our clients. I’m comfortable saying the Invictus team embraces a similar approach.

In addition to a hunger for knowledge, there’s another key element of this successful student mindset: positivity. For Tipps, that means two things:

  • “Know what works first. Notice what doesn’t work second.”
  • “Other venues aren’t your competition.”


I won’t speak for Invictus and their approach to understanding a client’s vision. We have our approach and tools, they have theirs.

One of the exercises that we find works to help us see how a client envisions their concept is to learn about what they like. What restaurants, bars, nightclubs or hotels do they admire? Are their operators they aspire to emulate? What venues in their target market do they think are doing a great job?

Another part of the process is to visit similar concepts. These visits reveal a lot, including what a client knows about the business.

Look, we’ve all been there. As consultants, operators, leadership team members, front- or back-of-house members… We know when something doesn’t work when we visit any restaurant, bar or hotel.

However, a simple change to the lens through which we view an operation can make a big difference. First, we should notice what’s working. Going further, Tipps suggests trying to understand what an operator was trying to accomplish with their concept: “What was the intention?”

To Tipps, people who can walk into a restaurant or bar and identify what’s working before focusing on mistakes shows they actually know the business. A true student of the game recognizes any concept’s positives and intention.

“It doesn’t take skill to know what sucked about a bar or restaurant,” says Tipps. “It takes skill to point out and understand what works.”

Dentist’s Office, Anyone?

There’s another point Tipps makes about the game and what drives people to jump into this incredibly challenging business.

Consider what owning a cool restaurant, bar or nightclub looks like from the outside. People get into this business, posits Tipps, because they’ve been to a bar or restaurant and think it would be fun to own it. They think being the owner of a hot restaurant is sexy. Likewise, being the owner of a cool bar or club.

It certainly can be cool, fun, and sexy to own a restaurant or bar. But think about visiting a business and finding it so cool that you decide to open one yourself.

“We’ve also all been to the dentist but we don’t open a dentist office,” says Tipps.

In other words, there are operators lured to this business because it looks fun and cool from the outside. And it is, but it’s also very hard work. Truly, only students of the game will find a measure of success.

Without a love for hospitality, for what can be accomplished and experienced in this industry, it’s just a difficult job.

The Real Competition

Ask different consultants about whether they view similar businesses as competitors and peers and you’ll get a variety of answers.

Some feel that concepts in the same category in the same market are in direct competition. Others will say that one operator isn’t competing with another, they’re potential peers who can elevate one another. Still others say there’s nuance; there’s competition for traffic, engagement, and dollars, but competitors are also peers who can elevate entire markets.

To Tipps, and I assume Taghdiri and the rest of the Invictus team, operators are competing against the clock.

“Time is your adversary, not the venue next door,” says Tipps. That means operators are up against ticket times. They’re subject to their dishwasher’s timing. Payroll, paying invoices on time, dealing with how long food can last to plan for days of the week and individual dayparts…

Each of those items and more impact a concept’s every element of operation. And unlike another operator, there’s no stopping this adversary. The most an operator can do is implement strategies to keep up with this opponent because there’s no way to beat it.

Again, the only way to succeed in that contest is to be a student of the game. An operator (and their leadership team) needs to not only know every tiny detail about their business, they must be passionate about gaining that knowledge. They need to love learning and applying the information they glean to overcome obstacles and keep up in their battle with time.

“Be as fascinated with your business as a five year old is with an ant farm,” says Tipps. “Look at the ant farm with wonder.”

Image: Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

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Ovation Reveals 5 Secrets for Growth

Ovation Reveals 5 Secrets for Growth

by David Klemt

Sign that reads "We hear you."

Restaurant guest feedback platform Ovation CEO Zack Oates reveals five secrets to what he calls the “digital table touch.”

The company touts itself as the number-one guest feedback platform. Ease of use is one reason the Ovation is viewed so favorably. Guests receive a two-question survey via SMS. Operators receive honest feedback they can use to improve guest retention and loyalty.

Those curious in learning more about the platform can check out several case studies on the Ovation website. Odds are, one of these studies matches closely with an operator’s own business.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on Oates’ 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo education session. Getting even more granular, I’m going to drill down to Oates’ digital table touch approach to guest feedback and retention.

If Oates’ startling claim about first-time guests is true, guest retention is even more difficult than many operators would think. According to Oates, 70 percent of first-time guests don’t return to a restaurant. That number is, simply put, too damn high. Fifty percent is too high.

Feedback Reality

Let’s be honest about in-person feedback. While there are some honest guests out there, for some reason people tend to leave without being honest during their visits. In the moment, most of us will say “great” or “very good” when asked by a server or manager about our restaurant experience.

This is a compelling phenomenon. Per Oates, 15 percent of dine-in orders have issues. And yet most guests won’t say about an issue during their visit. That rate doubles to 30 percent for delivery orders, by the way.

Being totally transparent, Oates says he behaves the same in restaurants. He’s the CEO of a restaurant feedback platform and he’ll still say everything is fine during a visit even when it isn’t. So, while physical table touches are important, they’re likely not giving an operator an accurate picture of what’s going on in their dining room.

In fact, Oates says rather bluntly that “table touches are out of touch.” Further, they’re not scalable, off-premises, honest, or capable of fixing root issues, in his opinion.

Likewise, long-form surveys. According to Oates, long feedback surveys have an abysmal take rate: 0.01 percent. At that point, the rate may as well be zero. Online reviews, as may operators likely know, don’t really represent most guests.

The best solution to secure honest, actionable feedback appears to be Ovation’s SMS-based process.

Secret #1: Make Measurement Frictionless

Hot take: The easier a thing is to do, the more people will participate.

So, operators who want collect valuable guest feedback need to make it simple. If a guest orders delivery, operators should stuff carryout bags and top boxes with a call to action. For in-person dining, they should add a feedback CTA to table toppers. QR codes can make the process very easy. CTAs need to be visible and simple to complete.

The winning formula seems to be a two-question survey and collecting guest data. So, operators should consider enrolling guests who participate and leave feedback in a $100 gift card draw (or something similar).

Secret #2: Drive 5-star Reviews

Oates says that operators should push guests to rate their experiences on review sites. Doing so not only results in collecting valuable feedback, it can boost reviews and increase a restaurant’s visibility. The more discoverable a restaurant is, the more traffic it can potentially see.

Also, a note on actual five-star reviews: that’s not the best score. People tend to distrust perfect scores and one-star reviews. Per Oates, the best score is 4.7 stars, and operators should aim for at least a 4.0.

Secret #3: Respond to Feedback

This means good and bad feedback, and in a timely manner. Per Oates, one bad review reaches 30 potential guests. So, it’s best to address the situation as quickly as possible—if an operator can do so without losing their cool.

To ensure that emotions don’t prevail over rational responses, follow the Three Cs of Bad Review Recovery:

  1. Collected.
  2. Compassionate.
  3. Call to action.

Remember, people want to feel important. When they leave a bad review the underlying feeling driving the review is likely a sense that they’ve been disrespected. Operators attempting to recover from a bad review need to make the reviewer feel acknowledged and important.

Secret #4: Discover and Act on Trends

A business term that has been making the rounds for years now is “kaizen.” This is the concept of everyone in an organization working toward making incremental improvements to the business.

Savvy operators will set aside their egos, find trends within the feedback they receive, and work to improve on any shortcomings.

Secret #5: Text Guests to Bring Them Back

As I’ve said before, if you really want to meet guests where they are, reach them on the phones in their pockets. However, Oates has more advice than simply, “Text them surveys.”

To boost participation, tempt guests with an offer. Oates says to make the offer a good one. So, operators should consider the following:

  • Come up with an offer and put it first.
  • Make it a good offer: “The first X amount of people to complete this survey will receive 15 percent off their next visit.”
  • Track participation via a link.

While operators can leverage each of the above secrets on their own, Ovation’s digital table touch process is seamless and easy to implement. Either way, collecting honest guest feedback and acting on it is one of the most effective methods for improving guest retention.

Image: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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3 Ways to Build Revenue on Mother’s Day

3 Ways Restaurants Can Build Revenue This Mother’s Day

by Austen Asadorian

Tattoo-style rose with "Mom" ribbon

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, there’s no doubt that operators across the country are preparing for the celebratory—yet extremely busy—day.

During their preparations, it’s important that operators find and incorporate new tools and innovative marketing tactics. Doing so will not only fill seats, it will ensure they capitalize on a key opportunity to drive incredible revenue.

Below are three simple but powerful ways operators can generate revenue and loyalty on—and beyond—this Mother’s Day.

Encourage Reservations & Offer Upgrades

An easy way to make this busy day seamless for guests—and, ultimately, staff—is to encourage and allow guests to make a reservation before they arrive. Reservations give operators insight into who will be dining with them, help optimize seatings and covers, and provide a idea of how much to order to eliminate food waste if a special menu is being offered.

Using a reservation system also provides operators with the opportunity to offer diners upgrades during the booking process, even including prepayment should they want to go that route. This not only allows operators to earn additional revenue before a guest even visits, but also a convenient way to offer guests peace of mind knowing they’ve handled that “something special” for Mom way before the big day.

These upgrades don’t have to be anything crazy or extreme (although that’s always an option). In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, consumers want special touches and discounts over everything else. So, an upgrade can be something as simple as a beautiful flower arrangement waiting on the table to a special off-menu dessert brought out at the end of the meal.

Use Email & Social Media to Your Advantage

Properly promoting Mother’s Day offerings to guests is extremely important because if no one knows about it, who will come?

Operators should utilize tools like email marketing to send personalized communications to their guest database promoting the venue’s Mother’s Day reservation availability or special offerings. Better yet, these tools can be used to offer loyal guests reservations before they open to the general public, further creating a special experience for those faithful diners.

In the same vein, operators should harness the power of social media, too. Operators can target paid marketing efforts on social channels like Facebook and Instagram to drive even more awareness and revenue for their restaurant by creating an event, including the details of the activities, specials, or Mother’s Day promotions, and exporting the names of top guests and email data.

Surprise Them with a Second Visit

While Mother’s Day is the focus right now, it doesn’t stop there for operators. To drive the revenue they need, it’s important to turn these celebratory diners into repeat guests.

To do so, operators should consider offering Mother’s Day diners complimentary gift cards or discounts (even via email post-visit) to bring them back. This could be for an upcoming graduation, Father’s Day (so Dad can also get the love), or even for a future birthday.

This “surprise and delight” factor is one of the easiest strategies to capitalize on holiday traffic and get diners to return to a restaurant once again as a loyal guests.

Here’s to You, Mom

Moms should be celebrated every day, but especially on Mother’s Day, and it’s important to make sure they have the best experience when dining out.

By incorporating simple tactics like offering reservations and custom upgrades or even a special surprise at the end of the meal, operators not only succeed in making the day memorable, but create a guest who will return over and over again.

About Austen Asadorian

Austen Asadorian is the Vice President of Sales at SevenRooms, where he is tasked with supporting SevenRooms’ global expansion efforts and accelerating the company’s goal of being the best-in-class solution for hospitality operators globally. Prior to joining SevenRooms, Austen was Peloton’s Director of Sales, leading the company’s go-to-market strategy for retail growth and expansion. He started his career at Hillstone Restaurant Group where he cut his teeth learning how to run efficient and profitable restaurants at scale. Austen was ultimately promoted into an executive role where he oversaw the company’s Manager in Training Program and Back of House Operations. Austen graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

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Consultant Versus Coach

Consultant vs. Coach: Similarities and Differences

by Jennifer Radkey

Double arrow, street ends sign

At some point in your journey as a business owner it’s inevitable that you’ll come up against a challenge that you struggle to overcome on your own; you may need to reach out for advice or guidance.

There are countless reasons why you may seek an expert’s help. Perhaps you’ve come up against a roadblock trying to reach a goal. Maybe you’re unexpectedly forced into a major transition. You may decide you’re ready to take your business to the next level but are unsure how to proceed.

The situation you find yourself in could be as big as the opening of a new restaurant or bar, or as vague as a general sense of something not being “right.”

Whatever the reason may be, you’ve exhausted your own pool of resources and are ready to seek outside help. So, who do you turn to?

Most likely you’ll be looking to hire either a consultant or a coach. Of course, this begs the question: Which do you choose?

I’m both the vice president of KRG Hospitality and a certified life coach. My husband Doug Radkey is the president of KRG Hospitality and our agency’s lead consultant. “Do I need a consultant or coach” is a question people ask of us quite often.

The answer is simple once you understand the similarities and differences between the two.


Coaches and consultants are both third parties who provide an outsider’s clarity while maintaining an unbiased point of view.

They’re both knowledgeable and have their own unique approaches and expertise. Coaches and consultants come with the intention of helping you achieve your goals. While the majority of coaching and consulting is done one-on-one, team consulting and coaching are also options.

The differences between coaching and consulting can be found in the approaches used to help you achieve your goals.


The easiest way to learn the differences between a coach and a consultant is to take a closer look at how each one approaches how they help you. It’s an understanding of these differences that provide the clarity needed for you to choose the best solution.


Consultants are industry-specific experts. When presented with a challenge you want to overcome or a goal you want to achieve, a consultant finds the solution using their knowledge and experience. They also diagnose any problems that are evident in your business and then make recommendations to correct them.

A consultant is someone you can turn to for technical and professional advice.

Once the consultant has determined the root of the problem or determined the best path forward to achieve your goal, the answers will be provided to you. And along with the answers come the steps necessary to solve the problem or reach the goal. You’ll be given a clear, detailed plan.

Consultants listen carefully to what’s going on. They ask specific questions, watch how your team interacts with your guests, and study your steps of service. Additionally, consultants analyze data and conduct research, and then communicate their findings clearly with you. Again, consultants give you the tools you need to execute a plan—including processes and proven methods—to achieve success.

If you’re in need of specific industry advice and expertise, a consultant is who you need to hire.


Coaches are experts in placing the power in your hands to discover your own solutions and answers. You hire a coach to discover yourself, inspire confidence, explore possibilities, and find your own clarity. Entrepreneurs turn to coaches to help them transform into great leaders.

Through sincere and thoughtful inquiry, coaches will pull answers out of you that you didn’t know that you already had. They’ll also help you become aware of self-imposed limitations so you can overcome them. Rather than just giving you a plan, coaches help you develop your own strategies for uncovering your truth, and then help you understand how to move forward.

Coaches are sounding boards for discussing both personal and professional issues, providing a safe, judgment-free place for you to be heard. They’re interested in long-term results and the overall well-being of their client.

If you’re looking for overall growth and a better understanding of how you can reach your own goals and potential, a coach is who you need to hire.

Hiring a consultant or a coach is a positive step towards achieving both short-term and long-term goals. Knowing the difference between the two now empowers you to choose the best person to help you where you want to go.

Cheers to personal and professional growth!

Image: Robert Linder on Unsplash

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Program for Unique Holidays: May 2023

Program for Unique Holidays: May 2023

by David Klemt

"Think about things differently" neon sign

Do you want to stand out from from other restaurants and bars in your area? Change how you think about your May holiday promotions.

Several holidays are set against every date on the calendar, and May is no exception. These holidays range from mainstream to esoteric.

Pay attention to the “weird” or unique holidays to raise eyebrows, carve out a niche for your restaurant or bar, and attract more guests. Why do what everyone else is already doing? Why program only around the same holidays as everyone else?

Of course, you shouldn’t try to celebrate every holiday, strange or otherwise. Focus on the days that are authentic to your brand; resonate with your guests; and help you grab attention on social media.

You’ll find suggestions for promotions below. However, the idea behind our monthly holiday promotions roundup is to inspire you and your team to get creative and come up with unique programming ideas.

For our April 2023 holidays list, click here.

May 5: National Silence The Shame Day

Much progress has been made when it comes to reducing the stigma around mental health issues. However, there’s still much more work to do.

The focus of this holiday is just that: removing that stigma. You can use this holiday to encourage the conversation, raise awareness for issues close to you and your team, or to raise funds for a charitable mental health organization.

May 6: World Naked Gardening Day

Okay, so, unless you own a very niche restaurant, bar, or resort, please don’t celebrate this holiday naked while at work. Instead, celebrate the spirit of this holiday: reconnecting with and honoring nature.

One easy way to do this is to feature cocktails made and garnished with fresh ingredients: rosemary, citrus, juices, etc. And again, you can raise money for any number of conservation organizations dedicated to safeguarding natural resources.

May 8: National Have a Coke Day

Rum and Coke. Bourbon and Coke. Jack and Coke. Whiskey and Coke. If you’re a Coke restaurant or bar, you know what to do on this holiday. If you’re not, well… I guess you can program against it and launch National Don’t Have a Coke Day.

May 10: National Third Shift Workers Day

Depending on your hours of operation, this is an easy holiday to program around. To offer up just a few ideas: healthy meal options; restorative beverages; third-shift-specific LTOs.

May 16: National Do Something Good For Your Neighbor Day

Restaurants, bars, and hotels are the heart and soul of communities around the world. Use this day to give back to those who support you.

May 17: National Pack Rat Day

I’m sure if we all look around our homes we’ll see that maybe we have too much stuff. This is another excellent holiday to give back to our communities.

One way to do this is to host a clothing, canned food, or other resource drive. Donations can be rewarded with LTO items to encourage participation.

May 20: National be a Millionaire Day

Well, you probably can’t turn your guests into millionaires. However, you can certainly help your guests drink like one. While you can shine a spotlight on your super- and ultra-premium spirits, there’s another way: the Millionaire cocktail.

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 0.75 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 0.25 oz. Absinthe or pastis
  • 0.5 oz. Grenadine
  • 0.5 oz. Egg white
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to garnish

Prepare a coupe by adding ice to chill it. Dry shake all the ingredients, minus the nutmeg. Add ice and shake again until well chilled, then double-strain the prepared coupe. Garnish by grating nutmeg over the top of the glass.

Want to kick things up a notch? Offer the Billionaire cocktail:

  • 2 oz. Baker’s 107-proof bourbon
  • 1 oz. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 0.5 oz. Grenadine
  • 0.5 oz. Simple syrup
  • 0.25 oz. Absinthe bitters
  • Lemon wheel to garnish

Prepare a cocktail glass by adding ice to chill it. Add all ingredients except lemon wheel to a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, then strain into the cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

May 25: Sing Out Day

I mean, if there was ever a day to promote karaoke, this is the one. Even better if you can design a competition around it to maximize engagement.

May 26: World Lindy Hop Day

Alright, I’m going to do it—I’m going to suggest you leverage TikTok and Instagram. The Lindy Hop is a dance, I can tell you right now that there’s at least a fair chance that people will be featuring this dance (or variations of it) on social media. So, time for you, your team, and guests who want to participate to learn the Lindy Hop.

May 30: National Mint Julep Day

There are a few easy ways to celebrate National Mint Julep Day. The first, of course, is to perfect your venue’s Mint Julep. The second? Offer a variety of Mint Julep riffs: chocolate, peach, tequila, mezcal, sage, basil… Come up with three or four and your LTO is all set.

A third way is to feature this year’s Kentucky Derby $1,000 Mint Julep Experience recipe, Secretariat’s Mint Julep:

Pack a Julep cup with crushed ice, making sure to make a dome over the lip of the cup. Add the whiskey and liqueur to a mixing glass and stir. Pour over the prepared cup. Garnish with one sprig of mint and one stalk of Virginia bluebells. ($1,000 price tag optional.)

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Cinco de Mayo Isn’t Independence Day

Cinco de Mayo Isn’t Mexico’s Independence Day

by David Klemt

Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza Puebla, Puebla, Mexico

When planning and executing Cinco de Mayo promotions and menus it’s important to be respectful and understand what this day commemorates.

One step toward honoring this holiday rather than making a mockery of it? Knowing that Cinco de Mayo honors the Battle of Puebla, which took place in 1862.

This day isn’t—and I can’t stress this enough—Mexican Independence Day.

Fight for Independence

Mexican Independence Day is September 16, not May 5. Mexico was also called “New Spain” when the land was a colony under Spanish rule. And by most historical accounts, this 300-year rule wasn’t benevolent.

A Catholic priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, colloquially known as Father Hidalgo, dared to call for independence on September 16, 1810. Father Hidalgo rang the bell of his church in Dolores and delivered the famous “Grito de Dolores” speech (“Shout (or Cry) of Dolores).

It took over a decade of ferocious, brutal fighting for Mexico to earn its independence. Spain withdrew from the Mexican War of Independence on August 24, 1821. On that same date, Spain recognized Mexico as independent country. Mexico honors their independence by celebrating the day that Father Hidalgo, the Father of Mexican Independence, delivered his rousing speech.

Battle of Puebla

Just over four decades after defeating Spain, Mexico would be forced into another pivotal fight. I won’t get into the entire history here but France invaded Mexico.

Initially, Spain and the United Kingdom supported the invasion. Further, much of the world believed France would easily and quickly emerge victorious. After all, France sent a military force with superior equipment.

This wasn’t the first time France invaded Mexico, and it wouldn’t be the last. That’s another important detail to keep in mind: Cinco de Mayo isn’t Mexican Independence Day, and it doesn’t the mark the end of the Franco-Mexican War.

Cinco de Mayo, mainly celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla, is about national pride. Outnumbered two to one and outgunned, Mexico forced the retreat of a military force that hadn’t experienced defeat for several decades on May 5, 1862.

The war didn’t end until the French withdrew from Mexico in 1867. During this time, the American Civil War was raging. Additionally, United States policy at the time was to remain neutral regarding wars in other countries. That said, historians point to Secretary of State William H. Seward as helping encourage France’s withdrawal.

However, I’d posit that it’s likely fierce resistance and failure to achieve victory easily over Mexican military forces that inspired France to abandon their campaign in Mexico.

Celebrate with Respect

It’s generally accepted that the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the US took place in California. Well over a century after Mexico’s victory at the Battle of Puebla, restaurants and bars across America were leveraging the holiday.

Again, it’s important to remember that Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated the same way in Mexico as it is the US. There are celebrations in Puebla but overall, it’s seen as a minor holiday.

When planning Cinco de Mayo promotions, it’s important that operators and their teams be respectful. May 5, 1862 wasn’t a party—hundreds of people died during the Battle of Puebla. Perhaps this comparison will help: Americans should know better than to say, “Happy Memorial Day,” on Memorial Day. It’s a day of mourning and remembering those who sacrificed their lives fighting for the country.

So, please celebrate with respect. Respect for Mexico and respect for Mexican culture and heritage. Don’t have your team put on sombreros, don fake mustaches, shake maracas, or engage in any other ridiculously racist stereotyping. I shouldn’t have to say this but don’t engage with racial or cultural stereotypes any day, ever, for your marketing and promotions.

Along those lines, don’t speak Spanish disrespectfully. That includes rejecting “Cinco de Drinko” or “Gringo de Mayo” in your marketing.

That said, if Mexican food and beverage staples make sense for your concept, feature them. Does your kitchen team make amazing, authentic tamales, tacos, and other items? Awesome. Showcase your tequilas, mezcals, and Margaritas. Offer the Batanga (but probably don’t give guests the knife).

Just be thoughtful and respectful with your Cinco de Mayo promotions.

Image: Jorge__ Medina_ on Pexels

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Sticking to Your Standards

The Importance of Sticking to Your Standards

by David Klemt

Person writing down notes

One crucial task for all restaurant, bar, nightclub, and hotel operators is to set the acceptable standards and commit to maintaining them.

Hospitality operations are subject to an interesting paradox. We’re all told to prepare for things to go sideways during any given shift. We’re also told that adhering to our standards of service will help us weather a storm of challenges. Oftentimes, however, the first thing to slip at the first sign of trouble is: our standards.

When a client signs on with KRG Hospitality, they are given the task of identifying their core values. There’s an exercise for this key development step; it’s part of our standards.

Your core values inform your standards (and so much more): leadership team standards; front- and back-of-house team member standards; and standards of service. Additionally, you should spell out these standards during the onboarding process, utilizing an employee manual—which new hires must sign and date—and practical training.

It’s absolutely crucial that you and your team commit to your standards fully. They’re inviolable, what both KRG president Doug Radkey and Chef Brian Duffy call your “non-negotiables” during speaking engagements and when working with clients.

Are people going to make mistakes, including you? Yes. On occasion, a standard is going to slip. The key is understanding that maintaining standards helps reduce these occasions; panicking and allowing them to slip just drops us deeper into quicksand.

Someone on the team is going to miss a service step. Something will occur during a shift that’s not up to standards. What’s important in those moments is the ability for the team to recognize the slip quickly and correct course immediately.

Setting Standards

There are different ways for operators to select their standards. The example I provide at the top of this article is one approach KRG implements.

Michael Tipps, co-founder of Invictus Hospitality and friend of KRG Hospitality, has an intriguing approach of his own. He shared this during the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo in Las Vegas.

“Standards separate operators and their teams,” says Tipps. While he doesn’t encourage operators to look at every other operator in their market as competition, he does advocate for differentiation.

Tipps shared a three-step approach to standards. (Step two, by the way, is the one I find intriguing.)

  1. Create your standards. Again, there are different approaches.
  2. Pick your committee. I’m going to explain this further.
  3. Set standards against the grandest vision of your venue.

So, what does it mean to “pick your committee”? Well, it means surrounding yourself with people you respect…real or imagined. As Tipps explained during BRE, he has people in his life that he considers his committee. The real-life members of this committee are a sounding board for any number of ideas, questions, challenges, and even mistakes.

And yes, his committee also includes “imaginary” members, such as Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson. These are people that he doesn’t know personally but are known to have incredibly high standards. They’re high achievers and, of course, many have biographies and we can know their standards. Tipps has “asked” these committee members, “How should I handle X?”

This creative approach isn’t for everyone but every operator should at least give it a shot. When we step that far out of our comfort zones the results can be incredible.

The Cheat Code

On the specific topic of service standards, Tipps has a cheat code for operators: hotels. “The hotel mindset is a hospitality cheat code,” says Tipps.

How so? It’s quite enlightening.

Think about your restaurant. Now, think about it as the first-floor cornerstone of an upscale hotel. Imagine that there are 250 incredible boutique hotel rooms above your restaurant. These rooms command rates of several hundred dollars per night. Now think about how you would treat each guest in these expensive rooms if they ask for a straw.

“Make the effort to care like nobody else can,” says Tipps.

Always bear in mind that hospitality is how you make people feel. Your mission should be for each and every guest to feel relevant.

Generally speaking, most people don’t want to be alone. They’re not just coming to your restaurant because they’re hungry, to your bar because they’re thirsty. In reality, as Tipps would tell you, they’re coming to be around other people. They’re using your F&B as a reason to be around other people are feel relevant.

Your mission is to ensure people feel relevant when they spend time at your venue with your team. The package you send to accomplish this mission is your standards of service.

“Self-inflicted mediocrity is the result of laziness and lack of accountability,” Tipps says.

Hold everyone accountable for enforcing your standards—including yourself—and you’ll level up in every facet.

Image: Owen Michael Grech on Unsplash

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Chip Klose and the ABCDEs of Marketing

Chip Klose and the ABCDEs of Marketing

by David Klemt

Letters A through E on switches

Marketing strategist and restaurant coach Chip Klose knows that if a process is too complex, people will abandon it. Hence, his ABCDEs of Marketing.

At this year’s Bar & Restaurant Expo, Klose broke down his marketing process. Additionally, he explained his overall approach to his marketing strategy.

First, Klose makes clear that there definitely is a right way to market. Put simply, the correct way involves taking a results-oriented approach. Ask yourself what what result you want from your marketing. Then, measure the results.

Second, people need to differentiate marketing from marketing tools. SEO, social media, table toppers, digital presence—these are tools. Marketing is how people answer a number of key questions:

  • What’s the product?
  • Who’s the product for?
  • How can marketing reach the target (audience)?

When people come to the understanding that marketing is maximizing the use of marketing tools, they’ll implement far more effective campaigns.

A: Audience

According to Klose, most people create a product—in the context of this article, a restaurant, bar, hotel, etc.—and then look for an audience.

That approach makes it difficult to implement an effective marketing strategy. Why? Because it makes it more difficult to understand a concept’s category. Without that understanding, it’s challenging to segment the population to identify targets.

Instead, Klose recommends looking at a market and asking the following question: Who has a problem? The standard advice entrepreneurs receive is to identify a problem, create a solution, scale, and retire on an island.

Well, owners and operators in the hospitality space are entrepreneurs. So, Klose suggests looking at what a given market is missing in terms of a restaurant, bar or hotel. So, find an audience’s pain point. This will not only help narrow down a concept, it will reveal if a solution already exists.

The next step, of course, is conducting a feasibility study, one of KRG Hospitality’s core specialties.

B: Brand

Assuming a restaurant or bar concept is the solution to an audience’s problem (proven by a feasibility study, of course), the next step is communication.

The restaurant idea isn’t “just” a restaurant, the bar not “just” a bar, the hotel concept not “just” a concept. No, the concept coming to their market is a solution to the audience’s problem.

When crafting a marketing plan, the messaging should articulate what problem the concept solves, and how.

C: Competition

There are essentially a few ways to view other businesses in this industry. They’re competition to stay ahead of; not competitors at all; or operations that serve to validate an operator’s solution to an audience’s problem.

Klose falls into the validation camp. Is another concept trying to solve the same problem? That means an operator bringing their own solution to the same market is onto something.

“Competition validates your idea and gives you a category,” says Klose.

Identifying a concept’s category provides an operator with the opportunity to stay top of mind, to dominate that category.

Once again, however, this also points to the need for a feasibility study. One or two solutions to the same problem is one thing. Entering a market saturated with the same solution is quite another. A feasibility study exposes saturation.

D: Differentiation

So, an operator has their solution to an audience’s problem. They’re confident in the completion of their due diligence. They have a brand identity and it communicates how it solves a problem. The competition is identified and the operator is moving forward with their solution confidently.

What’s next?

Whether an operator subscribes to the idea that they have no competitors, want to crush the competition, or use competitors as a yardstick, they need to differentiate themselves.

Klose says answering the questions below can help:

  • How does the concept stand out in a given market?
  • Once that concept is firmly in a category, how does it separate itself from the competition?
  • What are the stories only this operator and brand can tell?

That last question should be circled, underlined, italicized, and bolded. In fact, Klose asks his clients to write down 20 stories only they can tell. The results give them plenty of marketing material and helps them differentiate their concept from others.

E: Everything

Yes, “E” is for “everything.” As in, everything that makes a brand, a brand.

The brand’s logos and colors. The steps of service, food, drinks, even the pricing… These and more are the elements—the everything—that give a brand an identity.

Understanding and applying Klose’s ABCDEs will help operators maximize the use of marketing tools for their marketing strategies. There are a lot of solutions to problems out there, and even more noise. An effective marketing strategy cuts through that noise to put an operator’s specific solution directly in front of their target audience.

Be sure to follow Klose on Instagram and check out his Restaurant Strategy podcast. And make sure to check out KRG’s Bar Hacks podcast if you aren’t a regular listener already.

Image: Diomari Madulara on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality marketing support. Restaurant. Bar. Cafe. Lounge. Hotel. Resort.

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Tips from Tipps on Cool Concepts

Tips from Tipps on Building a Cool Concept

by David Klemt

Mama Foo Foo Daytona bar and DJ booth

It’s true that “cool” is difficult to define, and yet as amorphous a concept as it can be, we can create a vibe that embodies this important design element.

Some people have an innate understanding of the cool factor. They can identify it, design for it, and reënvision it. However, even these people can’t always explain the concept of cool.

To repurpose a 1964 quote from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it.” And to paraphrase that quote, many of us would say we know cool “when we experience it.”

Of course, I can say that the KRG Hospitality team knows cool and develops concepts around this nebulous design concept. But that wouldn’t be cool; if you call yourself cool, you’re not. It’s sort of like attempting to give yourself a nickname—it really doesn’t work. (When I was in the Air Force I witnessed what happened to a few brand-new F16 trainees who tried to give themselves their own call signs. The results? Yikes.)

So, I’m going to share some helpful thoughts on this topic from a friend of KRG. Invictus Hospitality co-founder Michael Tipps, who knows cool when he sees and feels it.

Importantly, he and his team can also design for it. During the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo in Las Vegas last month he shared his thoughts on this idea to a room full of operators and leadership team members.

To check out some of the cool concepts in the Invictus portfolio, click here. For the KRG portfolio gallery, follow this link.

So, You Wanna be Cool…

With very few exceptions, most people thinking about their dream restaurant, bar, nightclub, eatertainment concept, or hotel don’t want to embody the antithesis of cool. In fact, I’ll say that if someone does design an “uncool” concept purposely and does so successfully…it’s cool.

That said, here’s an important tip from Tipps on developing a cool concept: “If your bar or restaurant is epic, it will attract everyone.”

However, that doesn’t mean designing a place that attempts to make everyone happy. Instead, consider your target guests—groups of people you and your partners understand, ideally—and design for them.

Nailing your concept for your target guests will attract other groups. And before anyone says that sounds exclusionary, that’s not what Tipps or I are talking about. Listen to anyone from the KRG Hospitality and Invictus Hospitality teams speak and you’ll know making any guest feel unwelcome isn’t on the menu.

Instead, consider the longstanding maxim that you can’t please everyone. Hence, focusing on your target guests to pull the threads tighter during the concept development phase.

Another key consideration when trying to nail down the cool factor? Differentiation.

“If everyone is used to westerns, somebody wants an action movie,” says Tipps. In other words, in a market saturated by one or two types of concepts, there are people dying for something different.

So, develop your dream concept with the idea of delivering something different in mind.

Stay True

This isn’t exactly a hot take but at the end of the day, all restaurants serve food. All bars serve drinks. All hotels provide rooms.

In other words, people can go anywhere for at least decent food and drink, and a place to sleep. The differentiators that separate one concept from another are atmosphere, service, and culture. Those three elements (along with some others) define a particular brand.

When your dream concept is on paper and you’re ready to make it a brick-and-mortar reality, you must stay true to it. Using the KRG process as an example, our feasibility studies, concept development plans, and business plans combine to form our Roadmap to Success. This is a document hundreds of pages long that’s unique to every client and concept we develop.

Once that deliverable is in your hand, it’s crucial to stay true. Or, as Tipps said at BRE in March, “You have to remain steadfast and focused on your concept.”

Designing a cool concept can take you into deep, uncharted waters in your chosen market. The voice telling you that you need to rein things in can be a loud, nagging one. Learn to quiet that panicking voice.

It can be daunting to design something you think is cool. You may find yourself asking if anyone would even want this “cool” concept.

Well, an unfiltered Tipps suggests you consider your answer to the following question: “How do people know what they want if they haven’t fucking seen it?”

You can build the next Applebee’s, Chili’s or Fridays. Or you can build something unique that will set a new standard in a market. And that’s not a knock against those chain restaurants—they’re successful on a global scale. But if you don’t want to operate an Applebee’s, don’t design yourself one.

A Word on Rebranding

Owing to the pandemic, rebrands are, as Tipps says, ubiquitous. This makes sense as people’s perspectives are different now. Operators want to finally own their dream concept. Hospitality pros want to work for brands that share their values, and that they deem cool. Guests want to spend their time and money on brands with which they identify (and also deem cool).

“If somebody wants to rebrand, they probably should,” says Tipps.

According to Tipps, however, “a lot of people confuse a rebrand with a refresh.”

While new tables, chairs, and paint can feel like a huge change, that’s not a rebrand. While many guests appreciate a refresh, their relationship with the brand won’t change much.

So, if an operator doesn’t plan and execute a full rebrand carefully, Tipps says they need to temper their expectations for a measurable ROI.

Now, if you have ideas for a cool rebrand, planning is crucial. But that doesn’t just relate to knowing what you want. You need to have your new name, logo, colors, menus, and exterior and interior designs finalized, of course.

However, you need to plan for how long the rebrand will take. As an example, when Invictus last rebranded their own concept they planned for two months to prepare to shut down for a full week.

Your cool new concept and its cool new details? They cost money and, as importantly, they take time. Which, as we all know in this business, costs even more money when you’re shut down.

Now’s the time to move forward with your cool new concept. Don’t hesitate to take your first step toward owning the cool brand you’ve always really wanted. While you’re dreaming about your concept, someone else in your market is making theirs a reality.

Image courtesy of Invictus Hospitality

KRG Hospitality brand identity. Restaurant. Bar. Cafe. Lounge, Hotel. Resort.