Friday, August 15, 2008

Hard times and fresh ideas

Quite a few customers have stopped me on the street and asked me how I am doing. I always tell them that I am doing just fine. There are a couple of reasons why I give that answer. First off, they don't really want to hear my problems. It doesn't mean that they don't care, but the problems are mine and we all have problems of some sort. Secondly, I am really not doing all that bad when I listen to others in the area. I am not up but I am only down a small percentage over last year. And if Duncan's chart on restaurants is true, there are many out there that are down dramatically.

My concerns are the same ones that I believe almost every small business is dealing with right now. Escalating costs and how to deal with them and still try to keep your own prices down as best as you can. As I have stated in previous posts, I am always looking for new ideas. If there is one thing that I do pride myself in, it is trying to stay outside the box. In that same light, I don't have any problems taking other ideas that are given to me or discovered in other restaurants and attempting to put my own signature on them. An example of that would be if you go into the chamber, you will see a bank of restaurant small menus and brochures available to the public. I actually was the person that got that started. I walked into the chamber one day and saw that they had some brochures for a few of the local motels. I asked the then chamber president if I might be able to put one of my own up. She went to the board and later called me to inform me that the board had given me permission as long as I put them in a professional looking display. Back then, that was rather hard to find but I eventually got one and now look at it. Before long, many of the local restaurants were putting there small menus out and the chamber had to eventually go to a larger display of their own. So then, I looked to see how I could better get directly to that same market quicker. I took my small menus and racks and started going down to the motels in my area and asking them if I could place them on their counters. Every month, I would take them out with free meals for the motel managers along with more menus. Before long, the counters were cluttered with other restaurants menus and some promising entrepreneur came up with the idea of providing the motels with professional displays and then charging to have your brochure in them. Since the cost was too high for most restaurants, the restaurant menus disappeared. I must admit that there have been many other new ideas that I have been behind on such as the Internet but this blog was started as yet another idea in marketing which quickly turned into a place to vent both good and bad and thus became a sort of therapy at times.

That being said, I am still looking for things that we can do to make the business better and more desirable. I watch invoices like a hawk, looking for those sudden increases that can so easily knock you down quickly. For instance, recently, the ham that we purchased went up over 40% in price overnight. Jim immediately began looking for an alternative while I worked with the supplier to see if we could get the increase reversed. I failed but Jim found another ham that was not only a better product but the price was only 20% higher than before.

Jim also has worked hard to increase the quality and thus the value of our product. He has over the last year began to roast our own turkey, roast beef, and pot roast. That has brought us a better quality, better tasting, and fresher product to our customer. In a time when others are looking to cut prep costs (which by the way eliminates much needed jobs), we will attempt to continue to do things the old fashion way as best as we can.

But then none of this can happen with out the most important element. Our customers and over the years, we have been blessed with some of the best. It is truly a pleasure of the job to make friends with so many of them. Just today, Jim and I were talking and both of us agreed that our relationships with some of our customers were some of the best parts of our jobs. Some of them have even been given pet names such as Dry Ron, Big Richard, and of course, the "Cool Kids". Big Richard volunteers to help us in every special event that we hold and many of the others volunteer during our special Thanksgiving for Seniors. I am truly blessed to have the crew that I have and the supporting customers that keep us alive.

Thank you Bend!

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