Ep134: Pat Rieli

Today on the More Cheese Less Whiskers podcast we're talking with Pat Rieli, who owns a restaurant in Ybor City near Tampa, called the Big Easy Bar.

This is a really fun episode. You hear me often talk about the restaurant experience as a great kind of visual or learning experience to understand the concept of the guest experience timeline, and so we really got to talk about that in this episode.

We talked about some strategies to bring in new people from the local area and people who are visiting from out of town, and we talked about the importance of building a list of local people who are already coming to your restaurant that you can continue to build a relationship with by email.

It was really fun to dig into some strategies and tactics they could deploy.

Show Links:

The Big Easy Bar

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Transcript - More Cheese Less Whiskers 134

Dean: Pat Rieli.

Pat: Yes, how are you doing, sir?

Dean: I'm good. How are you?

Pat: I'm good. I have two members of my management team. I was wondering if it was okay for them to kinda join in on the conversation a little bit?

Dean: Cool, that's awesome. We're live. We're recording, right now, and we've got a whole hour, so that's good. That's cool to have some of your team with you. Who do we have?

Pat: I've got Kristen and Lauren.

Dean: Hello, Kristen and Lauren.

I would love to kind of spend the time really thinking through what would be the best outcome for you. I'm interested to hear what would be the best thing that I could help you with?

Pat: I think, right now, we're at the point of, I guess, just getting more people in the door, and getting the word out. I think our local area, it seems like everybody that I talk to likes the bar, and the restaurant, and they all around the area have heard of it, or been in here. As soon as I meet new people, they all mention that.

Dean: Uh-huh.

Pat: It's just getting outside of our backyard a little bit, and getting people that are 10 minutes, 20 minutes down the road to know about us.

Dean: Okay. Can you tell me the story, just so we can get on the podcast here, the background of how you got to starting the restaurant and what the situation is? Where you are, that kind of thing.

Pat: I've owned tattoo shops in the past, and I kinda wanted to grow past that. And with the tattoo shops, you've got to keep the quality up. It's harder to teach people things here. It's easier to teach someone how to make cocktails, or have somebody else teach them, or how to make food, and whatnot.

Dean: Mm-hmm.

Pat: Three years ago, my brother and myself opened the bar in Ybor City. It's a New Orleans themed cocktails and cuisine. Yeah, it's the atmosphere up here, it's French architecture, Downtown Ybor, for people that are familiar. It's in Tampa.

Dean: Mm-hmm.

Pat: It's the historic district, and bar and restaurant district of the area.

Dean: Mm-hmm. And yeah, do you get a sense of how many of the people that are there are local versus how many of them are this is the only time they'll ever be here kind of thing? That they're coming from out of town, that it's that destination kind of thing?

Kristen:  Maybe 60/40.

Lauren:  Like 60 is residents. Yeah, I feel like a lot more regulars come in, but we do get a fair share, like off the cruise ships.

Pat: She said probably 60%. I don't know if you heard her well, but 60%.

Dean: I was just going to say is there a way that they could call in? Because we can have different connections on here. Can you give them the phone number to dial in, so they're on an individual line with us? And that'll be a much better. We'll be able to hear everybody.

Pat: Okay. Yeah. She was saying probably 60 regulars, and 40 people that are out of town people, we'll see.

Dean: Okay. The part of the thing is it's got to be that nice balance, right? Of being able to spread the word locally, getting as many of the local people as we can to come and to keep coming back. And then, to show up on the radar of people, who are coming from out of town, that this is the place to go. That's kinda two different strategies, I guess, as we look at it that way.

Pat: Yeah.

Dean: Yeah. Now, do you have a way of, like do you have contact information for people? Do you have a list of regular patrons?

Pat: Other than Instagram and Facebook, we don't at the moment. We just redid our website. I was speaking with the gentleman that did the website about having a sign-up for email lists and receive a free entrée or a free appetizer, or something. We will be starting that shortly. But at the moment, just Facebook and Instagram.

Dean: Gotcha. Oh my goodness. Pat, you sound like you're in a train station here.

Pat: Yeah, I think because she was right next to me with her phone because she patched in.

Dean: Okay, so we can get a little distance between you. Perfect. That's good.

How many people do you have right now on those, that you could email or mail about anything? How many are on that list, right now?

Pat: As far as the email, we haven't started it yet. Like I said, they just redid the website, so we did talk to them about getting that up and I don't think he has yet.

Dean: Okay.

Pat: So like I said, mainly Facebook and Instagram at the moment.

Dean: Okay. And how much reach do you have with those? How many followers on Facebook and Instagram?

Pat: Kristen handles that.

Kristen:  The Instagram is about 800, around there. And then a little bit over 2,000.

Dean: Okay, good. That's a nice foundation. I mean, that's the kind of thing that you could build on there. Have you done anything, what kind of strategies have you been using now to bring new people in, that's worked for you?

Pat: We've done Yelp. I didn't see a whole lot of return on the Yelp ads. Just did that for a couple years. It had plenty of time for it to work. We do Facebook and Instagram ads. I've done flyers for events. Word-of-mouth just from employees and whatnot, people around here. We seem to retain the people that we get in pretty well, and then doing a good word-of-mouth about the bar and the restaurant.

Dean: Uh-huh (affirmative). What kind of offer have you found to be the best? How do you think about when you're doing the Facebook ads, for instance? What would you deem it a success, if you got this much result kind of thing?

Kristen:  We do a lot of different ad sets. We do a lot of A/B testing with our ads as well, just kind of seeing what was a success, and what wasn't a success. A lot of the times, I'll do the same ad or a little bit different of an ad, but with a different following or audience for the ad, and see which one performs better. And then, trying to toss $5 more in this because this one's performing better than that one.

Dean: I gotcha. And how do you measure that performance? Like how do you know it's performing?

Kristen:  I pull analytics reports.

Dean: Uh-huh.

Kristen:  And then, I kind of analyze the data, myself. That's what I used to do, before I actually started working for Pat.

Dean: Okay.

Kristen:  I would take social media platforms for the company that I worked for, so Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. And then, I would pull the company data, see what we did for each post, how that performed. The same with our ads, and kind of analyze it, and then make determinations on what we need to improve or what we need to change.

Dean: Are you making specific offers, like to bring people into the restaurant? Is that what you're measuring?

Kristen:  I think…

Dean: Yeah, guys.

Kristen:  Sorry.

Dean: Yeah.

Kristen:  He had us all call in. So now, Lauren and Pat's phones are too close to each other.

Lauren:  No, I'm not too close to him, either.

Kristen:  I'm sorry, what was your question?

Dean: I was going to ask is one following the measurements, the number of people that come into the restaurant, or are you measuring that engagement of the ads?

Kristen:  It's not. So most of the time, it's like engagement, reach. Hey, we reached 5,000 people this time. Hey, we had 7,000 people engaged this time, likes, comments, shares. A lot of what I do is more social, it's more digital.

Dean: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Kristen:  I do try to get people in the door, but with those ads on Facebook, Instagram, all that kind of stuff. It's a little bit harder to gauge how you're getting those people into the door, unless you ask them when they're here.

Dean: Right.

Kristen:  And that's the problem that we have is a lot of the times, just whenever a bartender or server is taking care of our customer that has not come in, like hey, how did you learn about us? How did you find out about us?

Dean: Mm-hmm.

Kristen:  I never hear that question come out of our staffs' mouths ever.

Dean: Right, right. Right, right.

Kristen:  Like I've heard that maybe one or two times, so it's really hard to kinda determine the success of getting people through the door with your ad, when you can't gauge that with Facebook and Instagram's main ad set page, or ad manager.

Dean: Have you don't anything like a gift card, or something that people can download?

Kristen:  Our gift cards are not downloadable, so I'm not sure how we would be able to manage that. Everything that with have is paper. We'd have to look into switching over to like a downloadable gift card, but I mean if Pat's down for it.

Dean: Right. And part of that thing is that one of the great opportunities is having people come into the restaurant. Like if you have a good feeling that most of the people that come in, will come back again, that you've got them as a recurring customer, then it makes sense to have some kinda measurable way of bringing people in for the first time.

Kristen:  Absolutely. One thing that we did that worked really well, but it wasn't for first-time visitors. Because we were advertising it on our social media, and so our Instagram, Facebook ads were like if you come in and you use this specific hashtag, which we also monitor with our UPshow that we have here, which is a social engagement platform. What we would do is go ahead and say we're going to put you in a drawing. So if you are selected to have your photo featured on our actual page, whether it be in our feed or on our story, then it was like a free gift card, I think, or a free drink. And then, after that, at the end of the month, everyone that got featured was put into a pot to win like a $75 gift card. That did definitely help us. We had a lot of positive feedback about that.

Dean: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Part of the thing, that's part of where looking at a real tangible, measurable way of bringing people into the restaurant for the first time. I've been having a lot of success with local businesses, all kinds of different businesses, of doing a gift card as a way that people can download it and It's not 20% off, or it's not 50% off, or it's not buy-one-get-one, it's like an actual monetary value gift card. It'd be like a $10 gift card, or a $20 gift card. Where when you look at it, your real hard costs of fulfilling on that, of course, would be a third of it probably, for whatever your food costs are. Because the facility, you're already there, and you've already got the servers and all that stuff. So filling that excess capacity at a really reasonable rate, but the value of it is that now you have a visible prospect, right? Somebody that you can email directly and that's a big advantage over just potential reach with your Facebook or Instagram, whether it shows up organically for them or not. With the email, you've got the best shot to go directly to them and bring them in.

If you start looking at it, like Pat, I'll ask you. If we could line them up outside the door, what would you cheerfully pay to have a new customer or a new couple comes to the restaurant for the first time?

Pat: For the first time? I mean, I don't know what it would be, the breakdown for each individual. I mean, $30 a couple?

Dean: Yeah, and so you'd look...

Pat: $40 a couple.

Dean: Yeah. I mean, you'd look at the thing that what percentage would your food costs be for if somebody had a $20 ticket?

Pat: It's typically between 30 and 40% of food cost.

Dean: Okay.

Pat: If they get a good item, 30%. If it's a higher item, 40.

Dean: Yeah. And so, you look at that, and your hard cost on that is a third of what the face value would be of the gift card, right? And so, when you start to look at that, if everything is dialed in and it really is a great restaurant, and great food, and people love it. And once they come, they're like, "We've got to come back," and you've got a way to continue to invite them back and measure that. It's a win to have as many people as you can kind of jump-starting in that way.

Now, one of the things that we've done with different businesses. My girlfriend owns a studio here in Winter Have that does micro blading for eyebrows. She has a studio called Amazing Brows and Lashes, and we've been running $100 gift card offers for women within 15 miles of the studio. And we're able to get those gift card downloads for less than $2, so it costs on the ad spend about $1.80 or $1.50 to get somebody to download that $100 gift card, which amounts to a 20% discount on the service. Like if it costs $500 to do the micro blading, rather than saying 20% off, $100 gift card is the same outcome, but it feels so much more valuable, right? It feels like I can respond for that now and mark my future intention of getting my eyebrows done.

And the same thing is true with doing it this way for a restaurant is that if you were to offer people a $20 gift card or a $50 gift card, and you could experience. Do split testing to see how low is the amount that you can get the lead for the least amount of money. Like will a $10 gift card get the same amount of downloads as $20 gift card, or a $50 gift card, you know?

Pat: Yeah. Now, are you getting those two people just through an email list that you have, or are you using a platform?

Dean: On Facebook and Instagram to a targeted audience within a radius of your restaurant. Now, you can also do this and one of the great things about the targeting options for Facebook is you could target people, who live within five miles of your restaurant, who live right there in Ybor City or around. You could target people in Hyde Park, or you could target people in the neighborhoods, where you want to kind of get people to come a little bit further to get to you kind of thing.

Kristen:  Yeah, we do. Sorry to interrupt there. We do our ads, most of them, they are already set to have at least liked a 30-mile radius, so you're targeting within the Tampa Bay area.

Dean: Right.

Kristen:  And I'll include like the additional audience features to include people that are interested in Orlando, or Lakeland, or that kind of stuff. We do geo-targeting and additional audience insights as well for the ad.

Dean: Right. And one of the great things too is targeting people, who are visiting the area. One of the targeting options that you can show a different ad, a completely different ad to people who are in Ybor City that don't live in Ybor City, that are 125 miles away or further, right? People coming from out of town, you can show an ad just to them in the moment, like where they're there for the trip and you want to try and encourage them to come in, while they're here. One of the nights that they've got, we've got to go to this place. We've got to go try this restaurant.

Pat: Yeah, would that be good, you think, for like a first time, just like for people that are coming in for their first time here?

Dean: I think that would be a different thing, like where you look at it for the people who live here, I would look at it's worth investing in having even a little higher dollar amount gift card as the starting of the relationship with them because you've got many, many weeks to win them back. To build them into a regular customer, where if they're coming two or three times a month would be like a nice regular kind of customer for you, right?

Pat: Definitely.

Dean: If somebody's visiting out from out of town, you've only got maybe the seven nights that they're in Tampa, or the weekend that they're here, or that whatever it is. It's not that you're going to be able to build a long-term person with that, so having something like a different approach to that, that they view it as we've got to go check this place out, while we're here. You know?

Pat: Yeah.

Dean: Yeah, so different approaches and different things. What you could also do, which is really neat targeting-wise is targeting people whose birthdays are coming up. That's one of the targeting options on the audience that you could show it to people who have a birthday coming up.

Pat: Yeah. You can do like a free dinner for the birthday person, and they're going to bring someone else in with them, obviously.

Dean: Exactly. That's the thing that they're going to do is bring other people.

Now, the guys who do my postcard mailings, they're in Sarasota, but they've got a division that does birthday postcards, where we did some experimenting where you can mail. They have trigger data for basically every American, you can get a list of people within one mile, two mile, five miles of your restaurant that are celebrating a birthday next month, and we would send birthday postcards to those people, offering a gift card download. And those would get a really high ROI, because you're giving somebody a gift, and it's highly likely that when people are having a birthday, that they're going to come with more than just them. They may have four, or six, or eight people with them for their birthday dinner.

Pat: Yeah, I'd definitely be interested in something like that.

Dean: Yeah, and that's worth testing because it's something that is local too, you know?

Pat: Yes.

Dean: Mm-hmm. And you guys, you've got some of the social media skills on your team there, which is great, to be able to manage that kinda thing.

Pat: Yeah, that's why I wanted Kristen to be included in this conversation. I actually don't even have a Facebook or Instagram. I have them for my businesses.

Dean: Right.

Pat: Any of those questions, I wouldn't have been able to answer 'em, like I'm going to have her up here just because I know that's going to come up.

Dean: That's awesome. Yeah, and that's great. That way, the double win of that is that you're building a subscriber list, which is going to be valuable because then you can email every week with here's what's going on, or you can make it a really fun thing, and maybe add a lot of value with that. Do you have special dishes that you're known for, or because it's all the New Orleans style type of food?

Pat: Yeah, there are multiple items, I would say that we're known for. I think gator bites, jambalaya, gumbo.

Dean: Uh-huh. And I think those kinds of things, it might be fun. Are any of your chefs what you would call celebrity chef potential? Would you have anybody, who could be like the star of the reality show that you could create kind of thing?

Pat: I mean, could create maybe. Not one that has been or anything like that. I did have shortly after we first opened, one of our chefs had a friend that he learned from in Scotland that was a Michelin Star chef that was in Tampa a month ago. But outside of my chefs being able to work, that's pretty much the highest award you could get for a chef.

Dean: Uh-huh.

Pat: They got to work with him for a month. But as far as us promoting it, we didn't really promote it much. He was here to do an article about some fine dining in the area, so he was actually more in our restaurant than theirs.

Dean: Yeah. And you know, here's the thing. I had some really interesting experience, last year. I got to meet and visit Shep Gordon. There was a movie about him called Supermensch, which came out a few years ago, and he's Alice Cooper's manager. He's like this big music and entertainment manager, and he is the guy who invented the whole concept of the celebrity chef. And it was kind of a really interesting story about how it came about because he really became friends with this Michelin Star chef in Europe, who was people would come and hear him speak, and watch him cook. He became like revered in Europe kind of thing, and in the US, it was just starting to happen like that. That people were getting known. And then, he had a friend, who started, bought a television network, and he was interested in starting a food network.

And so, Shep, through this other chef, had met all the best chefs in the country and had created this opportunity now, where he had a relationship with them, that he got together with the guy starting the Food Network and packaged it up, so that he would bring these chefs and provide content for the network for free in exchange for ad time on the network. He created all of these chefs that came out of that, like Emeril Lagasse, and Paul Prudhomme, and Nobu, and Wolfgang Puck, and all these chefs that became household names because they got on television.

I always kind of had been paying attention to that in terms of how celebrity kind of works, like how you can actually manufacture it. The reason they're famous is because they were on TV. They weren't on TV because they were famous as much. And so, when you look at now and you carry it forward, that reality TV is the newest. That's the normal thing now, and you have this opportunity to create and turn somebody into a celebrity.

And so, I look at it that there's probably an opportunity to do some local version of that on Facebook, where one or more of your chefs are showing people how to cook these specialty dishes. That it's really just kind of getting that awareness for people. And then, of course, once it's a known thing and people like them, they want to go and go to the celebrity restaurant, you know?

Pat: Yeah. I've talked with, actually, Lauren is here with me, my manager. We're going to do, so it's educational, I was going for educational. For the bartenders, we were already going to do that. So when people came to bartend with us, they'd have that available. We were going to start a YouTube channel, and also use it as promotion a little bit, so that would go right along with that. I've already been talking to. You know Ben. I talked to his videographer, like a week or so ago about doing it for me.

Dean: Nice. You're already thinking that way. That's kind of a cool thing.

Pat: Yeah. I hadn't really thought much into the chef, yet. It was more of the bartenders and the bar, but I think the chef would be a good idea too.

Dean: Yeah, because then it becomes now when somebody is coming in from a place, it's like now everybody kinda knows who this person is. It makes a difference.

Pat: Yeah, it creates that familiar face.

Dean: Yes, that's exactly right. It puts a face to it, and that way, people feel like they're more comfortable and at home kind of thing. It's nice, the familiarity of it, rather than that they don't know. A lot of times, people are judging a restaurant by the name and the look, and the vibe of it as they're driving by or walking by, or seeing it, because they don't have a context for it. They can't judge it by the food because they've never been, and that's why sometimes the Yelp reviews are important that way. What are other people saying kind of thing, but that's more on the organic side than on the advertising side of it, you know?

Pat: Yes.

Dean: Certainly, you want to set it up, so that you get those reviews, and you get the high ratings.

Now, let's talk about what's happening with what's going on in the restaurant with people that you have, right now. As far as that experience, and maybe optimizing some of that. This was one of the kind of textbooks things that we talk about when I illustrate the before unit, the during unit, and the after unit. I've shared that with you, one of the first times that we talked. But this during unit, from the moment somebody comes into the restaurant until the time they leave is there's a lot of opportunity there to get some strategic outcomes of that visit. One of those would be measuring your average ticket per diner and looking at that as a ratio kind of thing. How do you measure that, right now? Do you look at the number of people that come through each night, and the total volume?

Pat: You know, we don't have time.

Dean: What do you track about that?

Pat: We don't have time actual people to tickets, so we don't know if it's an eight-person party or a two-person party.

Dean: Okay.

Pat: But we do pay attention to tickets. I haven't done a ticket cost in a while to see the average. It's probably been at least eight months, but I know it used to be around $30 a person, the last time we were averaging parties and tickets. That was when one of my old managers was doing that.

Dean: Yeah.

Pat: Yeah. So yeah, it's been a little while since we'd do that. I track say just daily sales each day.

Dean: Yeah. So how many people typically would be a typical day?

Pat: Lauren?

Lauren:  Like...

Pat: I think it's so hit-or-miss from day-to-day.

Dean: Yeah.

Pat: I mean, if it was Monday or a Tuesday, or a Friday. Tuesdays have been kinda slow, but Sundays during football season.

Lauren:  It's crazy.

Pat: It's ridiculous. I mean, last week we were standing room only, and we had probably at least probably 100 people in here on a Sunday, so that was just for the game, not counting the whole day.

Dean: Right.

Pat: It's so hit-or-miss from day-to-day. I mean, Ybor has a lot of events that go on, set all of up next to us.

Dean: Yeah, for the weekend. Like the weekends are probably not your problem, or not. Right? The weekends, because it's just the tide rolls in on the weekends and you're in there, and right in the epicenter, and you've got more opportunities that way, for sure.

But this is where some of these strategies that you deploy on the nights when it's busy can help fill or balance out the nights where it's slow, right?

Pat: Yes.

Dean: Like the regulars can come back Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, kind of thing. That's what we're really looking for there. You also have to look at it that each zone, each day and timezone is almost like an individual little ecosystem, right? I don't know if you do brunch, or do anything on Sunday, or whatever, but that would be a different crowd than the crowd on Sunday night, or Sunday afternoon for football, or the crowd on Friday or Saturday night, who are downtown in Ybor. And different, again, from what you get at lunchtime on the weekdays. And each of those can have a different strategy to kind of optimize those. It's kinda like you're running a television network, that there's different primetime, and daytime, and morning as the slots. And the goal of a program director is to program the programming that will attract an audience at each of those times, not just on Sunday, when football is on. Right?

Pat: Yes.

Dean: One of the metrics that we measure is the looking to improve that average ticket by strategically looking at what are the opportunities that we have in the experience? We kind of lay out the guest experience map, the timeline from the moment somebody arrives until the time that they pay and leave as zones of where we have an opportunity to add different things.  If, right now, we had 100 people come through and it's a $30 average ticket, that would mean that at the end of the night or end of the day, we'd have 100 people come through and generate $3,000. That would be the standard there.

Pat: Yes.

Dean: Now, what we would look at is the goal is to now get strategically raise that. Because right now, you don't have a way it sounds like of attracting or gathering contact information from people, who come to the restaurant.

Pat: Yeah. I mean outside of maybe giving them a questionnaire and offering like a free appetizer if they fill something out, and it includes it.

Dean: Right.

Pat: Or like say on the website, it's similar to that.

Dean: Yeah, but it doesn't sound like that's a primary focus, or that's focused in that's the standard thing.

Pat: No, it's something we can try and implement, but it’s something we focus on.

Dean: Right, and that's something that could be a really great initial step, right? We start looking at the experience, and you start looking at the benchmarks along the way. So somebody arriving at the restaurant, somebody getting seated. They take their order. The food gets prepared. The food comes out. They enjoy the meal. They have desert or drinks, or coffee, or not. And then, they pay, and then they leave. Those are kind of the benchmarks along the way.

And so, a look at each of those zones and start to see what could we do that would create an outcome here that would increase the value of that 100 people that come through here, right now? And so, if you looked at the time from taking their order until the time the food arrives, and if you were to add in just a little 10 or 12-second interaction that welcomed people and said if you had a birthday club or somebody could join. That if you said to them if you join our birthday club, you could celebrate tonight with some birthday cake. And then, you get a $20 gift card on your birthday, and here's the card to do it. And if you did that to 100 people that you might have some number greater than zero of the people who leave their contact information, so you might now have 100 people come through the restaurant. They each spend $30 and you have 3,000 at the end of the night. And in addition to that, we have 30, 40, 50, 60 people, who have left their contact information to now you're building this list of people who come to the restaurant, right? You know who they are, now.

You've got a contact database that we're building, and that becomes valuable because you'll be able to invite people back. You'll be able to build something around their birthday and the chance of them coming in with their six, eight, 10 friends that are coming in for the birthday. There's a lot of good stuff that could come from that. And once that's locked in, then you kind of start looking at the other opportunities. And maybe you start to look at the things like, do you serve wine in your restaurant?

Pat: Yeah, we serve wine.

Dean: Yeah. So maybe along with the entrées, you have the chef make a particular wine pairing that goes with an entrée. And as somebody's ordering the entrée that is right there on the menu, this is the suggested wine pairing with that. And maybe that wine pairing is a wine that might be a premium over just your house wine if somebody gave me a glass of red, but the one that the chef is recommending with this pairing might be a 20% premium over that or something. And to measure, so you start breaking down the components of these things to measure the impact of what you can do. Now, if instead of $30 ticket, that could raise to $36 per person ticket. And the same 100 people, and 30, 40, 50 people, who've joined your contact database, it's layering and stacking the value per 100 visitors. That's a nice metric to pay attention to, and to measure.

Pat: Yes, I think that'd be easy enough to have a nice sheet made up that could even go into a check presenter, so everyone at least sees it and train staff to at least mention it to them.

Dean: Yes. And then, you start looking at each component, right? Where you start to think, what if you really became really... or a particular desert, or a particular appetizer that people rave about? That you've got to have this, like you go to probably the most famous kind of example of that would be like the Outback with their flaming onion or their onion blossom, whatever that appetizer is that they have, or a particular cocktail, or something that they visually get to see this is like the thing that you're known for or that you've got to have here. And something, maybe it could be something even extreme, or remarkable, something that people are going to remark about, or something that comes presented with something that is Instagrammable or that it's going to go on their story or something if it's visually something amazing.

Pat: Yeah, I think we've got more of our cocktails that I would say are known like that. Our food is good, but I think it's more broad. There's not one thing that stands out. I think our cocktails, like our Old-Fashioneds, definitely everyone loves.

Lauren:  Yeah, definitely. People walk in, and they're like, "I hear you make a great Old-Fashioned," and we're like yeah, that's what we're known for. People always come in to try them.

Dean: Yes. And that's the kind of thing, right? So maybe that, and even just presenting that for people that if it's like if you were voted the best Old-Fashioned in Ybor, or that you're mentioning it to people. Sometimes people are just very suggestible like that.

But all of that stuff, that metric of the revenue per 100 customers, diners, is a metric that is driven completely by isolating the opportunities within that guest experience. And really, shopping it like a guest would.

Have you guys ever seen that show, Hotel Impossible on the Travel Channel?

Pat: I literally don't have cable.

Dean: Good for you. Look at you, you're a freak. I don't have cable. I don't have Instagram or Facebook. I work out, and I run my business.

Pat: Yeah, I think my extent of TV is Netflix.

Dean: I love it.

Pat: That's only when the girl's over. If she's over. If she's not over, I'm either reading, working out, or at one of my businesses.

Dean: That's so great. I love that. You are an anomaly among men. That's great. Good for you.

Pat: I think, actually, all three of us don't have cable as far as that. They've got social, but they don't have cable.

Dean: I love it. It's great. Basically, what Anthony Melchiorri is the host of the show. And what he does is he basically arrives at these hotels and he's walking the whole from the approach to the hotel, on. He's going through and he's looking at it through the eyes of a guest arriving, and he is seeing how the arrival to the hotel, the outside of it, how it looks, that you can tell whether somebody's paying attention, or whether somebody's letting things run down. And in the lobby, and the whole the way they're greeted, and all of that stuff. If you think about that experience as the moment somebody gets within 100 feet of your restaurant, that's game on, that whole experience is orchestrated look theater in a way, right? You can measure the benchmarks along the way, and have the best practices.

If you really think about it, the value over time of those whatever 12 or 15-second articulation that you have of your, whether it be the birthday club, or your some kind of club, some whatever you decide to call it or do with it, that 15 seconds presented to somebody after their food order has been taken and they're coming to refill the water and let them know that their food should be up shortly. That little period there, that investment of time is going to be a really valuable thing.

I think that sort of feeling that you're bonding with people, that everybody feels like an insider, you know? Who does that really well is STK. Have you been to an STK?

Pat: I haven't.

Dean: Okay.

Pat: I'm getting no's all around.

Dean: Okay, great. Well, STK is a steak high-end kind of hip steak restaurant. There's one in Toronto and everybody on the team, everybody is kind of empowered to bond with people, so that people feel like an insider. The manager's always coming up to introduce himself to people in a friendly way. Not in the kind of corporate stiff way that, "Hi, I'm the manager. If there's anything." Not like that. They're coming up to actually connect with people, and want people to feel like an insider, likely where they give you a business card and that want you to feel like you are an insider.

I was just in Phoenix, and this was how something played out that kinda illustrates that was with a guy who lives in Scottsdale, is local. And we were in a group, there were people from out of town, and somebody asked him what kind of restaurant recommendations do you have, because it's a you must know all the good restaurants in town. And he asked them what kind of food they like, and asked, "Do you like sushi?" And they said, "Yes." So he goes, "Okay. I got it. I've got you handled." He took out his phone, and he's texting the general manager at this restaurant called Sushi Roku in Scottsdale, and he's saying, "Can you make a reservation for eight people at 7:00 PM, and give them the double royal treatment kind of thing?"

It was so impressive that he felt empowered to introduce this place to these people, and I thought what an asset that restaurant owner has in a guy like that, who feels like he's fully empowered. He told me the story of how that actually happened, that he came there and the general manager noticed that he had come in a few times. And he came and befriended him, and gave him his card. He said, "Listen, if you ever have anybody that wants to come in here, you just text me, and we'll roll out the red carpet for them." People love to feel like an insider, you know?

Pat: That's kinda like the tribe theory. Everybody wants to feel like they're a part of it.

Dean: That's exactly right, yeah. I think that's really a great opportunity that you have, once you sort of start connecting with people individually. When you start connecting with them as recognizing that they're a regular, or once somebody has their email. Once you have their email, you've got the ability to communicate with them, bond with them, and it can make a big difference because you're building a relationship with them, and that goes a long way.

Pat: I feel like a lot of our staff is really good at that with the regulars. It can always grow on it and try to do it sooner with people that aren't regulars.

Dean: Right.

Pat: But I feel like our weekly regulars, a lot of people think they all feel like they're involved here. I mean, we get a lot of customers that'll text us and be like, "Save my seat. I'm going to be there at 2:00."

Dean: Right, exactly. Yeah, yeah. But that's awesome.

There was a restaurant in Toronto that had a wall of these steins that were of these mugs kind of thing that people would have this little peg that their beer stein would hang on this wall of the regulars kind of thing. They'd come in for all the hockey games or whatever, and they're able to drink beer from their own chalice kind of thing. And it was just a funny thing that those are the regulars.

I've heard some of the places, I think it's a place in Boston that actually sells their bar stools like season tickets for the hockey games, that you can reserve seating in a bar stool for the hockey games.

Pat: My buddy is about to open a restaurant right down the road called The Bowery, and he's got a James Beard Award-winning chef coming from Charleston and they're doing it up all real nice, and they're going to have a small area with like four or five seats in an open kitchen.

Dean: Yes.

Pat: They're going to have eat with a chef.

Dean: yes.

Pat: And they're going to actually sell tickets on their website to sit and eat with their chef.

Dean: Yeah, that's a great idea. I did something like that at a restaurant in Toronto, and we had a group of eight that went through there, and it was a premium. It was expensive to do, and you're drinking expensive wines and because they're making their recommendations and stuff with it. But it was a great experience because you're literally right there in the kitchen, you know?

Pat: Yeah.

Dean: Yeah. I mean, there's so much opportunity to be a creative relationship-builder in the restaurant business. It just feels like such a great living, moving thing, you know?

Pat: Yes, it's just getting all the staff on board. Like I said, ours really do it really good with regulars. We're trying to get them to create that relationship, instead of taking on one that's already been started.

Dean: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's something that people want to do. People look forward to coming out.

Pat: Yeah.

Dean: I've said a lot of stuff here, but how have you heard this stuff, or what's landed, or any questions or thoughts about what we've been sharing, so far?

Pat: I think I've taken in a lot as far as keeping people in seats longer, creating more of a bond, starting an email list, which I own a couple other businesses too. And I just got on my staff the other day on we're about to move the business to a new a location. I'm purchasing a building, and I'm like, "I've been telling you guys for years, pretty much, put everyone's information in when you do a sale and to have their email." I could be emailing thousands of people, right now. We don't have their emails. We've been trying to get back on top of that a little bit. I definitely, I think it's a good idea to start something like that here.

Dean: Yeah. That's the most, that's such a valuable thing because that way, you can literally create something on a Tuesday, that you can have a special Tuesday situation. Tuesday night supper club or something that you get the regulars to come to the first Tuesday of the month, something special that you do. Or you could think about the zones, where you have the most free space to really target filling that space, you know?

Pat: Yeah, definitely.

Dean: Yeah.

Pat: Yeah, I think I got a good amount from this. I know both the girls are taking notes.

Dean: Good. I love it.

Pat: Kristen is very hands on with marketing. Her last job was a marketing job, and she went to school for marketing.

Dean: I love it. Tell me again, like real clear, the name of the restaurant, and the website. So that anybody listening, if they're in Ybor City, they can come by.

Pat: It's the Big Easy Bar and Cajun Cuisine is the name of it, and then I think it's The Big Easy Ybor is the website, I believe.

Kristen:  The website is TheBigEasyBar.com.

Dean: TheBigEasyBar.com.

Kristen:  And then, our Instagram is TheBigEasyBarTampa

Dean: Okay. The BigEasyBarTampa for Instagram. Okay.

Kristen:  BigEasy.

Dean: And if they come by, you'll give them the double royal NOLA welcome.

Pat: We'll give them a triple.

Dean: The triple. Well, that's exactly right. I love it. That's awesome. Well, I really enjoyed it. You guys, I think there's a lot of potential there.

I think I'd mentioned to you, Pat, I was down there at Le Méridien a couple of weeks ago.

Pat: Yeah.

Dean: And so, we're going to be back in the Valentine's week there. I think we'll be back down in Tampa, so I'll definitely connect with you because I'd love to come by.

Pat: Yeah. We'll have to get together and get the royal treatment. I know a nice bar, I can buy you some drinks and some food.

Dean: Perfect. I like what I'm hearing. All right, guys. Thanks so much. I had a great time, and thank you guys for coming in remotely. This makes really good fun.

Pat: All right. Thanks a lot.

Dean: Okay. I'll talk to you guys soon.

Kristen:  Thank you. Bye.

Dean: Thanks. Bye, bye.

Pat: Take care. Bye.

Dean: And there we have it. I can't wait to see how this all plays out, because that metric of measuring the revenue per 100 tickets, 100 guests, is a great metric that will really be a good thing to benchmark to kind of move forward with and see the improvement. Not to mention the value of adding more people to the list of being able to communicate with people and invite people to things that are going on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or in the less busy times of the day.

Good sports. I'd love to hear what's going on, and I will be checking out the Big Easy in the next couple of weeks. I can't wait to experience it, myself. If you'd like to continue the conversation here, you can go to MoreCheeseLessWhiskers.com. You can download a copy of the More Cheese Less Whiskers book. And if you'd like to be a guest on the show, you could just click on the be a guest link.

And always, if you'd like to see how the eight profit activators are either growing or slowing your business right now, try our profit activator scorecard. You can do it all online at ProfitActivatorScore.com.

That's it for this week. Have a great week, and I'll talk to you, next time.