How to run a top restaurant

In a restaurant, everything must be focused on enhancing the customer’s experience, not simply delivering what the owner, head chefs or managers think best. So here are top tips for running not only a socially or critically successful restaurant but also a financially sustainable one.

1. Get educated

Courses such as an Advanced Certificate in Hospitality Management, a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery and Workplace Training as an Assessor and a Bachelor of Economics are very valuable for retaurant owners. This lays the foundation for an understanding of the four facets of hospitality – front of house, back of house, marketing, and how to financially manage and maximise profits from the previous three.

2. Find a great concept

Kazbah was founded and still subsequently floats on creating great breakfasts served restaurant style rather than from a café. When Kazbah opened in 1998, no one was doing really good, unique breakfasts except Bill’s. Kazbah is still famous for its unusual but consistently quality breakfasts 16 years later.

3. Location, location, location

Choose a location best suited to your concept, or alternatively if you have the venue, adapt your concept to your local demographic. Do everything you can to understand your customer and their wants and needs.

4. Find a great chef

Whether that’s you as an owner or hiring someone whose skills and know-how are compatible and in line  with your concept and work ethic.

5. Find the right price point for your demographic

Some chefs who go on to open their own restaurants get carried away by sourcing the latest ‘best’ produce regardless of how much it costs to buy. While a dish might look amazing, making a the business work is going to be tough if you have to sell it for $50 to make a profit in a demographic looking for cheaper quality food. It’s going to be a lot harder to sell five ‘amazing’ dishes at $50 each than 100 great dishes at $20 each.

7. Create operational systems

Systems don’t stifle creativity; they provide the platform and stability for true, free innovation to flourish.

8. Do your sums

Understand the financials down to the very last cent. Learn your cash flow forensically so you can monitor where your money goes and where it comes in and then how to maximise profit. Restaurants run on very slim margins, usually between three to seven per cent profit, with five per cent being average. On five per cent profit you may not make millions but you will be able to create a business that is sustainable long term.

9. Learn how to cook

If you’re not a chef get your hands dirty in the kitchen. Develop know-how of not just cooking but also stock control and staff training.

10. Start marketing before you open not after

Make sure you’re clear on your ‘brand’ and that the channels you use to disseminate it are appropriate. Marketing includes building an online database, public relations, social media, advertising if needed and promotions including complimentary gift vouchers, running competitions or charity work.

11. Delegate

If you don’t know something employ someone who is an expert. Give them motivation to care and to invest their time and prowess. Give staff room to grow within your business. Reward any above-average performance.

12. Don’t wait to get feedback

Actively ask your customers questions about their experience. Be open to negative and positive feedback and use both to guide you towards either making necessary changes, or to ensure if you’re doing something right, you keep on doing it.

13. Be a perfectionist – tenaciously and consistently

Focus on creating your ‘style stamp’ and deliver consistently quality, flavoursome food with friendly efficient service rather than following the latest fad. As they say fashions change but style lasts forever.

14. Be flexible and open to change

Try to find the delicate balance between tradition and trend, convention and innovation.

15. Above all, be humble

In the end life is about relationships not financial transactions. Running a restaurant is a team effort. It doesn’t matter whether someone is the kitchen hand or the manager or the head chef, every one’s job is equally important in keeping the running of a restaurant smooth. Treat everyone with respect no matter what position they hold. And have fun. No matter what disasters may happen on the floor or the kitchen they’re probably small in the scheme of life.

Zahi Azzi runs the Kazbah group of restaurants

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Marketing and IT jump into bed for ‘Big Data’

There are two things emerging marketing channels have in common: they’re based on technology and they’re social.

While traditional media are either remaining steady or making small gains in terms of marketing spend, and while print media suffers sharp declines, digital engagement is the clear trend when it comes to the marketer’s interest.

But understanding how one’s customers engage digitally is a steep learning curve for organisations when suddenly marketing needs to be more tailored and personal to be effective. As each user can now be reached directly, in the digital world they will ignore messaging that doesn’t personally call out to them.

Failing to properly understand your customers in the digital world can have wide-ranging implications. It might just mean the campaign is ignored. Or in a worst-case scenario a wayward digital marketing campaign could result in reputational damage. Even well-intentioned marketing campaigns on social media can backfire when an organisation misjudges its customer.

The only way to deliver successful digital marketing campaigns is to have a deep understanding of your audience. And the only way to do that is to use data about your customers and the way they operate online.

Yet many marketing departments still don’t interact well with their IT departments to enable this deep understanding of customers. Conversely, the IT departments don’t necessarily understand the unique needs of marketing.

In large organisations, this is why the chief marketing officer is becoming increasingly involved in technology. So concerned are brands about the impact technology can have, analyst firm Gartner has predicted the CMO will have a larger IT budget than the head of IT by 2017.

Smaller organisations might not have the luxury to split IT budgets that way and will simply require the marketing and IT departments to “talk” effectively to one another.

So what measures can organisations take to bring the two together around data?

The first step is strategic; the organisation needs to come together to assess the internal and external data assets and capabilities in people, processes and technologies to identify the best approaches to using data for marketing transformation.

Then it’s important to develop an understanding of web analytics and customer profile data to develop personalised marketing campaigns, broken down both by media and customer type.

It’s common knowledge that a Twitter campaign needs to be different to a Facebook campaign. But many organisations don’t necessarily understand why they need to be different, or how to make them different. The secret is in having sound Big Data analytics practices in place to understand the breakdown of customer type by the media they use.

Effectively driving customer engagement also requires the marketing team to have access to a marketing database and customer profile data that is linked to other data stores across the organisation. There are technology tools to do that, but successful implementation will again depend on the marketing department’s ability to successfully engage with the IT team, while at the same time bringing the requisite new skills into the marketing department.

IT and marketing need to invest in Big Data solutions that benefit them both and find a common language from the point of view of customer engagement in the digital age. Now is the ideal time for businesses of all sizes to invest in generating better quality data for social media and marketing.

 James Forbes, head of digital marketing solutions, InfoReady

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Dreamliner keeps Air India plans on course

Air India is banking on the use of new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to help it take advantage of what it describes as ”untapped potential” on routes between Australia and the subcontinent.

After a 16-year absence from Australia, the airline will launch daily services on Friday between Delhi, Sydney and Melbourne. Its return also marks the first commercial flights using 787 Dreamliners to Australia, with Air India set to pip Qantas’ budget offshoot, Jetstar, in flying the new aircraft type here.

Air India’s country manager, Ravi Bodade, said there was ”absolutely no doubt” the airline would be able to fill the planes, which would make the daily 12-hour flights between the two countries.

”It is a state-of-the-art aircraft, and we have a large Indian diaspora here – there is a huge student community and we are confident of filling up the aircraft,” he said.

”Australia has been an under-served market from India. There is a great deal of untapped potential on the India-Australia route, which we will want to capitalise on.”

Air India’s decision to launch direct services to Sydney and Melbourne will pose the biggest challenge to Singapore Airlines, which has the lion’s share of travel to the subcontinent from Australia. Its services operate via Singapore, while Malaysia Airlines flies to India via Kuala Lumpur.

”Our market share will probably not come at the cost of anybody, but it will come from the growing Indian market, as well as a significant interest from the tourism sector,” Mr Bodade said.

Air India has seven of the more fuel-efficient 787 planes in its fleet, and will take delivery of another seven by the end of the year. The aircraft seat 18 passengers in business class and 238 in economy.

The airline believes the Dreamliner will be a drawcard despite a spate of incidents that led regulators to ground the worldwide fleet of 787s early this year.

”We know it’s a very good aircraft – we have been flying it for close to nine months now to Europe,” Mr Bodade said. ”It is an aircraft that has very good economics and we hope it will be a profitable route for us.”

Sydney and Melbourne airports are also eager to gain a bigger slice of the Indian market. Sydney Airport chief executive Kerrie Mather said growth in the number of Indian nationals visiting had accelerated over the past five years even without direct services.

”The fuel efficiency of 787 Dreamliners makes the route significantly more feasible,” she said.

”India has the potential to drive significant passenger growth for Sydney.”

Qantas stopped flying to India in May last year when it ditched services between Singapore and Mumbai. The airline has signalled the possibility of one day flying again to Mumbai, but this would depend on it buying Boeing 787-9 planes, the longer-range Dreamliners.

The first Air India flight, which will arrive in Sydney at 8.15am on Friday, will include India’s Civil Aviation Minister, Ajit Singh, and the airline’s chairman and managing director, Rohit Nandan.

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‘Cash is safest now’ – AMP changes tack on stocks

AMP expects a share market sell-off. Photo: Peter BraigAMP Capital Investors’ Nader Naeimi is reducing equity holdings for the first time since 2011 as he sees the paring of Federal Reserve stimulus driving a 10 per cent slump in US stocks by year-end.

Shares had risen too far, too fast as the Fed prepares to cut the $US85 billion in monthly asset purchases that helped the S&P 500 index reach an all-time high this month, said Mr Naeimi, head of dynamic asset allocation for the unit of Australia’s biggest asset manager.

Uncertainty ahead of German elections next month and about who will replace Fed chairman Ben Bernanke would also drag on global equities, he said.

‘‘Cash is the safest place right now,’’ Mr Naeimi said. ‘‘We’re expecting a pullback much bigger than pullbacks we have experienced so far since 2012.’’

The US central bank’s plan to reduce record stimulus is whipsawing stocks, bonds and commodities.

The S&P 500, which has gained 17 per cent this year, was likely to sink at least 10 per cent by December 31, said Mr Naeimi, who correctly predicted an 18 per cent correction in Japan’s Topix index that began in May.

AMP’s Dynamic Asset Allocation Fund, which manages money for institutional clients, had reduced shares in favour of cash, he said.

The allocation changes affect more than $50 billion of AMP’s diversified funds, Mr Naeimi said.

The funds now hold less Australian and emerging-market equities than the benchmarks they track, while owning more Japanese and European shares, according to Mr Naeimi.

He’s neutral on US stocks and has cut high-yield bond holdings to zero.

‘‘The transition from liquidity-driven strength to fundamental-driven gains is often marked by increased volatility and price weakness,’’ Mr Naeimi said. Shares might advance on good data once the transition period is over, he said.

Mr Naeimi pared equity investments in early 2011 before the European debt crisis began roiling markets, he said. He started adding to holdings at the end of that year after investor sentiments moved to pessimistic extremes and increased his allocation every time equities slipped until June. This time is different.

‘‘The risk-return reward is no longer as good as it used to be,’’ Mr Naeimi said. ‘‘I don’t see much valuation buffer – it’s not as cheap as it was a year ago,’’ he said, citing a declining gap between bond yields and the earnings yield on stocks, from 4 per cent in late 2012 to 1.9 per cent now.


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Apple juice as sugary as Coca-Cola, experts warn

Nutritional value in juice and Coca-Cola.Apple juice has as much sugar as soft drinks, and health experts are warning consumers to limit consumption or risk gaining weight.

Often selected as the healthier option over soft drinks or energy drinks, apple juice is no more than a ”sugar syrup”, nutritionists say.

”It’s just like drinking Cola-Cola, it’s no different,” Dietitians Association of Australia spokeswoman Kellie Bilinski said.

”That’s the misconception that people think, ‘oh it’s good for me’. I would much prefer people drank water and ate the fruit.”

Fairfax Media found a bottle of Coles’ Finest Australian cloudy apple juice contains more kilojoules and carbohydrates than a bottle of Coca-Cola, based on an average of 100ml. The Daily Juice Company apple juice contained more kilojoules than a soft drink, but slightly less carbohydrates and sugar.

The Goulburn Valley lemon fruit juice contained the least amount of sugar and carbohydrates, compared with Daily Juice five fruits and apple juice and the Coca-Cola bottle.

Apple juice is thought to be one of the sweetest juices, and because it is comparatively cheap, it is used as a base by juice bars.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton said when you removed the fibre from the apple juice, it became little more than sugar syrup.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recognise fruit juice as a serve of fruit, but limit it to 125ml, when the average bottle is 400ml.

Dr Stanton said consumers were eating up to five large apples within one bottle of juice, which exposed them to far too much sugar.

”You could never take in that much sugar naturally,” she said. ”You need to look for juices that are made from squashed fruit, and they have a high fibre content.

”It’s better than Coke, but not much.”

National director of cardiovascular health at the Heart Foundation, Dr Rob Grenfell, agreed that fruit juices should be considered as ”special treats” rather than daily routines.

”We tend to look at sweetened drinks as energy, that in the sense of soft drink and fruit drinks, are largely unnecessary and you need to burn them off.”

In a report by Choice, it found fruit frappes and smoothies, such as the ones sold at Boost Juice and Donut King, also contained high levels of sugar. ”Consumers should remember that fruit juice contains sugar, so the bigger the bottle, the bigger the sugary punch,” Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said.

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