Paris France

I spent most of May visiting European cities and sampling their amazing cuisine. It was not all fun and games though. Right out of the gate, I made a rookie dining mistake. At a tourist trap restaurant in Paris, I literally got ill after eating one of the worst meals of life. Not a great way to start a month long trip. I vowed not to repeat that mistake again. If only I had a guide to tell me what to avoid and what to seek out. The Lonely Planet Guide book was awesome but only covered a few places I might eat at.

Enter TripAdvisor. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants For those not familiar, it’s a site with a five step rating review system for restaurants, hotels, and attractions. The reviews and ratings are created by travelers for travelers.  I downloaded their mobile app for each city I went to. It showed which restaurants were great and which were horrible tourist traps. I ate fantastically, and more importantly never got sick again. My health thanks you TripAdvisor. (Disclosure: I have no business relationship with TripAdvisor other than I’ve used their website and mobile apps.)

As a restaurateur, why should you care about one person’s travel misadventures?

Because, pardon the pun, it means the tables are turned. Previously, for travelers (the consumers), the balance of power resided with the local restaurants (the producers). For the most glaring example look at the overpriced tourist trap restaurants like the one I got sick at. The fleeced travelers could only tell a few other travelers about their experiences. It was too difficult to warn all potential travelers, so the tourist trap restaurants continued to survive. With Internet based sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, CitySearch, Google Local Reviews, and others, the power of information has shifted from producer to consumer. Now the traveler can be forewarned and forearmed with knowledge. The days of fleecing unsuspecting tourists are drawing to a close or at least a lot tougher.

The biggest take away for restaurateurs is this. Now every sale is a relationship sale. I used the dining experiences of strangers I’ve never met to pick where to eat. Before my knowledge was limited to my circle of friends and acquaintances. Now, not so much. The grape vine that customers can use to tell others about their dining experience just got much larger.

So how do we manage this new medium? Next month we’ll pass on lessons learned from a successful restaurateur in Rome, Italy.

Thaddeus
 

Photo credits: Copyright © 2012 Cloud Dine Systems, LLC. All rights reserved.

There won’t be a regular blog post this month. I’ll be traveling for a month through the Mediterranean countries. (France, Spain, Italy, Greece & Turkey) It’s been a exciting, busy time since I left RightNow/Oracle to found Cloud Dine Systems and it’s going to become even busier. I’m taking a month long vacation since for the next few years my time is spoken for.

Thaddeus

Edit: It was great to recharge the batteries.

Wanted to share a cool picture of a giant puppy from the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain.  At 43 feet ( 13 meters) tall it dwarfs the people around it. (That’s me at the base.) Definitely the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. And it’s just a puppy, imagine how big it will become.

Guggenheim Bilbao Puppy

Photo credits: Copyright © 2012 Cloud Dine Systems, LLC. All rights reserved.

Birthday Cake

A few days back was my 40th birthday. Besides the usual birthday party swag and Facebook friend wishes, my bank and few other businesses emailed me birthday cards. But I didn’t get any restaurant birthday coupons. Restaurants missed an opportunity to re-engage me and bring my friends in as new customers.

When I lived in Bozeman Montana, I used to get a birthday coupon every year from The Garage Soup Shack & Mesquite Grill (http://central.ly/thegarage). It offered a free meal valid for my birth month. It’s a great deal for both me and the restaurant. I get a free meal and “remember” The Garage. The restaurant is introduced to new diners by the birthday boy.

Why don’t more restaurants do this? Is it because restauranteurs don’t know how to get started? Let’s fix that.

Four steps to birthday marketing:

  1. Get the birthday either from a comment card/birthday card signup at each table. Sign ups from an email newsletter work too, but they often do not include a physical address which can be problematic for sending postcards.
  2. Print the postcards: If you have graphic design expertise or access to graphic designers, visit http://www.pfl.com (not an affiliate link). 500 cards run about $127 ($.254 each) If you don’t have access to a graphic designer use the stock “food and beverage” designs from http://www.vistaprint.com/postcards.aspx (not an affiliate link). 100 cards run about $25 ($.250 each)
  3. Address, sign, & attach postage to the cards: Have this done as sidework by the staff. Signing by real people is more genuine and authentic than a printed signature and makes the guest feel like it’s a personal invitation. Postage runs about $160 for 500 (.$32 each). http://postcalc.usps.gov/Postcards.aspx
  4. Mail the cards a week before the birthday.

So for less than 60 cents and the cost & labor of the free meal, you bring in birthday celebrants and their guests year round.

Thaddeus

Photo credits: Birthday Cake by Will Clayton Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
Hello, my name is anonymous by Quinn Dombrowski, on Flickr

Naming your company is tough. Here’s what we did. Hopefully it will help someone naming their start-up company.

What to use for inspiration? Take a look at the customer’s daily environment. Look at the items they use. Listen to the expressions they say. If you don’t have access to their daily environment, then watch tv shows about them and read books, industry magazines, and blogs about them. To add more names to the mix, create noun plus verb names from the items and terms found earlier.

We came up with 257 names. And that’s just the ones that passed the “worth remembering” test and I wrote down. Culled down to 29. Then 7. Finally, one victorious – Cloud Dine Systems

The secret weapon for us: Idioms. In our case, “Cloud Nine” which means “a state of extreme happiness”. (For idiom lists check out http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/ , http://www.idiomconnection.com/, and http://www.phrases.org.uk/ ). I imagine metaphors and similes would work just as well.

Why did we pick Cloud Dine Systems? It just worked for us on multiple levels. The play on an idiom used to express extreme happiness tied into one of our fundamental values: creating customer delight. From a less inspirational, more factual point of view, we use cloud technologies to create our solutions and serve the businesses that create dining experiences.

Hopefully this will help someone looking to name their own company. If you have any other suggestions for inspiration or techniques that worked for naming, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Thaddeus

Photo credits: Hello, my name is anonymous by Quinn Dombrowski Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Untitled by Neil Conway, on Flickr

Q: So what does Cloud Dine Systems do?

A: We make mobile restaurant management systems that increase staff efficiency and increase restaurant profitability. Our first product is a restaurant point of sale system using wireless tablets and cloud services.

Q: Could you give me an example of what that means? And use non-marketing speak please.

A: Sure. Sorry about that. Here’s a 1 minute example of one thing we do. (Hi, I’m Thaddeus, founder of Cloud Dine Systems. Thanks for visiting by the way.)

Q: Ok. You got a minute starting now.

A: Think of your favorite restaurant. Think how busy and hectic it is during the dinner rush. That’s just the wait & bus staff you see in the front of the house. Lots of running back and forth.

Q: I get it. Very busy. 45 seconds.

A: A server does this for every order: Get order from customer. Write order on paper. Walk over to point of sale terminal. Wait till free. Enter order. Order prints in kitchen.

Q: Sounds like all the restaurants I know. 30 seconds. 

A: We made a point of sale system that wait staff take to the table with them. It uses wireless tablets. Ordering is now: Get order from customer. Enter order on tablet. Order prints in kitchen.

Q: Wow! Wait staff will love you. Their feet will kiss you, if they could. 15 seconds. 

A: Even better, with the extra time wait staff can serve more tables and provide quicker service with better accuracy. (Plus no more running back to the table apologizing about being out of the special.) Better customer dinning experiences means increased tips = Happier wait staff. Serving more tables reduces the cost to serve each customer. A more profitable restaurant = Happier owners and managers.

Q: Ah. Now I see what you do.


Photo credits: Untitled by Neil Conway Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License