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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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

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

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.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Real-world Menu Tips from Chef Brian Duffy

Real-world Menu Tips from Chef Brian Duffy

by David Klemt

Two restaurant food menus

I wonder what Chef Duffy would say about these menus.

Call it an education session, call it a workshop, one of the best features of the Bar & Restaurant Expo is live menu feedback from Chef Brian Duffy.

This is certainly true of the 2023 Bar & Restaurant Expo. During this year’s BRE (formerly Nightclub & Bar Show, or NCB), Chef Duffy delivered well over two hours of real-world menu feedback.

To be sure, BRE educational programming is always beneficial. Attendees who take the time to plan their schedules to include education sessions will take invaluable tips back to their businesses.

However, watching in real time as Chef Duffy critiques real menus submitted by BRE attendees provides insight that will impact the guest experience and success of a restaurant or bar immediately.

When delivering his feedback, Chef Duffy is unacquainted with the menus. He’s also unfiltered. So, attendees of these sessions are provided a window to Chef Duffy’s professional opinions, on the fly, in real time.

Take, for example, this blunt statement: “If you serve tilapia in your restaurant, you suck.” Before anyone has a conniption, Chef Duffy is referring to unethically farm-raised tilapia that’s often exposed to waste.

Technical Difficulties

Due to unforeseen AV issues, Chef Duffy was unable to use the large screens in the room to review menus for 30 to 40 minutes.

Now, some speakers may be shaken when encountering such a technical difficulty. This isn’t the case for Chef Duffy. In fact, all in attendance from the start of his session were lucky enough to gain insights beyond menu design because of the AV issues.

First, we all gained some insight into Chef Duffy’s consulting process. When engaged for restaurant consultation, he watches an evening service. Next day, he’s in your kitchen at 10:00 AM. What he sees in your kitchen tells him what’s happening throughout your restaurant. By the way, if he encounters just two spelling errors on your menu, he’s done reviewing it—you need a fresh start.

Second, inventory. Chef Duffy assumes you keep eleven percent of your overall revenue on your shelves. So, if you’re generating $100,000 each month, your shelves hold $11,000 of product. When reviewing your financial situation, take a look at that number for your own restaurant or bar.

Third, executive chefs versus head chefs. Chef Duffy has been on the ground for more than 100 restaurant openings. He has interviewed countless chefs. Have you ever wondered about the difference between an executive chef and a head chef? Knowledge of the financial aspects of running a kitchen. Without it, someone’s not an executive chef—they’re a head chef. Executive chefs know (and in theory can be trusted with) finances; head chefs make sure the brigade comes to work on time.

Finally, a cost-reduction tip. When you speak with your food reps, ask about DWO items: “Discontinued When Out.” You may be able to get your hands on some great items for a fraction of the cost.

Pricing Tips

Since we’ve looked at costs, let’s take a look at pricing.

Determining pricing effectively involves more than just gathering intel about your competitors. Chef Duffy suggests looking over your entire menu and committing to a pricing hard deck.

For example, “I’ll never sell a starter for less than X dollars.” You commit to never selling a entree for lower than a certain dollar amount. If you breach that promise, you may damage your brand.

Staying on the topic of pricing, don’t take advantage of your guests. Chef Duffy absolutely believes you can charge premium prices—but only for innovation. How do you know if a menu item is innovative? If it has made its way to major chain restaurants and you’re not doing anything unique to your version, it’s not innovative.

In terms of layout and design, don’t “lead” guests to prices with dots, dashes, or solid lines. Just place the price next to the item and move on.

Menu Tips

Another crucial tip that really should go without saying but, well, here we are, is proofreading. Want to make sure your menu is correct in a fun way? Throw a proofreading party. Invite ten of your VIP guests, gather your staff, invite some friends and family if you won’t be distracted, and ask for honest feedback.

Of course, you can elevate this event by serving new menu items tapas or family style to your VIPs. Brand-new restaurant yet to open? I suggest having the proofreading party with staff, friends, and family.

Keep in mind that menu real estate is valuable. Does a section of your menu come with identical accompaniments? Explain that at the top of section rather than including them in every. single. item. separately. Yes, this happened during the live 2023 BRE reads.

Chef Duffy would like you to stop putting specials on your menu. Again, menu real estate is valuable. If you can spare the room for specials, are they really special? Instead, your servers should know the day’s specials and share them with your guests from memory. And speaking of memory, upselling really only works if your staff knows the menu backward and forward.

Oh, and Chef Duffy would love it if you’d stop doing truffle fries if you’re not going to use premium products.

Your Menu Isn’t “Just” a Menu

Obviously, I haven’t shared every one of Chef Duffy’s menu tips. However, the above should serve as more than enough to motivate you to review your own menu with a critical eye.

In fact, you should be inspired to have your leadership, BoH, and FoH teams review the menu as well.

Yes, spelling matters. Yes, grammar matters. And yes, every detail and bit of menu real estate matters. This is because, simply put, your menu is more than a list of items for sale.

As Chef Duffy says, “Your menu is your calling card, it’s just that simple.” He would also tell you that the first place people encounter your business is online after a search. So, your website is your showcase. But your menu? That’s your billboard on the freeway, as he says.

QR codes may have been the standard from 2020 to 2022. We all know why. But for the most part, with the exception of QSRs and LSRs, people want to hold your menu. It’s a tactile experience and true engagement.

Menu design, like your website’s design, matters. Don’t believe me? I have two framed menus on my office wall, and they’re not from client concepts.

To learn more about Chef Brian Duffy, visit his website here. And, of course, make sure to follow him on Instagram. To listen to his Bar Hacks podcast episodes, click here for episode 33 and here for episode 53.

Image: Catherine Heath on Unsplash

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5 Books to Read this Month: April 2023

5 Books to Read this Month: April 2023

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

Our engaging and informative April book selections will help you take your bar, restaurant or hotel to higher levels, and develop your leadership skills.

To review the book recommendations from March 2023, click here.

Let’s jump in!

Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect

When Will Guidara took over the famous Eleven Madison Park, the restaurant had just two stars and he was only in his mid-twenties. Before his 40th birthday, the changes and strategies he implemented helped the restaurant earn the title of the Best Restaurant in the World.

One of cornerstone’s of Guidara’s was “bespoke hospitality.” He and his team truly went above and beyond. Examples of the Eleven Madison Park team’s approach to hospitality illustrate just how over the top they went to deliver memorable guest experiences. If you’re looking for inspiration to step up your hospitality, pick up or download Unreasonable Hospitality today.

Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant

I’m going to address the viability of the blue ocean strategy before getting into the book. Creating a hospitality concept without competition isn’t really feasible. Go too far into “blue waters” and there won’t be any “fish” (traffic). And where, exactly, would one put their restaurant, bar, or hotel where there’s no competition but still enough traffic to generate a profit?

Those issues addressed, this book is still valuable to owners and operators. One need not eliminate competition completely to take lessons from the blue ocean strategy. Businesses must still differentiate themselves from competitors, and they must look for unique opportunities to help them stand out. Blue Ocean Strategy may not work perfectly but much is still very helpful.

Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization that Thrives

Anese Cavanaugh’s Contagious Culture addresses a topic that we often discuss with clients, in our articles, and during speaking engagements: workplace culture. From large corporations and regional or national restaurant chains, to independent restaurants, bars, and hotels, culture will make or break an organization. Cavanaugh’s techniques will improve your workplace culture and energize your team, an undeniable key to success.

From Amazon: “This is Contagious Culture, a game-changing guide to transforming corporate culture from within, developed by the award-winning creator of The IEP Method to strengthen your ‘Intentional Energetic Presence.’ This is more than a leadership book―this is your future calling.”

Bar Hacks: Developing The Fundamentals for an Epic Bar

Doug Radkey is the founder, president, and lead strategist of KRG Hospitality. He’s also a hospitality industry speaker, educator, and author. This is his first book, Bar Hacks, which is also the name of the podcast we produce through KRG Hospitality.

Now, while the title states this book is a guide for developing and running an epic bar, the strategies carry over to restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality concepts. It’s difficult—if not impossible—to elevate one’s skills and service without first mastering the fundamentals. Whether you’re new to the industry or are a veteran who feels the need to reset and revisit the fundamentals, Bar Hacks is your guide.

Hacking the New Normal: Hitting the Reset Button on the Hospitality Industry

There’s a first book, which means there must be at least one other one, right? Right! Hacking the New Normal is Doug’s second book.

This book is a direct response to the pandemic, what it did to the industry, and the issues many operators would prefer to ignore. However, the devastation is so great that ignoring the changes that should have been made decades ago isn’t a viable option. With a spotlight on hybrid business models, real estate, profit margins, technology, guest experiences, culture, diversity, and mindset, Hacking the New Normal will position you for success in our new hospitality landscape.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality. Consultant. Consulting. Culinary. Bar. Hotel. Mixology. Technology.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Empower Your Team to Make Decisions

Do You Empower Your Team to Make Decisions?

by Kim Richardson

Chess pieces on chess board in grayscale

Empowerment is about so much more than trusting someone to follow clearly defined rules; you must learn to trust your team’s judgement.

Yes, even when things don’t go according to plan. If you’re only training your team on the “rules,” you’re doing a disservice to them and yourself. So, let’s have a little chat about empowerment. What does it mean to you? What are your expectations of your team when you tell them they are empowered?

Looking back throughout your own work history, have you ever had a job where your boss told you that you were empowered to make decisions, but you didn’t actually know what to do or how to make decisions? Did anyone ever explain “the how” of decision making to you?

Now, look at yourself as a leader. Have you ever had employees that you’ve told are empowered to make decisions, yet they get a manager every time someone needs something out of the ordinary? Are you explaining to your staff “the how” of decision making, along with your expectations?

It’s frustrating to feel like the house might fall down when you’re not in it. That’s no way to operate a business. We all want our staff to be able to make educated decisions when we’re not around. We shouldn’t have to hold their hands and be part of every single decision.

Still, there are times when, left to their own devices, a team member doesn’t make the decision you’d want them to make. This makes owners and leadership team members feel as though they must be at work every second.

So, how do you move away from micromanagement and learn to trust your team’s decision making?

Leverage Teachable Moments

You’ll never be able to give an example of every possible situation that may arise. Therefore, you’ll never be able to train your team on everything that they’ll encounter on any shift.

How do you tell someone how to handle situations when you’re not around? You don’t, and I don’t suggest you even try. Instead, you need to instill a sense of empowerment in your team.

However, “empowerment” is just a word if you’re not educating your team. You need to teach staff how to make good decisions. And how do you even start to do that? Cash in on all the teachable moments that happen throughout the day!

Once upon a time we were all new to this industry. I’m sure you have a few stories of some mistakes you’ve made along the way. I know I certainly do.

Think back to those situations. Did someone explain to you why you made a mistake? More importantly, did they then help you understand what to do next time? Or did they just get mad and make you feel like a failure?

I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing people over the years. There are several people that really put effort into teaching me. The different things they taught me helped me to understand the ins and outs of decision making, even in situations I know very little about.

Example 1: The Restaurant

For my first job ever, I was a hostess at an Italian restaurant and pizzeria. During the training process I was told to rotate sections when seating tables. That’s easy enough, right? Well…maybe not.

Sometimes I’d see exceptions to this rule. The same section would get sat twice in a row, for example. I watched exceptions to “the rule” get made with no clue as to why.

One day, I sat the same section twice in a row. I don’t remember why, but I do remember the server’s reaction.

Right after seating the second party in the server’s section she let me know how annoyed she was by my decision. Now, I knew I messed up immediately—she let me know. But I didn’t know why it wasn’t okay that I had double-sat her this time.

All I knew is there was a rule I was expected to follow…unless I wasn’t supposed to follow it. Sometimes it was okay to disregard the rule, sometimes not. The rule wasn’t clarified before I began my role as a hostess, it wasn’t explained during training, and it wasn’t explained in the moment I “broke” the rule.

At some point it was explained to me that there were several factors that influenced the “double-seating rule.” For instance, you might skip a section in the rotation if they were just sat a big party. You might double-seat someone if they were regulars, family or friends and the server was able to accommodate an additional table. Of course, there were several other factors that could come into play.

The biggest issue is that none of that was explained to me during training. Moreover, I was left to figure out the nuances of seating on my own.

Example 2: The Hotel Sales Office

I worked at a hotel in the sales office for my first job out of college handling group room blocks.

The contracts I sent out to clients had cutoff dates 30 days prior to the event. Again, sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

One day a bride emailed me asking if she could extend the cutoff date. The cutoff date fell on a holiday weekend and she was concerned that people might not have time to book their rooms. I wrote her back and very politely told her no. So she reached out to my boss, Jill, who told her yes.

And then I got called into Jill’s office.

I remember that conversation like it was yesterday. Jill was very nice about the situation and explained that it was okay to make exceptions for people sometimes. Sometime later, I extended a cutoff date for another group. Should be an acceptable exception, right?

Nope. I got my hand slapped on that one. There was a citywide event going on over those dates. The hotel was fully sold out and turning away business. In this circumstance, it was actually a huge problem to extend the cutoff date.

Great—here we go again with a rule that exists in a gray area, and no one explained its nuances. As it turns out, there are factors that go into extending a cutoff date, such as how many rooms the group has already picked up; how busy the hotel is over the dates of their room block; and the relationship you have with the client.

I don’t know if anyone ever flat out explained these gray areas to me. Instead, I was left to figure out the nuances through trial and error.

Example 3: The Dish Tub Incident

At that same hotel several years later I started handling banquet events. One day, a client told me their registration desk needed dish tubs lined with cloth napkins. I threw it on the banquet event order.

Well, I happened to work at a Five Diamond hotel. Dish tubs with napkins sitting out in view of the public? That’s not how we did things. Enter: Bruce the Banquet Manager.

No detail, however small, escaped Bruce. Referring to the dish tubs and napkins, Bruce asked me why they were necessary. I actually had no idea what the client wanted with the tubs and napkins. So, I reached out to the client.

Turns out all she needed was a way to store welcome packets for event attendees. These days, we just put up a QR code and call it good. Once I let Bruce know what the containers were actually for, he understood. However, we weren’t about to load unsightly dish tubs with welcome packets. Instead, we found something more aesthetically pleasing and in line with our level of service.

I spoke about the Dish Tub Incident with Jill. To her credit, she helped me understand that people who are planning meetings so frequently are sending standard specs. Sometimes there would be a request on a BEO that wouldn’t make sense for the venue. Crucially, she taught me that if I ever saw something that didn’t make sense I needed to ask questions.

Truthfully, I don’t remember if it was that conversation or another but Jill taught me one of the best lessons: Ask the client what goal they’re trying to achieve. By understanding their goals we could provide solutions that made sense for us and honored their wishes. Additionally, we’d deliver the excellent service they had come to expect.

Example 4: The Hotel Cafeteria

Let’s take a little break from talking about my mistakes and talk about somebody else’s.

Many years later, I was working at another hotel. One day, I went to the cafeteria and the fruit bowls had Asian pears in them. I love Asian pears, so I was really excited about those bowls.

Now, those particular pears were probably a day away from being spoiled. I went to the cafeteria the next week and there were the Asian pears again! This time, they were perfectly fresh, crisp pears.

Well, I certainly enjoyed that. You want to know who didn’t enjoy that? The executive chef!

As it turns out, Chef sent the pears that were about to go bad to the cafeteria because they were leftovers from something else. He didn’t want them to go to waste. But the fresh, crisp pears that were out the following week? Those were a different story.

There was a kitchen team member who saw the Asian pears go down the week before. When he was setting up the cafeteria the following week he threw some in the fruit bowl. No one had told him that Asian pears are expensive. Also, no one had told him the pears were just going down to the cafeteria because they were close to spoiling. They’re not typically the type of thing set out in the employee cafeteria.

While I would never expect Chef to stop and explain every single decision he’s making, it’s the perfect example of seeing one of your superiors doing something and thinking you’re supposed to do the same.

Leaders Teach

When I look back on some of the mistakes I made, they seem pretty obvious with many years of hindsight.

The solutions to unexpected situations are common knowledge to me now. If you also have some years in this industry, they’re likely common knowledge to you.

And that’s my point.

I was young. I was inexperienced. People didn’t always tell me the things they had learned that were common knowledge to them. So, they also didn’t share their expectations with me.

I can only assume that you have people on your team that are young and inexperienced. As seasoned hospitality professionals, we all make decisions every day that can be teaching moments. These moments are part of the learning experience. Using them to shape your team will help your business run better.

Have you implemented an onboarding process? Do you have a detailed employee manual? Do you have actual systems in place? If so, great—you’re ahead of the curve.

But do you think that you’re training new and existing employees on every situation that will ever pop up during their shifts? Really, that’s impossible. Instead, be on the lookout for teachable moments. Put people on your leadership and empower them to do the same.

In turn, they’ll help empower your staff to make the “right” decisions for your business. And importantly, they’ll feel empowered to learn from mistakes so they don’t repeat them. Over time, and it won’t take long, you and your leadership team will be able to step away and work on other parts of the business. In fact, you’ll find that you can step away from the business from time to time.

People are going to make mistakes. That includes you. Don’t let these teachable opportunities go to waste.

Image: Hassan Pasha on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality. Boutique Hotels. Resorts. Properties. Consultant. Feasibility Study. Business Plan

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Addressing Employee Theft

Addressing Employee Theft

by David Klemt

Security camera stencil graffiti design

Recent posts about employee theft in the hospitality industry throughout Canada and the US have the KRG Hospitality team talking.

Indeed, the statistics are startling. For instance, there’s the claim that a staggering 75 percent of employees admit to stealing from their employers “at least once.”

A few years back, the Retail Council of Canada reported that while “customers” stole $175 on average, employees stole $2,500 before being caught.

Then there’s the incredible economic impact. Multiple sources claim employee theft in the US costs businesses $50 billion annually. In Canada, theft costs businesses more than $1 billion per year. Both numbers are shocking.

Looking at US restaurants specifically, the number ranges from $3 billion to $6 billion in losses due to employee theft. According to, employee theft affects four percent of a restaurant’s sales and accounts for 75 percent of shortages in inventory.

At this point, you’re probably Googling security cameras. But hold on for a moment.


Before proceeding, know this: I’m going to make a few points that will seem like victim blaming. In part, this perception will be the result of my addressing recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, the leadership team, and workplace culture.

Let me be clear: I’m not excusing employee theft. I don’t think there’s any justification for it.

Despite what a (hopefully) small number of loud voices claim on various social media platforms and forums, I don’t think it’s acceptable to steal from a corporation or business owner. No, theft isn’t a justifiable response to feeling slighted by ownership or leadership. And no, it’s not “okay” because a company generates “so much” revenue, has insurance, and can “write it off.”

With that out of the way, let’s proceed.

People are Going to Steal

Here’s one immutable fact: You’re going to hire someone who’s going to steal from your business.

Is your business up and running and serving guests? You employ someone right now who has either stolen from you already or is going to steal.

So, you can run your business under a cloud of suspicion and distrust. Or, you can improve your odds of reducing theft and ferreting out thieves before they do too much damage.

Again, you can install security cameras and place them above each POS terminal and every cash drawer. You can ensure you have clear, cutting-edge CCTV coverage of the entire bar and dining areas. Walk-ins and storage areas can have clear, high-resolution camera coverage.

Honestly, you should have that type of coverage. That type of security can improve employee and guest safety, and your insurance carrier will likely be happy about it.

But you don’t need to impose an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, and intimidation along with the cameras. If you were an employee, would you want to work somewhere that makes it clear you’re always under suspicion? Would you want to work alongside a leadership team whose default setting is that all employees are thieves unworthy of trust?

Workplace Culture

You’re never going to have a theft-free business, period. That’s another reason to not “lead” with fear, anger, and suspicion.

Truly, all that style of leadership will do is drive good, honest employees out. So, the approach should be attracting honest workers. You build a strong, trustworthy team through respect and empowerment.

Yes, there will be employees who take advantage of that respect. They were going to behave that way and steal or otherwise disrespect you, your business, and the team regardless.

Putting in the work to reflect on your leadership style and that of your leadership team pays dividends. It aids in recruitment and fosters an atmosphere of respect and honesty.

Become known for a healthy, positive workplace and you’ll attract the best workers. Nurture that culture and the team will police itself; they won’t tolerate anyone harming the business.

Am I suggesting you view your business through rose-colored lenses? Absolutely not. Install security cameras. Maintain the right insurance coverage. Conduct regular inventory checks. Review comps and voids for irregularities. Limit access to cash. Outline what constitutes theft—including time theft—and make consequences clear.

And here’s a crucial item: Prove you respect and care about your workers. Not say it, prove it.

You don’t need to know their life stories and everything going on in their lives. But you can let it be known that if they’re struggling with something, you and your leadership team are there to listen and help how they’re able.

Nothing you do will eradicate employee theft completely. You can, however, reduce it and learn to quickly stamp it out. And you can do that while maintaining a happy, healthy workplace.

Image: Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality. Business Coach. Restaurant Coach. Hotel Coach. Hospitality Coach. Mindset Coach.

by krghospitality krghospitality No Comments

KRG Hospitality now Serving Midwest Region

KRG Hospitality adds Midwest Region

Marina City Towers in Chicago, Illinois


Toronto-based hospitality industry consulting firm with offices throughout Canada and the USA now serving the Midwest through Chicago office.

CHICAGO, IL (March 17, 2023)—Today, KRG Hospitality announces the addition of the Midwest region of the US to their North American service area. The team will operate out of an office in Chicago, Illinois. However, the agency will serve Midwest markets outside of Chicago as well.

KRG is excited to announce their presence in the region and their ability to serve clients effectively. The agency will offer the full suite of their proven hospitality solutions, including: hourly consulting and coaching; complete feasibility studies, fully customized concept plans; in-depth, focused business plans; project support and management; food and/or drink menu development and consulting; and personalized F&B education.

“I was born in Chicago and first entered the hospitality industry in the Northwest Suburbs. I got my first taste of nightlife in Chicago’s incredible bar and nightclub scene,” says David Klemt, partner and director of business development of KRG Hospitality. “Those experiences shaped my entire hospitality career trajectory. It will be an honor to serve the great people of the Midwest and bring their hospitality visions to life.”

“2023 is turning into quite the growth year for KRG, with the addition of team members Kim Richardson and Jared Boller, and now an exciting new market,” says Doug Radkey, KRG Hospitality founder, president, and project manager. “We see great opportunity in the Midwest, not only in Chicago, but many of the surrounding regions. The food, beverage, and hotel scene is incredibly strong, and we’re open to the challenge of not only helping launch new hospitality brands but helping transform existing brands scale and be successful in the new era ahead.”

KRG is ready to work with clients of all experience levels in the Midwest. The consulting agency’s suite of solutions serve new operators looking to open their first concept and veterans seeking a rebrand or expansion. From independent pizzerias and QSRs to multi-unit regional chains and boutique hotels, and everything in between, the KRG team is eager to take client visions and transform them into brick-and-mortar realities.

To schedule an introductory call to learn how the KRG Hospitality team serves clients, please follow this link.

About KRG Hospitality

KRG Hospitality is a storied and respected agency with proven success over the past decade, delivering exceptional and award-winning concepts throughout a variety of markets found within Canada, the United States, and abroad since 2009. Specializing in startups, KRG is known for originality and innovation, rejecting cookie-cutter approaches to client projects. The agency provides clients with a clear framework tailored to their specific projects, helping to realize their vision for a scalable, sustainable, profitable, memorable, and consistent business. Learn more at Connect with KRG Hospitality and the Bar Hacks podcast on social: KRG Twitter, Bar Hacks Twitter, KRG Media Twitter, KRG LinkedIn.

Image: Tobias Brunner from Pixabay

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Focus: See Your Business for the Trees

Focus: See Your Business for the Trees

by Jennifer Radkey

Trees along forest path

It happens to us all: Sometimes we get so caught up in the small details of our day-to-day lives that we fail to see the bigger picture.

So common is this element of the human experience there’s a popular saying about it: “Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees.”

Today, however, I’m going to suggest that the opposite can also be true: “Sometimes it’s hard to see the trees when immersed in the forest.” In other words, when walking along the same path in a forest every day, we often stop seeing the individual trees.

Okay, forests and trees, nature and walks along paths—what does any of this have to do with operating a successful restaurant, bar, or hotel? Stick with me.

The forest is your venue. Your path is your daily routine from the minute you step into your venue until the minute you walk out the door at the end of your day.

The trees? They’re all the little details that make up your establishment: your team, the signage, tables and chairs, music playing, lighting, decor, food, drinks, website, online reviews, social media posts… These, plus many more, are the little things that add up to create your “forest.”

You walk through your venue daily and have become, for the most part, so used to your surroundings that you’re almost blind to them. This can sometimes lead to a false sense of everything being “fine.” You miss small details you need to improve, and also things that you and your team need to celebrate.

What I would like to challenge you to do is to take a step back, clear your mind, pretend you’re experiencing your venue for the very first time, and really notice the details. Walk a new path through your forest and see the trees.

How do you do that? Pretend you’re a guest visiting your establishment and follow the guest journey.

Here’s a list of five places you should stop along your path to gain a fresh perspective.

Your Online Presence

Start with your website.

When did you last update it? Are pictures fresh and eye-catching? Is the website easy to navigate on mobile devices? Is the menu easy to access? Can you make a reservation easily? What story is your website telling?

Next, scroll through your social media (if it exists).

When did you post last? What content are you sharing? Does it tell a story? Does it make you want to visit your venue? Are people engaging with your content? Are you engaging with others?

How about online reviews? See what people are saying about you.

Have you responded to reviews, good and bad? How are you responding? If you were a potential new guest would these reviews and your responses keep you away or entice you to visit?

More often than not, the first impression a guest has of your business happens long before they actually step foot inside your venue for the first time. What impression are you giving them?

Curb Appeal

The next place you want to stop on your path is right in front of your venue.

As you drive up, what do you notice? What’s the condition of your signage? Is it welcoming and attention-grabbing?

When walking up to the entrance, look for things that you may overlook but a first-time guest may not. Cleanliness of the front entrance area, proper lighting, current signage, these should all be checkpoints on your list.

Also, how does it feel to enter your venue? Is it welcoming? Exciting? Does it feel safe?

If you have stellar curb appeal with awesome signage are you celebrating and promoting it through great photos for your website and social media?

These are all things to consider when viewing your venue from the curb.


Next up on your path is the interior of your venue.

Is it clean? Are there any minor repairs that need to be done? Is the lighting just right?

Have a seat in a few different places in your venue. What’s your customer’s visual experience when they come to visit you?

You want the interior of your venue to represent your brand and its values, and you want it to appeal to your target market. Is it doing those things?

Again, if you have an amazing interior design element, are you showcasing it to its fullest in person and online? Make any notes of things you would like to change or improve upon.

One more note on the interior: Do not forget the washrooms. Nothing turns a visit into an unpleasant experience faster than an unclean washroom.


As you’re viewing your venue with clarity, take a few minutes to step back and watch how your staff engages with your guests.

Whatever your brand’s values are for the guest experience, are they being conveyed through your staff’s engagement?

If you’re promoting a fun, energetic vibe, is your staff upbeat, positive, and energized when communicating with guests? Are the pillars of excellent customer service in place? When your guest leaves are they going to say, “Wow, our server was so friendly/nice/funny/knowledgeable,” etc.

Or are they going to leave saying nothing at all?

If staff appear unmotivated, what can you do to help inspire your team? If they’re stellar employees are you recognizing their incredible work?

Food and Drink

When was the last time you sat and really enjoyed a meal at your own establishment? Before you answer: As if you were a guest and not the owner.

Is food coming out in a timely manner? How does it look, smell, and, of course, taste?

Would you grab for your phone before taking the first sip or bite to snap a photo for Instagram? If you would, have you done exactly that for your own social media feeds?

As an owner you can become very attached to your menu, but pay attention to see if your guests and staff are raving about your food and drink.

Final Steps

The final steps of your path will be the same as your guest’s final steps.

Is your bill brought to the table when you’re ready to leave? Is payment easy to make? What are the final last impressions you’re left with? How is your team bidding farewell to guests? What will entice them to return?

You want your guests to feel satisfied and to tell their friends and family about what an amazing experience they had.

It can feel strange to step back from the forest and to notice the trees, but it will lead to improved clarity and perhaps even a roadmap for change and improvements to take your hospitality venue to the next level. Stepping back will also improve your overall mindset as you experience your business through the eyes of another.

So step back, clear your mind, and see what you may have been missing all this time.

Cheers to professional and personal growth!

Image: Lucas Parker on Unsplash

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