Lots of restaurants have opened their doors and hoped for the best.
Those that truly Rock their restaurants have a Strategy – a game plan that becomes their mission. If this is done well; the staff, restaurant, and guests become one! That’s the magic dust of a great restaurant.
In this episode of the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast, I speak with Martha Lucius, a restaurant strategist and kindred hospitality spirit who was inspired by experiencing great food & drink around the globe. Listen as we peel back the layers of true hospitality, the essence that defines our industry and our business.
Martha will be dishing on:
- Her food and drink journey around the world
- Challenges and Key-learnings from Martha’s two Baltimore Cafes
- Leadership and Empowerment vs. Management and Delegation
- Critical restaurant technology and systems for success
- Mission Statements versus Company Culture
- What is a restaurant strategist and why work with one?
And of course, the ins and outs of her latest venture, Church Bar – Filled with the Spirits!
Enjoy this episode then Rock YOUR own Restaurant!
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They know that they want to get from point A to point B, and I am helping them with very specific strategies, time efficiency in mind to help them get to that other. that next step.
Roger Beaudoin 0:14
Food, of course, is the universal language and it’s brought so many of us together in our great industry, Today’s guest has traveled the world has been influenced by food and wine and great beverages, pretty much around the world. She is a restaurant entrepreneur, as well as a restaurant strategist, you’re not gonna want to miss this episode, we’re gonna talk all about, you know, starting a new concept, of course, as well as what does it mean to be a restaurant strategist, so stay tuned.
You’re tuned in to the restaurant rockstars podcast, powerful ideas to rock your restaurant, here’s your host, Roger Beaudoin.
Roger Beaudoin 0:59
Rock Stars, your team are the foundation of your business, and every shift, they’re leaving impressions with your guests in your restaurant. Now every impression counts, and they have to be positive. Training is the key and absolutely essential to providing what I call amazing dining experiences. But effective training takes time and commitment. If you had to do it yourself. Well, imagine a staff training tool that’s completely customized to your restaurant, brand, and restaurant, it teaches your entire menu and what makes your restaurant brand special. Then it trains your team, your entire team to sell because sales are the lifeblood of your business. Now, it’s also important to recognize rising talent in your organization. This tool also trains future stars to become leaders that can run your business for you. I call that an exit strategy. Now this tool is called SRV. Now learn more at SRv now.com. That’s srvnow.com Check it out.
Roger Beaudoin 2:02
Welcome back, everyone. This is the restaurant rockstars podcast. With me today is Martha Lucius and she is a restaurant strategist as well, as a restaurateur with some big projects ahead. Welcome to the show. Martha, how are you?
Thank you, I’m very happy to be here.
Roger Beaudoin 2:17
You know, this is really fun, because we are going to talk strategy, of course, and we’re going to talk what’s important what’s going on in the restaurant world today and how we can help operators improve their business. But before we do, tell us the history of hospitality for you, and everybody’s story is different. And you can take us back as far as it began, whether you started cooking in your mom or grandma’s kitchen, or if you worked as a restaurant as a young person, or how did you get to, obviously the career trajectory, how you got to where you are today, and we’ll get into all of that. But take us back as far as you’d like to.
Yeah, I have kind of a story that I grew up overseas in as a diplomats kid, so my experience in hospitality is really experiencing it as a consumer as a guest from age four. Yeah, we got on a ship to go across the ocean, you know, one of those old fashioned ocean liners where you had to dress up in curtsy and all those kinds of things back in the day. Yes. And yeah, and from there. Yeah. Then from there, it was, you know, eating on the streets in Bangkok, to eating in lovely hotels and restaurants in Paris. So I experienced hospitality on a firsthand basis. And my cooking I gained along the way a lot from whoever was the cook in our house. Because you know, the government pays for it has a has an allowance for diplomats to make sure that they’re serving food that’s appropriate, not assuming that the wife of the of the diplomat happens to be a good cook. So they’re waiting to make sure good food was being served at our house for wherever we happen to be and whoever we happen to be serving. So I learned how to make egg rolls from my from the cook that we had in Bangkok. At age seven. Now these things that were like teeny weeny, almost like Olympia the Philippine Olympia at two samosas in Bangkok and samosas in Tanzania, you know, like all manner of cross cultural stuff that happens when you’re on the other side of the world. So,
Roger Beaudoin 4:38
yeah, you so you were immersed in different foods and different cultures from a very early age. So what exposure that was, and yes, I’m sure there were challenges to it being a young kid and moving around so much. I mean, we often hear the stories of military kids that obviously you know, they’re in one place for a short time and then they get transferred somewhere else really hard to make friends but I’m hearing that it was a very positive experience for you and it clearly shaped your life.
Yeah, I don’t, I’d never let me say I never knew differently. I was so young when we started traveling that I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t know I was American. There’s a hilarious story of me being surrounded by a bunch of British children for curry dinner, which was a very common post colonial meal in in Nigeria, and the kids were teasing me that I was American. And I went up to my mom, you know, from Chesterton, Indiana, and said, mummy, mummy, tell them I’m British, she looked at me in her flattest American accent and said, I can’t, you’re American. I was so discouraged by her. But ya know, I didn’t really know differently. And my dad had an amazing curiosity for travel and for food, which is kind of amazing. He’s a kid that grew up in Montana, and became part of the US military post World War Two in Japan, and just had an amazing, innate curiosity, which I think pervades pretty much everything about our family, but also pervades how I help restaurant owners in helping find, you know, intellectually curious people for their team, which ultimately makes a really good, interesting environment for day to day operations that you really have fun when you’re at work, and you really enjoy you build a good culture, which is inviting to people that are coming in, you know, who doesn’t want to be with people that you like working with? Of course, and then how does that translate it translates very nicely for the for the guests, and they feel they feel that hospitality. So
Roger Beaudoin 6:53
you’ve been exposed to multiple cuisines and lots of different experiences there any particular places and cuisines that to this day, you still really appreciate more than others, perhaps.
My brother and I, well, my brother’s two favorite are Italian and Thai. My two favorite are Thai and Indian. And when I say Indian, that’s a huge country to say in just to wrap up in a bow, but my particular favorite is South India. In fact, I take chef’s on culinary trips to South India as a as another because I’m not busy enough, I add that in. But the culture of the food of South India has like coconuts, shrimp, tomatoes, onions, like, of course, chilies, all kinds of herbs. That’s where the spice root started is all those crazy, weird flavors, vanilla, you know, true like black pepper, red, black, red, pepper corns, all that, you know, incorporating into into the food.
Roger Beaudoin 8:03
Yeah, no, I was gonna ask you about that, because I have one of my best friends in graduate school was from Bombay. And interestingly, you know, very steeped in Indian culture when he came to America. And it was amazing how quickly we shaped him into more Western culture. Here’s a guy that weeks after meeting us was now wearing Hawaiian shirts and flip flops and calling everybody
do you is thrilled, right? I’m sure he was thrilled to be so American.
Roger Beaudoin 8:32
But every time he get in the kitchen and cook something, it was so hot, I couldn’t even like I couldn’t be down the hall and walk through, let alone taste this stuff.
So your eyes start watering. Oh
Roger Beaudoin 8:45
my goodness. Like, I can’t imagine eating this stuff. And so obviously to this day, I’m not really inclined to eat really, really hot cuisines. But it sounds to me like I was gonna ask you in Southern India, is that a particularly spicy hot, you know, influence? Actually.
Yes, and no, you know, anything can be upgraded or downgraded depending on, on who’s sitting at the table. And in fact, the the trip that we took to Kerala, a bunch of the people when they started the trip, they’re like, I don’t really eat spicy food. And we’re like, okay, and probably about three days in, we’d already stepped up their flavor, their ability to eat hot, spicy, and we had a couple of times where we literally pulled a chili pepper off of a vine and like, try it. And you know, one of them was like, petrified it was a green and a red chili. See what happens when you eat a green chili? See what happens when you eat a red chili and they’re like, Oh my God, but to put that in your mouth and have a different reaction of a green chili versus a red chili where it hits your mouth at the back of the tastebuds that the heat and the red chili happens in your throat later at After you’ve eaten the food and it’s this flavor comes out or strongly. Yeah, I mean, you get when you’re into it when you’re into food that that level, you really get excited to see somebody’s reaction with like, oh my god to you, you can taste that you know what I’m talking about, you know? It’s really it’s fun. Yeah.
Roger Beaudoin 10:18
Let’s shift gears what is a restaurant strategist? And how do you help operators.
So restaurant strategy to me is helping somebody stand back from their business look at their business holistically. And then with my help, they know that they want to get from point A to point B, and I am helping them with very specific strategies, time efficiency in mind to help them get to that other that next step. And that, that it can, it can take place over three months, it can take place over a year. But there it’s you know, nothing changes super quickly. So when I’m helping an owner, I’m thinking, how do we need to get them? How, how do we get them to that place? A year away, being profitable, having better, like I said, good culture in their space, and making better hires, because that’s what that is. What really helps a business is when you have a really amazing team.
Roger Beaudoin 11:27
Yeah, absolutely. I’m a huge believer in that.
Yeah, I know you are.
Roger Beaudoin 11:32
So yeah, yeah, absolutely. And today, it is more challenging than ever to build that amazing team, because so many people have left this business in, you know, search of, you know, greener pastures, whatever you want to call it. The upheaval of the pandemic, of course, and now that things are getting back to normal, it’s really challenging for restaurants to fully staff, their business, when business is booming, of course, and they have to close certain hours in certain days. Is there any magic pill or any any suggestions that you tell people about how you can get these amazing people and build this amazing culture and keep people happy and keep people performing at their best so that the ultimate guest experience is enhanced by the people that work in a restaurant? I mean, yeah, you know,
I mean, don’t just, yeah, don’t you also think that the restaurant industry is having to take a huge shift, and having to rethink how, you know, what is an experience and how much how often we can afford to have them, you know, the the pizza experience is one thing, but a fine dining or a lovely dinner is another and, you know, I speak from experience on this of you know, and you mentioned in the opening that I’m opening a restaurant, later this year, and we’ve gone through a hiring process, in the last month where we did an open call, we just said this is show up on this day, at this time, but between, you know, 1010 and noon, and there was less pressure on them. It wasn’t like this interview spot where they needed to be there at a certain time, they are, you know, exactly at 10. And it was a more freeform experience. And it helped us, you know, take the bar down have that concern, was I there on time kind of thing. And it actually we ended up with 30 applicants or 15 openings? Fantastic. And I think it was, I think there was a shift in how restaurant owners need to think about the hiring process there. They need to be appealing to the, to the staff member to, you know, like, do I want to work at your restaurant. And that can be done in a zoom call, I don’t think you know, some people will be very against my idea that they need, you know, you need to have somebody show up. But really in a screening, you could do that in an open call, you could do that in in a zoom call, if you then need to see them in person before they actually are hired. Okay, do that. But you can screen through a lot of applicants that way. Or, you know, if you if you have a group of six applicants, and you don’t know which one is going to be the right one, doing a zoom call is a much better start than trying to trying to expect them to be you know, people have busy lives now on busy schedules. And it’s complicated with COVID. I mean, we had several people not be able to be there on on the open call because one person had COVID or their roommate had COVID and we had to reschedule their time. So I think you know, it’s testing us as restaurant owners to think differently and openly and not a You know, we’re on this the endemic side of the pandemic. And we do need to think, in a new way about how we do our hiring. So I don’t know, does that answer
Roger Beaudoin 15:12
your work? Yeah, putting on something really pivotal here. Okay, I want to dive a little deeper into that subject. Because when you’re working with restaurants, as a strategist, you’re an objective third party that has a bigger picture view of someone’s business. And you get to know them over time, of course, but it becomes really clearly evident pretty quickly, how things are working or not working or not. Okay, so sometimes, I’m not sure tough love is the word. But you know what I’m saying somewhere there someone’s behavior somehow, when you see that their style, their management style, and I want to get into management versus leadership in a moment. But yeah, sure, the times have changed so dramatically, that that I believe that staff have different expectations when they’re being hired now than they did pre pandemic. And obviously, restaurants have had to raise the bar on on their compensation, and whatnot to attract people. But it goes beyond compensation. It goes beyond creating an environment or a culture that people feel that they fit in, that they feel that they have a voice in, that they feel that they can make a difference in. And the fit is critically important. Forget the money. I mean, everyone works for paycheck, but people really work for something more than that they feel they’re looking for fulfillment, okay, yes. And now when we get back to management style, there’s so many different management styles. But I know in my own experience, I’ve come across a lot of managers that I’ve had to shift their behavior, either they were working for me, and we sort of over time sort of paradigm shifted by all right, there’s a huge difference between management and leadership. So let’s talk about your experiences with operators and different management styles and whether they’re effective, or whether you have to sort of change that mindset over time, so that they approach their staff in a whole different way. And in so doing the retention and the morale and all those things up level, you know, um,
yeah. Oh, yeah. It’s honestly, that’s the hardest. Because I think you can relate to this, you and I are seeing the here and now of restaurants in a in a very firsthand version. And the restaurant owners that I’m working with are dealing with their day to day operations, which are not attractive and not appealing right now. And they’re doing their best to keep up so to have an outside voice come in. and correct them feels awful, in some ways, yes. And adding on that delicate balance. So it’s so tough and, and honestly, the the way that I’ve helped them approach that in a way that doesn’t feel instructive, or, or, you know, holier than thou is to help them rethink their steps of hiring. And if I, if I can just go down that road, a little bit of, you know, this open call is one of them. But I always recommend that an interview is, can be should be the first step in training, if you have, if you end up finding that that person on the other side of the screen, or the person that shows up for the interview may be a good fit, you start seeing if your style of restaurant, your the culture that you’re in, is, is meeting them, like eye contact, like does this person understand what you’re talking about? Are they curious? Are they asking questions? And you can you are in responding to those questions. And responding to the way they answer a certain question that that’s like training, like, pre, you know, pre restaurant, you know, pre hire, and if they’re, if they’re a good fit, they’re going to remember that what they learned in the interview, as being pivotal to that restaurant owner, thinking differently, thinking about them. And, you know, going back to that intellectual curiosity thing, if, if the person when we were one of the, one of this 30 that we interviewed out of that there were about three people that were like, you know, when we said Do you have other questions? They’re like, No, not pretty well got it. It’s like, you’re not gonna fit in here. Like I appreciate that. They thought that they understood the whole thing. But there’s a any restaurant, the brand that you are creating, or the brand that already exists that you’re trying to shift, which is where I find myself it’s like helping a restaurant when they’ve been five or 10 years in business, and they’re they’re out of touch. Ah, and the owner is out of touch and trying to get the staff member that’s hitting that’s very contemporary and knows where the hospitality industry is going. And this owner who’s not tuned in to a lot of stuff, I’m helping bridge that gap. But they’re also having to have a person who’s intellectually curious on the other side to keep them continually being modern and being contemporary to the way the shifts in hospitality and the shifts in hires.
Roger Beaudoin 20:31
That’s, that’s exactly where I’m going with this. Because again, there are managers are owners of restaurants that are asking questions, trying to figure out if that person fits the organization, but what they’re also should be looking at, is that two way street of is this person curious? Is this person informed about the restaurant before they walk in the door? Can I tell if this person is really interested in working here? Or just going through the motions of interviewing? And that sort of thing? And will this person fit with all the other people? Is there chemistry? You know, I used to ask these really off the wall questions that were very difficult or impossible to answer. If the person was trying to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear, you know, really unusual stuff, but really getting to the heart of who this person is? what’s in their heart, what’s in their head, what’s their spirit? You know, just what motivates them? All those things?
Yeah, I think it’s a good moment to share a couple questions that we used in our interview, or in the at church. One of them was to ask, if they could have a superpower, what would it be? And that was great fun, because, you know, then you really get into what they the way they think what’s important to them. And create causes them to be creative, which I want a creative person on my team, a Hekia. And if I if I can see them with that superpower, that helps me again, when they’re hired of like, this is what engages them, like one person said that they wanted to have, like, extra natural hearing, because they wanted to know before they got to a table, what, whether this was the right time to show up to the table whether, you know, you pick up some of those areas, you know, obviously, we pick up those, you know, like I shouldn’t show up now. But you know, sometimes you can’t always tell that this person was like, I wish I had that here not to be voyeur not to not not a negative thing. So fascinating. That’s fascinating to to want that. And then the other one was the other cool question. Thanks. Awesome. Chelsea that’s running the church bar with me as a very creative thinker. And the other one the other question was, if you could be any tool in the kitchen, this was more for the culinary team. If you could be any tool, what would it be? And the most interesting one was apron. I want to be an apron. And I was like apron. But but the apron protects things from going wrong protects the person that’s washing the dishes from getting wet. The creates a shell from it was like, Oh, it’s a superpower. Not even good. Yeah, I’m not even right. I’m not even gonna. I’m gonna let people think about that one, rather than tell them the complete answer, but fascinating when you when you take out of context questions, like you’re saying, like you just you’re you’re testing to understand who they are. And and I think that that’s even more like you’re saying, like, I don’t want somebody who’s wants a job. I want somebody who’s engaged with this brand. Obviously, I’m talking about this restaurant that we’re this this cocktail bar that we’re opening, but I mean, that also for many of my clients, right now I’m having to have them think outside the box. And and there are certain clients that are like, no, no, we’ve got our hiring down. We know what we’re doing on hiring employees, like,
Roger Beaudoin 24:13
do Yeah, you’re too close to it. Right.
Right. You’re you’re doing what you’ve been doing. How about how about having a new approach and you know, fully that they’re open minded, the owners open mindedness gets to servant leadership, which, you know, servant leadership versus management style. And I’m a big fan of servant leadership. I want an owner to hire people that can help the owner, move the brand forward without that owner having to be there for every second of the service.
Roger Beaudoin 24:46
Thank you very much. Absolutely. Oh, my gosh, that’s so important. Yeah, exactly. And they’re there then lies that magic word empowerment, you know, and developing a team to run the place as if they own the place and be fiscally really responsible and just watch all the details, but they need to be recognized and rewarded for that, too. But
Roger Beaudoin 25:07
you’re right on target. With that. Let me ask you something. Are there particular projects? Because every client engagement is different? Are there particular projects that you enjoy more than others? Is there a? Do you specialize in any specific? I mean, we’ve talked about the labor thing. Okay, so we’ve covered that. And we talked about hiring and the approach, what else do you specialize in? And what do you enjoy doing?
Yeah, um, so I actually know that I’m, you know, in the time that I’ve been with my business, I obviously relate best to cafe people. Because I had a cafe for 18 years. So they understand that I understand where they’re coming from, that’s one thing, but I also have had some really wonderful, fine dining, restaurant clients, because they care about that hospitality, that high end hospitality that I’m talking about it. And that is, is an international experience, that, you know, whether I land in Kuala Lumpur, or whether I land in London, a high level of hospitality is something that’s enjoyable to every human. And, and, and then the other part of my style of work is virtual. Because I have so much experience with hospitality. I don’t need to be in place with a client. I like to go and have a visit sometime within about a month of when we started working together. But you know, I have had clients in New Mexico, in California, in one in Kansas City, who is a longtime client who’s amazing. And up into Washington state, and then on the East Coast, obviously, up and down the East Coast.
Roger Beaudoin 27:05
Fantastic. Now you create a roadmap, right to achieve future successes. Can you explain that process? Yeah,
yeah, that’s, excuse me. The roadmap is starts with an assessment. It’s a long, about three hour set of questions where we go back and forth. It’s a it’s a whole rubric. And I have to do it, because nobody, and I can’t hand that off as a form to my clients I owe. So it’s
Roger Beaudoin 27:37
a one on one engagement, where we’re going through all of this stuff. And you’re absolutely not just getting cursory answers that you look at, oh, this is really interesting. Keep going.
Yeah, yeah. So it’s based on what I used to, I used to have a whole more complicated system than I do right now. That was called the Six Pillars of a successful business, I still use my assessment with that set of six and its vision, its financial stability, its operations, it’s your product. It’s your, the way you distribute and your hospitality. So within each one of those, there’s a set of questions that digs down. And, you know, I think you probably know this, a client comes to you and they say, This is my problem. And I agree, they’re probably right. They know their business well enough to know that. But the assessment digs deeper into the why, Oh, yes. Right. You told me, right, you’ve told me that this is your problem that this is the way you want to solve it. But I come to the table with a lot more variety of experience. And with that variety, I can help them nail what needs what the steps are, that are going to get them from point A to point B with the greatest time efficiency.
Roger Beaudoin 28:59
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Roger Beaudoin 29:59
Let’s go back to hospitality because that is such a pivotal foundational element always has been, I mean, it really defines our business, but more so now than ever, because the pandemic has changed so much. And that guests, you know, during the pandemic, were looking for convenience and safety, not just service, but convenience and safety. And an element of that will always now be part of the model, the real hospitality piece, because the human interaction is so important is going to be equally important with convenience and continued safety and all those things. But how do you define hospitality because everyone has a different definition of what that word really means. And we could take 100 definitions and kind of pull them all together. And we’d say yes, to that, and yes to this, and yeah, it’s like, but you got to practice this, it can’t be just a mission that gets posted on the wall that never gets looked at. Again, it’s like hospitality is something that is should be so innate. And we should train everyone in our organization to know what that means. Practice it on a daily basis, whatever their definition is, because there’s so many so much crossover to that. But tell us, give us the question. What do you know, is really hospital? What is it about what’s hospitality all about?
I always like to have the conversation of what hospitality is at its core. And that it the word hospitality came out of somebody being served. And back in the day, it was, you know, medieval times somebody was traveling down a road, and they ended up in a in a monastery, oftentimes, or a church. Right? And were served there. Correct. And that, that, to me, is, you can’t, you can’t have hospitality without understanding that you are serving and you are caring for them that and that word hospital inside hospitality is is uh huh. It’s, it’s this the essence, right? So, so it’s both serving, it’s also caring for in a, I am serving something that will make you better, you know, giving somebody a stew that is, or a soup that really restores like, the idea that broth was one of the first things that was served in restaurants, broth is very healing. Yeah, those foods, right, that, to me, is, has to be understood in and refreshed in and one of my clients does that very well. I mean, that was I actually pulled that with his assistants that I hadn’t seen before. And it was a really brilliant idea to bring that to the fore to the staff, and to remind the staff that that is something in a quarterly, in their case, quarterly workshops that they do. But hospitality is seeing somebody where they are. And there are servers that do this incredibly well, they they see what that somebody does, or doesn’t want to be very well cared for during the meal. And they respond with that. Do you want a cocktail? Yes, I do. Tell me about this. And this one, and the server can do that. That is something that as as a human, I utterly enjoy that experience of somebody helping me to have a good experience that night. That’s more than, obviously, whoever I’m sitting across the table from, I’m really looking forward to talking to them. But to know that this person is helping that experience even more as a consumer as somebody being taken care of is delightful. And I want to infuse that into into the restaurant experience I sat across from really good friends of mine about a week ago at a Venezuelan restaurant and, and the server came over and you know, what would you like? Kind of, you know, expectation of, you know, they were gonna lean in or lean out depending on how we how we engaged with them, and they were on it. They were so perceptive of this set of people like they kind of knew me but they didn’t know the other people across the table and they were incredibly curious people and it led to this fantastic meal. Oh, really want
Roger Beaudoin 34:29
you know, I really I’m intrigued by that whole hospital analogy. And the first thing that comes to mind is the average restaurant can take care of needs and care for guests and that’s what guests expect. Okay, that’s that’s the basics, but that’s almost like you have a cut. You put a bandaid on it right? Solution. When you can really go above and beyond and anticipate their needs and literally sweep them away into this magical experience. It goes above the carrying piece. In the Service piece, it’s just, it’s like, yeah, like, yeah separates a good restaurant from a great restaurant.
It’s also the perception of, I find these days, there’s sort of a confusion going on of what the consumer is expecting from a restaurant might, you know, I know a lot of people who aren’t as knowledgeable about restaurants and they go to a restaurant. And they tell me afterwards that they had a less than stellar experience. And they walked me through what happened. And it was like, that wasn’t the restaurant, like your expectation of what your experience was going to be there was off. And this is, this is an education that I don’t know how we’re going to this is, you know, pandemic endemic coming out of the pandemic. I think that’s something that restaurant critics, I don’t I don’t know, where it’s gonna start infusing into people the consumer side of things, to have the expectation where it should be, you know, it’s, I have to say that it is, you know, two way street here that the consumer also has to be prepared for what is going to happen at that and be the right fit, you know, you’re not going to have a fine dining experience at a pizza place. That I mean, it could happen, certainly, if that’s the kind of place that you want to have that type of experience. But you know, when you go into a diner, you should mostly expect experience expect a diner experience. But if, if the that particular Diner is doing an elevated diner experience, okay, but is it clear to the customer, that that’s what’s going to happen. And, you know, a lot of people aren’t as knowledgeable as we are about the nuances of the niche brands,
Roger Beaudoin 36:47
you know, and that’s another interesting point, because Sure, if if there’s a diner that really cares about treating every customer amazingly, in an elevated experience, that’s tremendous. My expectation be going into the classic coffee shop, like on Seinfeld and having a somewhat surly person saying, Yep, take a seat, we’ll, we’ll get to when we get to you, you know, and, and here’s your coffee, you know, and that’s an experience,
an experience, that’s like, you should go in there and be like, and you see that on Seinfeld? They’re kind of like, this is awesome. They’re, they’re yelling at me, that rubber
Roger Beaudoin 37:22
band in your soup. Oh, I know who the cook was today, you know? For sure. All right. So that’s very interesting. Let’s talk about your cafes in Baltimore. And now, I understand and correct me if I’m wrong, but did you own them for 18 years? You started them? And you ran them for quite some time? And yeah, story of starting those what your challenges were how you first, you know, open your first restaurants because we have people listening to the podcasts that are starting the first restaurants right now. Right? Oh, my now there’s 1000 details to opening a place and you’re opening a place that I want to get into in a moment and your level of service. Right, let’s go back to your history.
And yeah, and actually this is? Yeah, it’s it’s a really good question. So when I started, I was part of a franchise, I was part of a Chesapeake bagel bakery. And so what ended up happening is timeline is nine years of running Chesapeake bagel bakery, as a franchisee, and then sit keeping the same location de franchising and opening a, because we called ourselves a fiercely independent cafe. So that was a shift like we’re no longer serving bagels, we’re serving all kinds of other things with you know, great deliciousness, like that was one of our big things is deliciousness. So for for a person listening in that it was much more like a New York deli experience very little seating and the seating was outside because we were in a office building and the top floor tenant didn’t want their staff milling about down in the cafe. They they wanted them back up to work. So they set us up for just quick serve, which was actually great. I loved it because of a whole bunch of reasons. But you know,
Roger Beaudoin 39:14
we really are constantly moving. It’s like, okay, next boom, boom, boom, yeah, to get the, you know, what your food is,
I think I think that created an interesting challenge that we responded to, which was, okay, well, that’s the paradigm that we have. So we’re not going to fight that we’re going to figure out how to make sure somebody has a stellar experience within the three to five minutes that they’re here. And whether they’re coming to pick up a latte and they’re having a little back and forth with the with the barista, or whether they’re getting an egg sandwich because you know, the egg sandwich done on Friday morning was usually for the person who had been drinking too much the night before. So there was a story about that that the that the person might want to do tell the staff member because they knew them well enough. And you know, when we figured out that we could have incredible customer loyalty, if we could figure out the three to five minutes, and it be a really positive interactive experience in a very short period of time,
Roger Beaudoin 40:16
every person in a personal way in a short period of time, but really make an impression.
Yes, yes. My favorite. My favorite was one of our staff members. I remember her walking past me behind me, and handing off a sandwich to this person with great care and saying to the person with no real eye experience, I made this with care. And they didn’t mean it. Like, this is what I do with every sandwich. They meant it like I see you I know you want a really fantastic sandwich. Here you go. And then yes, I d franchised and went independent. And that was challenging, because it was a time when independent cafes were in early days, this would have been 2005 that I opened it up. And it you know, again, very urban spot, so people expected to have a quick turnaround experience. So we had kind of had a learning curve early on with a bagel shop. But we were always making bagels, we were always running to the back to make bagels in the midst of service. And once we d franchised and could just be at the front of the house. It was great. Like, you know, we had this great dynamic of a team of four people prepping sandwiches, egg sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal serving oatmeal, and it was you know, it’s like a dance. That’s one of the things I love about restaurants in general and cafes, is that choreography of how well you can serve that many people in, you know, if we had the power hour between 12 and one. And if we could get 85 people through in an hour, we would do you know, like the happy dance afterwards? How well we had done. So. Yeah, yeah.
Roger Beaudoin 42:08
Wow. So would you say there was a learning curve? Or a really dramatic steep learning curve? Or is it just something that came natural to you and methodically approach that business from a business standpoint? And I guess what I’m getting at is a lot of people that I’ve come across that starred restaurants, they either think, Oh, we’ve got these amazing recipes. And they don’t realize all the details that go into business. And it’s more than just putting out great food and giving good service from your staff. I mean, there’s so many other things, you have to run a business, you have to be obviously financially minded, you have to take care of the details about profit and cost care for
people too. Yeah,
Roger Beaudoin 42:47
I mean, all these things are so so so important. How did you approach those things? And what systems would you say you put into place because they were critical operating systems, regardless of the size of a business? A business? Yeah, business, it could be a tiny little entity, it could be multiple restaurants situation, but all of those systems are common, and very important.
Yeah. For me, I think some of it came naturally. And I just, I did not have many outside influences telling me how to run my restaurant. So I approached it from what gut, my gut reaction was to how I should handle the things. And I help owners think that way, too, of like, if your instinct tells you this, and you’ve been going counter to it for some reason. Let’s figure out why you’re going counter to, like, dig into that. Figure out why you want to run it this way. But you’re running it a different way. Yeah. Yeah, it really is. And that, that experience of really thinking about your business, from the outside what you as a consumer would feel if you walked in the door. And I mean, I’ve had times when I’ve helped, I used to walk through my restaurant and do the customer path and see what it was like. And, you know, obviously, I was like, this egg set this bag, we hit used to have a case where people can pick up food, these eggs are out of place these quinoa salads out of place, you know, there’s that. But as a consumer, I would know that as a consumer, I want to be able to reach for the salad where it should be. And so that’s something that I really work hard on having the owner experience their restaurant as an outsider. Yeah, and then start fixing that stuff. And a lot of times they’re like, I don’t know why we’ve been doing it this way. Right? I don’t either. Let’s talk about that. Let’s figure out how we can move any know when you when you shift and move things in a restaurant and customers are used to being served a certain way that shifts doesn’t always isn’t always well received. So it has to be done. Like I said, like sometimes something that you think could be done in three months is going to take a year to shift over. Because concern your, your guest is not going to be able to figure out that you changed something from this to that and they’re insulted and leave. So you’ve got to you’ve got to educate your customer, just as much I love that old business that their their tagline was an educated customer is our best customer. I’ve heard that. Remember that. But that was that was Sims, I think the
Roger Beaudoin 45:35
remember what it was. But I do remember hearing that for sure. And that’s a great phrase.
And I took that on very strongly in my team, and figured out how we needed to, to educate our customers so that they knew that we had chili and that it wasn’t too spicy that it was approachable that we had interesting international soups, and they were approachable. That you know, even though Martha had knew what Nigerian groundnut stew was, and they didn’t, we would educate them and tell them what it was and tell them that you know, not to be afraid of this thing that you didn’t know. Moroccan stew like that. That was to me that was a lot of it is educating our customer and making them feel welcome. And yeah, all the business aspects that fall from there. Like we ended up with a lot of catering i At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing with the catering. I was just like, swinging whatever I could to make that, you know, I was getting asked to do catering and I didn’t quite know how to do it. And I had to I had to pull back from that at one point. You know, you can’t. That was one that was the best advice I got when I was opening the the Chesapeake bagel was one of the people that worked for chsp bagel said, You can’t start your catering until you’re about four months in and I was like, What are you talking about? We can handle that. And thank God, I listened to them because we were not ready. I mean, this, that Groundhog’s Day of running a business is something that I think is really hard for new owners to understand. It’s a term that they probably don’t even know yet, but I’ll just say that, please.
Roger Beaudoin 47:17
Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. But talking about you in a business, yeah,
service should be relatively the same every day, day after day. And that that can feel really boring, or that can if done well, it can stay fresh. And it is something that when you come in that the lights get turned on before the oven gets turned on, all these kinds of things are part of the ground, massive Groundhog’s Day of every day, the same things happen in the same order and there is a reason for it. And a new operator, I think that’s the hardest thing for them because they think that just all happens. And I remember I remember having to write that list for my staff and thinking this is so elemental, but it’s not it’s not elemental. It there is a rationale to why you turn the the lights on in the cafe before you turn the oven on and there you know, I could go on I won’t bore you with the you know, you know the list, but it’s it’s that whole set of things and you know, when you pull the muffins out and then you spend them around halfway through the bake, all those things are part of the groundhog Groundhog’s Day, and you just can’t eat. That’s what makes your place your place. All those minutia that we’ll make that food tastes that way and can’t be found elsewhere.
Roger Beaudoin 48:43
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Roger Beaudoin 49:55
You know you’re you’re bringing up something that’s really close to heart for me right now because my my 16 year old daughter just started working in a restaurant as one of her very first jobs. And when she was applying in the last couple of weeks to, she applied to several different restaurants. And interestingly, the other three that she did not end up working for, you could just tell that there was nothing special about the team chemistry, she’d go in and apply and people weren’t particularly friendly, it almost felt a little off putting when
we didn’t have an application nearby, didn’t didn’t really she, you know, she could
Roger Beaudoin 50:29
innately know that there just wasn’t a good vibe going on. And then all of a sudden, she walks into this one place, and every one is friendly to her. And she’s filling out her application and different people in different departments are approaching her and just chatting, and just being friendly. And really, so she’s now working there. And I think she’s on her sixth shift or so and their lawns are she’s a hostess, and it’s a busy place. And she’s got eight hour shifts, and she is loving every minute of it. And that’s between the kitchen and the front of house. And even the dishwashers that you know, some of them are from, you know, different countries, and you know, their language skills. They’re learning English and stuff, and they’re friendly, and they’re engaging like the whole,
they’re learning English. Because, yeah, that is awesome.
Roger Beaudoin 51:20
And that just speaks volumes about the training and the approach and the way that the owners and the managers want their business to run. And obviously, the guest experience is elevated by the staff experience. And so my my third daughter placed a takeout order there just the other day just just because her sister is now working at this restaurant, and I went to pick it up and I walked in the door. Oh, and I was I was treated like I was the most important person in the place, even though no one knew who I was, you know,
really? They didn’t know you were the dad.
Roger Beaudoin 51:53
No, no, they didn’t. So I’m like, well, that’s awesome. For years. Yeah, you can tell that it’s genuine. And it happens with consistency. And obviously, in sick shifts. It’s like, this is her experience. And she’s loving going to work and, and the time just flies by and she’s having a grand old time. And she’s meeting new guests every single day. And it’s a friendly, happy uplifted place. Yeah. And it’s and it’s doing a wonderful job. And obviously, that is rotation that comes along. That
is a really, that’s a really fantastic hospitality experience. And, and for her, my God, I know. I mean, she knows she’s only going to be working there in the summer, right?
Roger Beaudoin 52:32
You know, it could be a year round gig when she’s at school, she can fill in part time. So this is a year round operation. And it’s very close to our house and whatnot. And wow, that is so great. But yeah, I just wanted to make the connection between just an average place that, you know, nothing special is happening that yeah, they’re, they might be putting out perfectly fine food and drink. And you know, and they’re just, yeah, but that place has something extra something special. And that definitely translates Yeah, and
I think I think they probably have that Groundhog’s Day down to an art because, you know, if if you figure out how to do how to do the operational stuff really well, then you have time and space and air to be able to have a happy day and an engaging experience for the staff. And then that translates on. Yeah, that’s a really cool, I’m happy for her.
Roger Beaudoin 53:23
I’m thrilled. And oh my gosh, she comes home at like 8pm She goes in at noon, she comes home at 8pm. And she dances in the door like she that’s awesome, you know, the most fun times ever had and she’s just glowing about every experience. So I’m Yeah, I love it. I love it. Yeah. Especially for someone who really cares. Who really has very specific ideas about what hospitality is. It’s just reinforced by that example.
Yeah. And my daughter, it’s hilarious to say that my daughter is now 24. And from the time she she was working here in high school, but then when she got to college, she started taking jobs up there. And it wasn’t long before she got pulled in to be like the head bartender that they figured out that she knew a little bit more about hospitality. She didn’t tell them my backstory, okay, because she didn’t want she didn’t want to Yep, but she had something special and, and she was attracted to those more interesting, engaging, cheerful places. And you know, that that’s awesome. She’s out of hospitality now. In in the true sense of restaurants, but she’s working for a museum and she’s using all those skills, they are live life skills,
Roger Beaudoin 54:36
are teaching life skills, nature, you know, and it’s funny because you have no idea where your life is gonna lead my very first job I was I was a dishwasher at a private country club in Massachusetts, you know, and it wasn’t a particularly pleasant job. But my parents were very hardworking people. They instilled a strong work ethic in me and I approached every single day with motivation, and I’m going to do the best I can at this. And so Something was recognized back then early on, and within three months, it’s like I got promoted to bartender, even though I didn’t know how to 10 bar. And I was trained a bartender, and that’s literally where I where I learned the foundation of what hospitality meant, because okay, this is a private golf club, and the members obviously at certain levels of expectation, and I easily assimilated that that level of service and hospitality. And they were just, I’ve said this story before on this podcast, but it’s like I made quite a bit of money in in gratuities and tips, and, but it was genuine. I was I was really I was getting to know these people on a personal basis. I was seeing them almost every single day, I was making friends with the clientele. And I was being rewarded for it, you know, in my pocket book. But that’s not why I did it. I enjoyed bartending and I enjoyed the interaction, it was a new skill to habit was a life skill that I then used later in college, and I never thought I’d go on to open and start restaurants. This is really where it begins. I’d be
helping people but helping owners now. Yeah,
Roger Beaudoin 56:05
true hospitality was recognized in it. And it was just a personal thing for for me to deliver great experiences that they had wonderful times, and the money just followed that. But that’s not why I did it. It’s like these people. And that’s part of it. It’s like you get to know and you become friends with your guests. And in my restaurants. You know, my staff were asked for by name, guests would come back the regulars would always ask for this person or that person and everyone just, you know, it just created this amazing environment.
That’s so good.
Roger Beaudoin 56:34
Let’s talk about church bar. Yes, the inspiration for it. Where are you in the process? Tell us about the ins and outs of starting a new enterprise.
We started this in November of 2020. Thinking that, you know, the pandemic was a blip away? Oh, of course, we are still not open. And that is not because of supply chain. That’s just how long it takes. And we’ve chosen to have investor funding for it. But back to the beginning, what is church church is a the brainchild of Chelsea Gregoire, who’s our Managing Partner, who is an ex seminary student who is you know, trans and so they came from being in a seminary school but because when they came out that wasn’t acceptable at Liberty University, they they shifted gears and decided that they they they had enough experience bartending but then over time, they’re like, but I don’t have my I thought it was gonna have a congregation I thought it was going to have you know really missing out on that and it’s translated into this thing that’s called church that is also you know, back to the definition of a hospitality is a place where people can come and be refreshed and burned build community and be received whoever they are. And so, that was the impetus for the for the space they have opened 18 different restaurants and bars and now this one is they are 30 I want to say 33 I may be wrong on that. But about that age and I am definitely the most experienced of the three partners and and then the third partner is a PR person who is a big positive influence for for us as well and wondering keeping our business going in the direction like we’re staying current that’s one of our big things is to make sure we stay current and by having to stay current Chelsea is going to be traveling and learning from other people around the country and we’re hoping to get into some you know travel European travel to so that they get to experience things that they haven’t yet in the hospital which is me like no you’ve got to see hospitality in you know, fill in the blank London for as event you know, for cocktail bars at the cocktail bar scene there is amazing and I want them to see that as well.
Roger Beaudoin 59:14
So the business will be a mosaic of different experiences with hospitality, its core from around the world. They already said it’s a place that’s going to be very inclusive and welcoming, which is awesome. What do you envision the vibe what’s the vision for church? Will it have sort of a spiritual vibe to it? I don’t know that you have you have a tagline filled with the spirits. Awesome. Yeah. Tell us about you know, the ambiance, the vibe, what are we going to expect? We walk in the door? And I’d say a welcoming environment. Excellent
question. So it really is about a cocktail crafted experience. And and I use both of those words purposefully. Obviously, we will have and have an I will explain the food part of it. But we have are expecting that when people come there that they have never had a cocktail like this. And that crafted use of the word crafted is both what’s in the glass. Yes, but also what happens at the table. There are several different spaces inside our it’s a townhouse for lack of a better word in a very urban environment and not not a very fancy neighborhoods. And each one of the, we assume that when people come into our place that they come seven different times and have seven different slightly varied experiences, because of the air and light and space in the in the building. Okay. And air light space, that’s all you know, that’s also spirituality. So it is bringing in spirituality in a restorative way. Yes, restorative is also using the word restaurant in it. I mean, there is that element. It’s it’s a, it’s a play all the time on on that idea. And then I do want to describe the food part because I think it’s, this is again, like a super contemporary thought, we are having a chef residency, rather than a menu that you have every single time, there will be a chef to train our staff every quarter. And they will come in and for one week, while we’re doing what we’re calling classics week, which will be cocktails will be the very basic and the menu will be very basic. That week, our team will learn a different menu. But everything on the menu is also very crafted. So that every time we change over the menu, there will always be a crispy potato, there will always be a will there will always be charcuterie because that’s something that we will, that we as the team are going to make sure we have and dessert we always have. But the main 10 items and interesting salad a wildcard item, when ever a chef applies, they have to fit into that rubric so that there’s some consistency. So when a customer comes this year, next year, they’re like wait, the crispy potato that I had last time. Well, we have a different chef who’s created that Chris different crispy potato, but this is what it is. And they’re like, Ooh, I actually really want to try that. And so there’s there is a consistency within our very honed expectation of how we’re doing our hospitality, but it is definitely leaning into the craft cocktail in a way. I also want to say that one thing that’s been very important to me, I am a I do drink. I’m not an excessive drinker. But I do appreciate this movement of mocktails and I have many friends who aren’t either don’t drink or don’t want to drink or have chosen in their life to eliminate alcohol from their from their life. And we are crafting the cocktails so that there can be a mocktail version. Everything on the menu, every cocktail on the menu will have a mocktail counterpart, but which is, you know,
Roger Beaudoin 1:03:27
ya know, very few places are doing that. But I mean, that makes perfect sense, right? Where people feel like they’re part of their experience, but they don’t have to imbibe in alcohol, but they can still get a crafted drink. That bit looks great. It has presentation, it has zest, and it’s refreshing, and they don’t need to have that alcohol.
And isn’t that isn’t that. Right? Isn’t that the element that is so true is that you’ve, you’ve come to be refreshed and absolutely true. That’s whatever the version of it. I mean, I think that’s that, that goes back to me. And like my cafe world of like, I want you to leave refreshed. I want you to leave better than you came. So
Roger Beaudoin 1:04:05
wonderful. Well, Martha, it’s been a super pleasure having you on the podcast, and it’s great talking restaurant strategy, and it’s great talking opening restaurants and about culture and labor. We’ve covered some ground here and foundationally what hospitality is really all about so thanks for being with us.
Yeah, absolutely. Take care.
Roger Beaudoin 1:04:27
Well, audience thank you again for tuning in. That was the restaurant rockstars podcast. We can’t wait to see you in the next episode. And we hope you all stay well. Thanks, Martha for being with us. I so enjoyed talking shop with you. We have so much in common about hospitality. What makes a great restaurant as well as restaurant strategy. I wish you all the best of success with church bar as you move forward with your plans. Thanks also to the sponsors of this week’s episode plate IQ Davao and serve the restaurant training app at a is our V n o w.com. I hope you all stay. Well. We can’t wait to see you in the next episode. Stay tuned.
Roger Beaudoin 1:05:08
People go to restaurants for lots of reasons. What the customer doesn’t know is the 1000s of details it takes to run a great restaurant. This is a high risk high fail business. It’s a treacherous road and SMART operators need a professional guide. I’m Roger. I’ve started many highly successful high profit restaurants. I’m passionate about helping other owners and managers not just succeed, but knock it out of the park. You don’t just want to run a restaurant. You want to dominate your competition and create a lasting legacy. Join the academy and I’ll show you how it’s done.
Thanks for listening to the restaurant rockstars podcast for lots of great resources, head over to restaurant rockstars.com See you next time.