“Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business” by Danny Meyer, the founder of numerous New York City restaurants, has long been viewed as a “must read” book for restaurateurs. But one admitted Meyer admirer, Frank Klein, founder and CEO of Asian Box, thinks there’s a lot that Meyer neglected to say in his widely acclaimed book.
|Frank Klein thinks aspiring restaurateurs need to know the whole story about the business.|
Klein, who believes the book is important and considers Meyer, whom he has met, a “good guy,” rattled off a list of things that aspiring restaurateurs need to know before they take the big plunge into running a restaurant during the “Three:15” session at the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit in Louisville.
Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group — which includes Shake Shack, Union Square Café, Eleven Madison Park, Hudson Yards Catering, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard, Tabla and Hudson Yards Sports and Entertainment — is a big optimist, according to Klein.
‘Not all unicorns and pixie dust’
“It’s not all unicorns and pixie dusts, now is it?” Klein said of the restaurant business. Meyer, in his book, failed to include information about the industry’s “dark net,” Klein said.
Klein insisted he loves the restaurant business in spite of its faults, but he thinks newcomers need to get the full story.
Two factors that affect a restaurant’s success are luck and timing, according to Klein. These are factors that a business owner has no control over when they open for business. The business changes quickly, he said.
Meyer does not explain how to raise money from strangers, Klein said, something that is very hard to do but usually necessary for restaurant owners. Nor how to project cash flow five years into the future, especially if the entrepreneur plans to open multiple stores.
Meyer does not explain how to manage a $1 milliion project to within 5 percent of the budget, Klein said.
Nor does Meyer explain how to manage the workflow of a kitchen for a restaurant designed for 700 patrons, according to Klein.
Motivating employees is an important part of the business, Klein said, and a restaurant owner has to realize that not every employee is going to be motivated.
Tracking employee use of company vehicles will be a testing experience for restaurant owners, Klein said. He also recalled one incident when an employee with his arm in a sling removed the sling to help move things, then put it back on.
Meyer, according to Klein, does not explain the difficulty of dealing with labor organizations. Klein said he knows from experience that no matter what a restaurant owner does in California, he said he thinks the state’s labor board considers restaurant owners evil.
Restaurant owners also need to know how to write a compelling cease-and-desist order when a competitor steals their menu. While the internet has brought many benefits, it has also made it easy for competitors to steal other peoples’ pictures. One competitor actually used one of Klein’s pictures that included his trademark. Writing cease-and-desist orders takes time and costs money, he said.
Klein not a dream killer
Klein insisted he was not trying to discourage people from pursing their goals. He supports cause marketing that restaurants are embracing, and he encourages them to find causes to support they are passionate about.
“Doing the right thing is not a fad anymore,” he said. “Keep it simple.”
Klein also urged his listeners not to give in to the temptation to stop accepting cash. He admitted that he hates dealing with cash, but there is still a need for it.
“It’s annoying as hell, but you need to take it,” he said.
It is also necessary for a restaurant to use social media, which takes work, Klein said.
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