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Five Lessons I Learned Going From Franchisee to Restaurateur

By Wally Mostafa

As part-owner of middle eastern-fusion restaurant BEKYA, my prior experience of owning four Subway franchises has been enormously helpful towards the early years of setting up a restaurant of my own.

So, here are my top tips for others looking to make the big move…

  1. Franchising teaches you how to divide up your budget

With Subway, it’s all there in the manuals and the training provided—what percentage of operating costs should go on staffing, rent, produce and other costs, and even how to turn over a reasonable profit. Having worked in the hospitality field through Subway for so long, it’s taught me what proportion of my costs should go into each area of the budget to maximise profit.

That said, with a popular franchise like Subway, location is key, as people come to you because you’re located in a convenient spot. With a restaurant, you become the destination, so the rent represents a lower percentage of total costs, wages, and training; the things that make for a great customer experience from the food to the treatment they receive, are of a higher percentage.

  1. Staffing your restaurant at the optimal level is a big part of your success

Staffing is a huge element of getting a restaurant right.  You need enough employees back-of-house creating wonderful food, and you need the right number front-of-house ensuring a great customer experience. Getting it wrong means blowing out costs, and damaging your reputation. My years with Subway have taught me how to get that balance right.

  1. Customer experience is key to fine dining—they aren’t just looking for a well-priced sandwich close to work.

In a Subway store, people come in for a quick and easy sandwich. One bad experience won’t necessarily cause a great deal of damage to your profit, but it always pays to strive for excellence. You also have some leeway when you get started, as people are ‘kinder’ to mistakes at that end of the hospitality industry. But with a restaurant, it can be one strike and you’re out. With social media, all it takes is one bad review and your restaurant sees a dip in sales. This means you need to hit it right out of the park to start with and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in damage control, trying to earn back a good reputation.

Wally_Mostafa_Bekya_Sydney_Restaurants_Cafes

 

  1. As a franchisee, a lot of the operation is made easy for you, and when you go out on your own, you need to learn new skills

With a franchise, you’ve got pre-existing supply chains and buying power when it comes to ingredients and other materials—from uniforms to cutlery and packaging. You’ve also got support on tap if anything goes wrong. If, for example, a machine breaks down, you simply call head office and it’s dealt with quickly from there. Since opening BEKYA, I’ve had to build my own network of suppliers, negotiate the best price for the best produce, and stay up to speed with pricing. Likewise, if machinery breaks down, I have contracts with the equipment suppliers, but it’s not quite as seamlessly sorted out, and definitely not as quick

5: Being a franchisee gave me the flexibility to open on my own

Owning a franchise like Subway usually provides a stable income, and that’s the appeal for a lot of owners. A Franchise system gave me the flexibility in my personal life to get set up and ready to go out on my own. It’s also taught me many of the skills I use now and it’s provided something of a blueprint to what I need to be doing to turn a profit.

Obviously, there are differences between a restaurant like BEKYA and a chain sandwich bar like Subway, but there are also many basics that stay the same, and without my experiences there, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Related Article:

From Subway to Bekya

 

What Customer Experience do you Want to Deliver?

Online Customer experiences shared through Food apps

Having a vision of an ideal customer experience should be the starting point for investing in technologies and marketing approaches to grow your business. That’s one of the key messages for hotel and restaurant owners from Deloitte’s Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook 2017.

Touch points are part of a bigger picture

Deloitte’s report suggests that gaining loyal customers in 2017 will come from, “…a shift in thinking to make customer experience paramount.” But what is customer experience?

Customer experience is shaped by many things: the quality of your products and services, the friendliness of staff, price, convenience, your decor, the music you play…the list goes on. But what matters, even more, is putting all these elements together in a strategic way.

Insights by consulting firm McKinsey shared in the Harvard Business Review reveal that perfecting individual touchpoints with customers may not be enough, if the sum of the parts does not meet expectations. That’s where customer experience comes in, ultimately acting as the impression a person develops over time based on their entire interaction with your brand.

McKinsey found that companies that successfully manage the entire customer journey “…reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.”

growing business customers experience online

What experiences will drive real value?

Given that customer experience is a cumulative effect, most people don’t get fed up by one bad interaction. But that doesn’t mean customers are inclined to be loyal. Most people are indifferent—willing to change their plans to take advantage of a better price, service or experience.

That means you need to envision the ideal journey for the customers you want to attract, and then prioritise efforts that will allow you to offer those experiences consistently, and at scale.

Deloitte’s report suggests brands need to provide truly valuable and memorable experiences that focus on authenticity, personalisation and immediacy. It says hotel guests, “…will define a brand by the quality of their experiences across a proliferation of touch points, including smartphones, desktops, wearable apps, over the phone, and on property”.

It takes a holistic, integrated approach to cultivate devoted customers, willing to leave positive reviews online, share your hashtags on social media or recommend your business to a friend.

 

 

Navigate new technology carefully

Deloitte’s report points to the fact that, as in many other industries, travel and hospitality leaders will be those that adapt to changes in the economy, technology and consumer mindsets.

Making the customer experience special and embedded throughout your business while riding the wave of disruption will inevitably involve investments in technology. But there is a balance to be found between being left behind and moving too quickly.

An example from the Deloitte report is the millions spent upgrading hotels with tablet kiosks similar to those used by airlines, only to be made obsolete by the rise of app-based mobile check-in.

The report acknowledges that making smart choices will only become more difficult as new technologies like virtual reality and the Internet of Things emerge. Decisions need to be driven by a clear understanding of what makes a great customer experience and what technologies will support that.

Create experiences worth sharing

The report also uses the example of a successful airline app that allows passengers to track their luggage using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. The app was not created to meet a significant practical need (lost luggage affects a small percentage of people) but rather to boost customers’ peace of mind: integral to a positive flying experience.

Understanding your ideal customer experience will also allow you to take full advantage of the most influential marketing platforms, including social media.

In a recent review of social media trends that matter in 2017, content marketing platform Contently highlight the fact that most people that use the internet also use social media, more often than not via their mobile, and most likely to watch or share video content.

Hotel and hospitality businesses need to understand how customers use travel and hospitality experiences to build their own personal brand; especially using image and video-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Deloitte’s report suggests that brands, “…make it a point to create experiences worth sharing in order to capitalize on the enormous exposure these platforms provide.”

Start with customer experience to succeed

It’s not possible to design and promote experiences that break through apathy or to cleverly leverage technologies and platforms to boost loyalty unless you can clearly imagine the ideal customer experience.

Using that knowledge to make decisions will ensure a cohesive customer journey where marketing promises are consistently met or exceeded in unique ways that resonate with your customers and deliver excellent hospitality experiences.

About the Author

Josh Alston

A former news hound, editor and roaming reporter for News Corp Australia for 12 years, Josh is now a freelance copywriter covering politics, innovation, technology, health, science and financial services, among other topics.

From Subway to BEKYA, with a little help from Coca Cola Amatil

Restaurant Bekya Sydney Middle Eastern Food

Mel Hearse talks to Wally Mostafa, co-founder and part-owner of restaurant BEKYA Middle Eastern Foods, about his transition from franchisee to restaurateur.

Whilst still in the franchisee business, Wally Mostafa owns one Subway restaurant and he’s made the switch to opening and running his own restaurant—BEKYA Middle Eastern Food.

BEKYA has started out strong and is already a popular eatery that’s housed in the Tramsheds Harold Park—which has recently undergone a transformation into a European-inspired food hall hosting 18 retailers and providores. He and his partners also have another two BEKYA restaurants: one in the Gateway food court, and the original outlet situated in the Greenhouse at Centennial Park.

The concept is straightforward: BEKYA prides itself on fresh, tasty and handmade middle eastern goodies.

“We use family recipes and strictly local fresh ingredients,” Wally says. “Our food techniques include pickling, slow cooking meats, home-made Egyptian flatbreads and a variety of spice mixes.”

Their space has been carefully designed with an open layout, to encourage an environment of sharing a meal—an old, honoured tradition and an expression of hospitality.

Opening the popular middle eastern eateries has involved a sometimes-steep learning curve. That said, Wally says his experiences with Subway—including his established relationship with Coca-Cola Amatil—has made for a somewhat less bumpy ride.

“Funnily enough, my Coca-Cola representative from my Subway restaurants is now the area manager where BEKYA is located, so we already know each other,” he says

“They’ve actually provided invaluable help with our set up—from helping with the bar design to recommending and supplying our beverages at the restaurant.”

Coca Cola Amatil working with

When it comes to support, Coca-Cola Amatil has plenty to provide its customers. As well as advice on beverage selection and optimal stock levels, the team also provides bar runners, straw holders, and coasters; as well as decals to place behind the bar, reminding staff how to pour the perfect beverage. Around the restaurant, Coca-Cola Amatil offers branded glassware, signage and cutlery holders.  

Then there’s the personalized support on offer. Wally says due to his relationship over the years, and particularly because of the successful high volume trading with The Greenhouse café at Centennial Park, Coca-Cola Amatil came on board with the BEKYA brand from day one.

“They pretty much did our bar design—helping design for a maximum workflow of the bar area, including the coffee section at our flagship restaurant at The Tramsheds Harold Park,” he says.

“We went to their Grinders Coffee headquarters in Leichhardt, where we got Barista Training on their machines. Perhaps more importantly, we got their Alcohol Beverage Ambassador, Michael Nouri to meet with us and come up with a middle eastern cocktail menu using middle eastern flavours such as Hibiscus, Rosemary, Thyme, and Mint.

“As our business—BEKYA—continues to grow, I have no doubt Coca-Cola Amatil will grow with us.”

Related Article:

Five lessons I learned as a restaurateur

About the Author

Melanie Hearse has been working as a freelance writer for 15 years—covering new fads in food, exercise, adventure, travel and more.

 

Online Drives Customers to Your Door

For such small devices, smartphones have had a massive impact on the way we do almost everything, including marketing.  Long gone are the days when customers arrived at your doorstep by car or by foot.  These days, customers are most likely to find you online.

While creating a website is easier than ever before, it still takes time.  But there is another way to drive customers to your door that is both quick and easy to implement.

What is Google Maps?  

Google Maps is a web mapping service. It offers satellite imagery, street maps, 360° panoramic views of streets, real-time traffic conditions, and route planning.

If you’re not currently using this nifty feature, you may as well not exist.  People look through their smartphones like a second pair of eyes.  In 2015, the use of mobile devices surpassed the use of computers for local search activity.  An added bonus for those with websites, is that Google Maps is beneficial for search engine optimisation (SEO) as well.

Shopping and choosing with Google Maps

Mobile devices now play a significant role in shopping, with 52 per cent of smartphone users saying they look for local information while they’re on the go, and 90 per cent admitting they use their devices while actively shopping.

Significantly, Google reports that over half of consumers visited a store or business within one day of using their smartphone to conduct a local search. This means customers are increasingly relying on their smartphones to find the closest, and best choice for them.

So how do you make sure they find you?

Businesses with a website still carry the critical responsibility of making sure it is optimised for mobile browsing.  Not only is a mobile-responsive website easier to view, but optimised websites like these are automatically favoured by Google algorithms, allowing them to be seen above competitors in search results. For businesses in a saturated, competitive market, this can be the difference between success and failure.

If your business is not currently listed on Google Maps, you may as well be trading underground.  Not sure how to register? Follow these quick steps to get started:

Using your computer…

  • Open Google Maps and make sure you’re signed in;
  • Zoom in on the map and pinpoint the location of your business;
  • Towards the bottom right, click ‘Send feedback’;
  • Click ‘Add a missing place’;
  • Drag the marker where your business is, and add any relevant information;
  • Click ‘Submit’.

Avoid tiny mistakes

This may seem redundant to mention, but it’s imperative to check that your listed details are correct. A tiny mistake in your address or phone number could cost you thousands in traffic (not to mention dollars).  

Small businesses doing it well

Despite facing tough competition from a dozen or more pizzerias in close proximity, Queensland restaurant Julius Pizzeria not only shows up on searches for South Brisbane, but ranks higher in Google search results when searching for similar businesses in neighbouring suburbs too.

Additionally, the 103 overly positive reviews on Google (at the time of this article) further endorses the popularity of the venue, taking visitors straight to their website and online booking form.

Curiously, Julius Pizzeria is located down a relatively small laneway, with limited access and parking.  If the business was reliant on actual foot traffic, it’s possible that the cosy little restaurant might face the danger of never being found.  Fortunately, through maximising their online exposure, Julius is quickly gaining a reputation as a restaurant in demand.

Likewise, Carolina Kitchen is a cute American style diner in a little corner of Coorparoo.  A local search for several of their keywords takes customers straight to reviews on reputable sites or apps like Urbanspoon and Zomato.  These kinds of websites allow prospective diners to filter restaurants by location, putting them one click away from Google Maps for immediate directions.

Show up

It’s easy enough to make sure you show up in local searches even if you haven’t got your website up and running yet.  Let your customer’s smartphones drive them straight to your door. Top it off by wooing them with your food and service so they leave you with a great review as well.

About the Author

Lana de Kort is a published author and business writer with over 20 years experience working with industry, commerce and community.  In 2014 she co-founded a network of over 21 writers across Australia.