In Search Of A Better Restaurant Website

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Kansas City Steakhouse

When you read as many restaurant industry bloggers and commenters as I do, you notice a common theme.  Everyone hates most restaurant websites.   They complain about everything from the flash animation to the lack of availability of pertinent information.  There are many complaints out there.  I have even added to the list.  This made for an interesting challenge when I was asked to build the website for a Kansas City Steakhouse.

I should start out by noting that it was not difficult for the owner to contact me.  He signs my paychecks, I take his calls.  It also explains why I really disliked the previous website. I felt like the restaurant was underserved by the website he had up.  Almost from my first day I was bringing up the idea of changing the website.  When he gave me the opportunity, I jumped at the chance to build something I think better represented the restaurant.

Most of the local readers of this blog are familiar with The Majestic Restaurant.  It is truly classic Kansas City Steakhouse.  This became the focus of the design.  I also wanted to accent the live Kansas City Jazz and the quality of the Kansas City Steaks.  These are the things The Majestic is known for.  What most people don’t know is the history of the building.  In the process of writing about that, I found some great information on the history of downtown Kansas City.  I think it is a good read for anyone looking for a quick primer on the Quality Hill/ Garment District area.

All of this is nice, but it doesn’t solve any of the complaints most people have about the functionality of restaurant websites.  For this I went to some of the harshest restaurant website critics in town.  The DLC and Meesha were both incredibly helpful with this project.  I sent them preview versions and they told me why it still failed.  They are the reason you can find the hours, address, phone number, and reservation link on every page.

For the jazz lovers, you can find a jazz calendar on the site as well as videos from the Kansas City Jazz Club.  For the lovers of fine beef, you can find a number of pages of great steak information.  Love whiskey, there is a complete listing of the 100+ whiskeys available.  Want to pick out a wine in advance so you can look like an expert?  The entire wine list is online.   Do you love it when your phone freezes because you tried to open a pdf file?  Too bad. The website contains no pdf files.  All the pages are composed of real live searchable html.

So now it is time to face the public.  I feel like a food critic opening his first restaurant.  I have mocked many restaurants’ websites.  I am now opening myself up for the criticism.  Take a look and tell me what you think.  I can still improve upon it.  What would you do to make it an even better restaurant website?

Updates, Redirects, and “Aren’t You That Guy Who…”

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You should be over here right now

Recently I have noticed a small spike in subscribers to this blog.  That is great.  I appreciate you choosing to subscribe.  I hope to reward you with outstanding content that will make you glad you did.  The problem is that this is not where I am doing that anymore.  In December, I transformed this humble blog into The Hospitality Formula Network.  The network consists of five specific blogs that each focus on a different facet of the hospitality industry.  There is a blog for restaurant servers, restaurant managers, restaurant guests, and even one filled with restaurant humor.  You can learn more about The Hospitality Formula Network here or just visit the home page for previews of the content available on each of the sites.

So I am not going to ask you to take the time to click a link without giving you some reason to do so.  Here are three reasons why I think The Hospitality Formula Network is worth visiting or revisiting if you haven’t in a while.

Weekly Skills Focus: For the last 6 weeks, I have been laying out what I believe are the fundamental keys to improving sales, tips, and creating return guests.  We are currently on week 6 of an 8 week series.  I have dug back through the archives and am spotlighting on key post each week.  I am adding further explanation on the server blog, but doing much more on the manager blog.  Each lesson at The Manager’s Office is also accompanied with key teaching point to make this your pre-shift meeting topic of the week.  In addition, I am including a “lesson plan” as such to explain how to teach the topic throughout the week to increase understanding and server buy-in.  I fully believe that restaurants that follow this plan for all eight weeks will see a dramatic improvement in revenues, morale, and guest happiness.

In-Depth Knowledge:  When I started this blog, I felt it necessary to cover the big picture issues first.  This lead to a lot of posts that introduced philosophies that create the paradigm by which I analyze the restaurant industry.  This is where topics like the 10 Rules of Serving and my Leadership vs Management series for managers came from.  Now I am able to simply reference and link back to those posts when discussing more situational topics.  This blog provided a great deal of background information, the current posts deal more with the real world applications of it.

The Writing is Better: If I am going to be honest with you, I cringe when reading some of the early posts on this blog.  I never claimed to be a great writer.  I have found though that writing like most other skills is something you get better with the more you practice.  300+ posts and over 250,000 words later, I think my writing has improved a bit.  I have a stronger voice and feel more confident writing in it.  I address a number of topics now that I was scared to when I started this blog.  The transition was most apparent to me when shortly after starting the network I began a final round of rewrites and edits on my book.    The blogs and the book both benefited greatly from the efforts that began trying to peck together posts for this blog.

Speaking of which, did I mention that I released a book?  My first book Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips was released just two months ago.  I truly believe it is the finest book available on the topic of the skills servers need to make exceptional tips.  I do not say that because I wrote it, I say that because I have spent some time looking into other books available on the topic.  I did not write the book to make a quick buck.  I did not slam some information together and print it up on a Xerox machine.  I did not release an eBook and hope to sell a few copies.  I spent two and a half years writing, testing, editing, rewriting, copy editing, designing and publishing.  I am not looking to sell a few copies while I am working a desk job.  This is not just another product I can sell my consulting clients.

This book is my manifesto on serving.  After 16 years in the business and countless misguided server training programs, I distilled the information that has allowed me to be a successful professional server into a simple format that servers can benefit from immediately.  I founded Hospitality Formula Publishing to help provide this information directly to the hospitality industry.  I have two more books in developement and am on the lookout for other strong voices within the industry that I can help be heard.  This is not a way to market myself.  This is my attempt to fundamentally change the way that servers are trained.

I take seriously the fact that I am not just some consultant who wrote a book.  In less than five hours I will be tying on an apron to start another week serving at The Majestic Restaurant in Kansas City.  I have to say it is a bit odd at times living the double life of author and server.  Over the last two months I have received a bit of publicity.  I have been featured on/in KSHB, KCTV, KCUR, The Pitch, The Kansas City Star, The Employee Lounge, and Tony’s Kansas City.  This leads to the inevitable, “Hey aren’t you that guy who wrote a book?”  If you ever really want to increase the pressure of serving, try to be the server who wrote a book on serving.  There are no more off nights.  You are expected to bring the show to every table every night.  I refuse to be a hypocrite about the things I write about.  I know they work because I do them. 

So thank you for visiting this site.  I hope you enjoyed the post, now get over to The Hospitality Formula Network and let’s change this industry together.

The Reviews Are In

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Read any good books lately?  When I sent out advanced copies of my book, I was hoping someone would say something nice about it.  All of the people who had read it previously did so to edit it.  Something about getting back all the previous copies covered in red ink made me wonder if it was ever going to be ready to be released.  It turns out that it was better than I thought.  I have written a lot about why I think you should by this book, but here are some unbiased reviews from around the web.  Click on the link below any of the quotes to read the full review.

“If all servers in Kansas City took their profession as seriously as David Hayden — waiter, blogger, consultant — the local restaurant scene would be a very different place.”

-Charles Ferruzza, Restaurant Critic, The Pitch June 23rd, 2011

“If you also want inspiration how to increase your tips I recommend the new book of David Hayden.”

Crazy Waiter June 23rd, 2011

“Servers:  go here and buy this book.  Once you read it and apply Mr. Hayden’s techniques and insights, you will start making more money immediately.”

Do You Do That At Home? June 23rd, 2011

“I Recommend This Book For Everyone Who Wants to Make More Money.”

Waiter Extraordinaire June 23rd, 2011

“Everyone involved in the restaurant business can benefit from “Tips².” I’ve been waiting tables for a couple of decades and I got a lot out of reading it. If you run an independent restaurant, unburdeded by the advantage of company-mandated corporate training materials, you should buy several copies of this invaluable resource for your staff. It’ll undoubtedly make your store better and everybody more money.”

These American Servers June 23rd, 2011

“This is a gem of a book.  It’s a detailed took at the guts and sinews of our business, full of tips and techniques that can easily make any restaurant shift more pleasant . . . and more profitable.”

Life On A Cocktail Napkin June 23rd, 2011

“What you need to know about this book is that it is not a collection of stories about serving and it is not a Dummy’s Guide to Waiting Tables. This is a book designed for someone who is in the industry and wants to advance themselves.”

Sock Puppet Army June 24th, 2011

“Let me be blunt – if you are a waiter/server/bartender and you don’t buy this book, then you really don’t care about how much money you make. This book is a multiplier of skills and bank. It’s written in a clear, concise yet comprehensive style. It’s laid out logically and covers just about every topic that a waiter needs to know in terms of maximizing his or her earning potential.”

So You Want To Be A Waiter June 24th, 2011

Each of those bloggers received an advance version of the book because I respect the writing they do and the passion they have for the industry.  I recommend checking out their reviews and their blogs.  They also do a much better job of selling the book than I do.  I still try though and I even made it on television to promote the book.  You can see me discussing the book and the state of service on the local CBS affiliate’s morning show by clicking here.

It has been a tremendous honor to have so many nice things said about something I wrote by writers who I enjoy reading so much.  Thank you to all of them for taking the time to review the book.  I hope that it has the same effect on everyone that reads it.  Want to be one of them?  Head over to the official site of Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips and pick up your copy today.  Enter the coupon code “REVIEWS” at checkout to receive $4.00 off until July 31st, 2011.

Announcing Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips

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David Hayden

It is with a great deal of pride and excitement that I can finally announce the release of my first book: Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips.  I have been teasing this big announcement for months and am glad to finally be making it, even though for regular readers it may be akin to Mitt Romney announcing that he is running for President.  We all know that he hasn’t been in Iowa and New Hampshire for the last two years because he loves the weather.  Today, I am making it official and wanted to take a moment to discuss the book and why I truly think it is something that should be on your bookshelf.

When I was a young server in the nineties I used to pay very close attention to some of my more experienced co-workers.  I noticed that when I was in the weeds other servers were handling far more tables, helping me out, and looking completely stress free.  I wanted to see what they were doing that I wasn’t.  They had a secret and I wanted to know what it was.  I would ask them, but no one could really put their finger on anything they were doing differently than what all the other servers did.  Over the years, I watched my best co-workers like a hawk.  Learning how they phrased things, how they dealt with the dinner rush, and why it was that their guests seemed to enjoy them so much.

As it became more apparent to me that serving was something that I wanted to be able to support myself with, I began to seek out books to help me.  I read books about sales, but found that few of the techniques were easily applied to serving.  I read books about customer service, but they seemed to all be written for managers.  I read the seven habits, found out how to win friends and influence people, discovered the thinking without the growing rich part.  All of these books were great, but very little of it could be directly applied to making me a better server.

Over my years of serving I have been through the training programs of a dozen restaurants.  Each time I finished training, I made a sincere effort to try to follow their system.  It led to disappointing tips straight out of training until I started integrating the techniques that I knew had worked for me in the past.  Each of these training systems had the same two flaws.  The first was that they were written by someone who had not been in front of a table in years.  They were filled with rambling scripts that came across as an infomercial rather than a service oriented interaction.  The second problem was that they were written to be easily understood by the least intelligent person the restaurant could hire.  They often bordered on patronizing as they explained only the very basics.

Fast forward to two and a half years ago when I found myself relaxing on my couch after training a new server on a lunch shift.  The server delivered their “pitch” as the training manual had taught them to.  Not one thing about that pitch would have made me want to purchase what they were selling.  After following me for the shift, this server seemed excited to learn to do it my way.  It reminded me of how I must have looked trying to watch the great servers at the restaurant I started at.  They had asked me how I made it look so easy and I didn’t have a better response than the servers I had asked years before.  I decided to come up with an answer.

Over the next six months I began outlining and writing a book.  I would go into work each day and try to test very specific techniques.  I would tweak and fine tune the tricks I used to find out exactly what worked and why.  Then I would write about them when I returned home.  Once the book was finished it went through numerous rounds of edits and rewrites.  With each time I reviewed it, I put the techniques back into the forefront of my mind and started trying to polish them.  The finished product that I am announcing today looks very little like the first draft.  The first draft was good, but the end result is a book that I think will make a significant impact on server’s income.

I know this book will help any server that implements the lessons in it to improve their service and increase their tips.  That is not hyperbole, exaggeration, or bragging.  I know this is the case because it has improved my tips.  I knew everything in the book because I wrote the book.  Even on the seventh round of edits and rewrites I was finding things that I was slipping on and by reintroducing them found my tips improving.  It is not all revolutionary and new information.  Many of you will know most of the information in it.  Seeing it explained in a different manner and choosing to apply it will place it in the forefront of you mind and help you increase your income.  Those that have been serving long enough to know most of the information will respect more than anyone how one good technique or trick can improve your tips.  I would not put my name on this book if I was not convinced that you could improve your income by more than the price of the book in the first week.

It is not my intention for this post to turn into a sales pitch.  Instead, I would like to sincerely invite you to check out the website for the book at www.tips2book.com.  There are a number of sample chapters available for you to read and reviews from other bloggers who received advance copies of the book.  Take your time to consider whether you feel the book will improve your income.  I have every confidence it will and hope you will consider buying a copy today.

The Best of The Manager’s Office

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The Manager’s Office joined The Hospitality Formula Network as the smallest blog.  I had tried to avoid discussing issues related to management on tipsfortips.  To the extent that I did discuss them the posts were designed to provide greater understanding of how restaurants worked to servers and foodies.  After I started the site, I realized that I had a great deal to say about restaurant marketing and leading servers.  I have managed for three different companies.  Understanding restaurants from both an hourly and salaried viewpoint provides an interesting perspective on how they are run.

This is also the blog that I am most looking forward to developing.  I have several posts already written for this site.  There are numerous topics that I am looking forward to addressing.  The human resources aspect of a manager’s role is next up on the agenda.  I am also working on a way to revive the “Restaurant Industry Insider” in a new format.  This site is ripe for a major overhaul in layout that should be unveiled in the next few weeks.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

Introducing The Manager’s Office

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The Manager's Office

(Note: Still keeping up the double duty on writing this week.  A great new post on the five most common restaurant scams and how to avoid them is now posted at the new site www.themanagersoffice.com .  On a related note, if any of you are considering a major project like launching five new websites and doubling your writing output, I would recommend waiting until after the busy season.)

The Hospitality Formula Network now has a home for managers.  The Managers Office is where you will find posts directly related to the interests of managers.  This is valuable information on how to lead and motivate your staff.  The series on both topics that were previously found on this blog can be found at the new site.  This provides a place where managers can find information specifically for them without sifting through posts for servers or foodies.

This will also be the home of industry related news and analysis.  I have really wanted to get deeper into some of these topics, but have feared losing the casual readers.  This will allow for future posts related to all aspects of management.  Future topics will include improving your pnl, the best ways to reduce controllables, inventory practices, and marketing.  The Managers Office will soon be required reading for those wanting to get the most out of their staff and optimize profits.

Here is a peak at what is already hosted on this site:

Motivating Your Staff

The Epiphany

Why Contests Don’t Work

How Money Motivates

What Motivates Servers: Autonomy

What Motivates Servers: Mastery

What Motivates Servers: Purpose

Ways To Motivate Servers

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Leadership Skills

The Keys To Leadership

Leadership: Creating A Shared Goal

Leadership: Empowering Others

Leadership: Leading by Example

Leadership: Improving Others

Sergeants and Generals

Management Mentality Mistakes

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Other Perspectives

Understanding Restaurants: The Other Perspectives

Understanding Restaurants: The Guest Perspective

Understanding Restaurants: The Manager’s Perspective

Understanding Restaurants: The Owner’s Perspective

A Tale of Three Burgers

Independent vs Corporate Restaurant Priorities

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Industry Insight

The Evolution of Free Bread

Extras and Upcharges

Supply, Demand, and Chicken Wings

Cost vs Profit

A Food Critic Intervention

Set Schedules As A Manager

Aspirational Dining Defined

Aspirational Dining in a Recession

Hot Schedules Reviewed: Part One

Hot Schedules Reviewed: Part Two

Thank You Mister Robinson

 

Leadership: Self Improvement

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It took far more than 26.2 miles to make it to the finish line

“Good leaders develop through a never-ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience.” -Manual on Military Leadership

Over the last few weeks I have addressed several important facets of leadership.  In these posts I have discussed the power of leadership and how to harness it.  In the conclusion to this series, I want to address the ongoing commitment you must make to yourself to grow as a leader.  No single series of posts or book will turn you into the ideal leader.  In order to continuing to develop as a leader you must maintain a commitment to self-improvement.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

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