Archive for January, 2010

January 27, 2010

Brave New World

Illustration by Kathy Boake

A great article on how foodservice and hospitality operations can use social media, written for the Canadian hospitality industry by author Lesley Young for Foodservice World Magazine.

FH 01 10_BraveNewWorld

She quotes our CEO Jeffrey J Kingman in several places.

January 20, 2010

From One Chef (former) to Another: Get Real

From a Yelp Review in Portland OR

Since our table was quite long we could not converse with everyone at once. I made a visit to the other end of the table after dinner but before dessert to thank people for coming. One guest had ordered salmon and it was too under-done for her liking. She sent it back to the kitchen requesting it be cooked longer. The chef sent it back, saying that is how salmon should be cooked, refusing to cook it further. Needless to say, the guest did not eat her salmon. To me, that was over the top rude. I can just about guarantee she will not be back, and I’m not sure I will come back based on that arrogance.

Yo, Chef – WTHeck?.

We still have in this industry pretentious and jerk chefs (that jerk descriptor is directed at all the chefs I was the replacement for and had to rebuild relations with the BOH and FOH staff).

If you aren’t completely focused on giving the guest what they want – you need to get into some other field.

January 20, 2010

Yelp & Urban Spoon Comments

Guest Experience Staff Training

I’m researching a study of the restaurant industry, using Yelp and Urban Spoon as the main viewframe. While I’ve written in the past about how operators could use these two sites to their advantage, I feel compelled to share a different observation tonight.

Does your team need a refresher on what makes great experience for customers? I bet if you spent one hour with an all-staff meeting, asked them to all bring their laptops in for the meeting, then gave each staff member ten restaurants in Urban Spoon’s “Affordable Fine Dining” Category to view – that you’d have one hell of a good meeting discussion.

The trick to this is having your staff read the comments of these ten restaurants, then share the outstandingly good and bad comments with the team as a whole and then to look at yours.

Not only is this good training on excellent guest experience, it will give your staff the direct feedback of the dining public in your area; what they think about you, about your competition and what their expectations are of a good or great experience.

I promise you, it will be an eye-opener for your team.

The other thing it will do (bonus) is provide your staff with real-time competitive analysis of the other teams that they are directly competing with in your area. What a great way to bring your team even more together towards a common goal!

By the way, it’s so easy for operators to get their basic information on these sites. I am completely clueless as to why any operator would stuff these two sites with pictures, the menu, etc.

Also, it’s extremely rare to find an operator responding to the negative comments (much less the positive ones) on these sites. How much time a night does that take – to look for a comment from the night? Thirty seconds? And then to write a reply? Another five minutes to increase guest loyalty so they’ll tell all their friends about your place?

Yelp and Urban Spoon should be the most basic of social web management for a restaurant. An operator should visit them daily – that would take maybe two minutes, tops.

January 13, 2010

Disaster Culinary Management Teams

This is an alert seeking Chef Volunteers willing to work in field kitchens in Haiti.

Over the past 72 hours I’ve been networking with:

U.N. World Food Programme
American Culinary Federation
FohBoh (Michael Atkinson, CEO)
Share Our Strength (Billy Shore, Deb Shore and Ashley Graham)
People Report (Joni Doolin, CEO)
Fast Casual (Paul Barron, CEO)
U.S. Department of Defense (Col. David Lapan, USMC, Chief Public Affairs Officer)
U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps (Lt. Col. Samuel Russell, QM, Chief of Commanding Generals Office)
Sodexo (USA and China)

I’ve had direct conversations with the above entities. Some of these conversations have led to this call being shared with the Executive Board of the National Restaurant Association, McDonalds Corporate Office, Chefs for Humanity and the U.S. White House Office of the First Lady.

The next two to three weeks in Haiti will see prepackaged ready-to-eat meals being distributed. Then, transition will occur to actual food preparation in the field. The field will be extremely challenging.

Specifics have not been solidified at this time – but I encourage anyone interested in volunteering to leave a comment here to this blogpost.

Please read comments for Updates (I’m updating in the comment section as developments occur)

Announcement: If you are a Chef that can volunteer for Haiti or might be able too, please leave a comment so we can get back to you.

The chefs and restaurateurs of the USA, particularly those affected by Hurricane Katrina, offer vast management experience in efficiently feeding large numbers of people. We’ve demonstrated this ability to hit the ground running, quickly take collaborative command of culinary management (in partnership with various government and NGO organizations) and lend our significant skill and financial resources in a large scale humanitarian response.

The combined networks of the National Restaurant Association (including its partner state hospitality organizations), the American Culinary Federation, Share Our Strength, and other entities such as (largest social network for the industry), Nation’s Restaurant News and Fast Casual – represent the ability to quickly notify and mobilize volunteers and donors.


The sheer scale of the earthquake disaster in Haiti will require mass-feeding on a scale similar to the needs facing the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I believe there are numerous talented professionals that would be willing to respond to an organized response in the field.

I also believe there are logisticians who can quickly coordinate such an effort, facilitating organization, placement and distribution of Disaster Culinary Teams in Haiti.

Much as SAR Disaster teams are fielded, the restaurant industry in the US has the ability to provide critically needed knowledge and practical experience, in addition to the financial generosity this industry is particularly known for.

Initial Actions Taken

I’ve contacted the following and have received immediate and positive feedback:

Office of First Lady Michelle Obama, the White House – waiting on a callback.

People Report, Joni Doolin, CEO, Michael Atkinson, CEO (largest social network for the restaurant industry)

Fast Casual Alliance, Paul Barron, CEO

January 10, 2010

You Just Never Know

You just never know. You just never know where this social web/social media adventure will take you.

As I launched Chalkboarder in the summer of 2009, I became aware of a social media evangelist with deep restaurant experience. I think I first became aware of Paul Barron by seeing his name as a presenter on social media and the restaurant industry as a speaker at both the Western Foodservice Show and the annual conference of the Oregon Restaurant Association. I began reading his blogposts and learning his take on the social web as applied to the restaurant industry.

That August, I was fortunate to participate in the Northwest Sustainability Discovery Tour – exploring how food companies and restaurant operators were incorporating sustainability into their operations in the Pacific Northwest. It was at this conference that I met Paul. I think we exchanged a total of ten words the first day.

The second day we sat at the same table in the morning. I remember writing a little note about the speaker’s content on a blank business card and sliding it to Paul. He read it and later asked me if I always carried blank cards, which I did. He suggested I print at least the web address or my email on the blanks – as a way to incorporate my brand into a useful tool.

We traded a few emails back and forth over the next month and then I got a surprise email from him, asking if I would be willing to replace him as a speaker on social media at Coffee Fest Seattle. I felt pretty humbled and honored that he would think of me and immediately accepted. The folks at Coffee Fest have told me that my presentation was considered one of the best by their attendees.

Paul and I have built the beginnings of what I hope will be a great friendship. My respect for his thinking and vision is immense and grows with every communication.

Here is why I’ve written this post – you never know where the social media adventure and journey will take you. As a result of getting to know Paul, I have added a major client to our Chalkboarder roster with Coffee Fest. A year long social media strategy and execution with Coffee Fest as a client, with a deeply well-regarded brand image, will lead to other clients in the specialty coffee and tea industry. The ability to share Paul Barron and Coffee Fest as referrals to prospective clients of any industry is of huge value to us.

Paul, meeting, listening to and knowing you – created one of the early legs of Chalkboarder’s client base. I owe you much for entering dialogue with me and being willing to share so much. Thank you for being a mentor, sir.

January 7, 2010

The Customer Service Dialogue

The last three weeks I’ve been working with Marsha Collier on a small project called The Customer Service Dialogue.

This is a Twitter based chat every Tuesday night at 9pm EST on anything Customer Service. Well, we do have a weekly subtopic on customer service: it’s not a mosh pit 🙂

I had originally posted the transcripts here on Chalkboarder, but after Marsha and I gave it thought, it just made sense to give the Dialogue its own blog site.

I invite all of you to come check it out. We already have transcripts from three weeks of chats on different topics.

Next week’s topic is Online Customer Service Centers. See you there?