Janice Provost committed to continuing the legacy of Parigi – a Dallas, TX icon for 25 years – in 2001 and has succeeded in keeping the restaurant at the fore front of the city’s fine dining. This is no easy task given the diverse population of the Oak Lawn / Turtle Creek neighborhood that is home for some very discriminating palates, but Janice has been able to merge the founding philosophy of Parigi – fun, delicious food with an environment that makes everyone feel at home – with a drive to constantly update not only the menu, but the physical space to continually surprise and please her patrons.
In our interview, Janice shares some of her insights on how to run a long lasting organization and build the relationships that lead to success. Listen to the entire interview here (may take a few seconds to load)
Parigi’s location on Oak Lawn between Cedar Springs and Lemmon guarantees a diverse clientele. This includes people that have been coming to the restaurant for 25 years and consider it a part of their family life. Also included are empty nesters, business professionals, the gay community, employees from places like The Design Center, and visitors staying at various, upscale hotels in the area. However, Parigi is also a destination restaurant that draws patrons from more distant areas of Dallas.
The one thing they all have in common is an interest in high quality and exciting food in an environment that feels like a extended family.
Promotions is always a challenge, especially when combined with all of the other demands of restaurant ownership. Here is a quick checklist of Janice’s experience:
- Print advertising – Parigi has experimented with print advertising, but doesn’t do it anymore, mostly because there is no way to determine how effective it is.
- PR – when Parigi does appear in printed publications, it’s when an article is written about them. Helping fuel this – in addition to just having a great business – is Cause Marketing, such as participating in non-profit events and ongoing support for organizations like the Dallas Youth Village, which helps troubled youths learn social responsibility.
- Parigi’s website – this provides a place on the web for comprehensive restaurant information and menus submitted to the web developer are generally updated within 24 hours to keep things current.
- Local Search – (Zagat, CitySearch, Yelp, etc) Janice does Google Parigi to get an idea of what these sites say about the restaurant, but doesn’t actively manage a profile on any of these sites. She believes in the power of these sites and is interested in them, but it’s been a challenge to find the time that this management requires.
- Email Campaigns. Parigi does use email, but is very sensitive to over saturation. Once a week is too much, they target a monthly newsletter that combines various information at once.
- Blog – The Parigi blog gives an opportunity to express a more personal side, but time is something everyone has a shortage of. Janice is a big fan, but it does take a lot of effort.
Word of mouth is “huge” when it comes to being successful and there are some ways Janice recommends fostering the process:
- Be Awesome. Give a great experience and people will tell friends, but keep in mind – people will tell a friend about a great experience and 10 friends about a bad one.
- Hotel concierges – Janice has some experience with this and thinks it can be very effective. While Parigi has a great relationship with some of the local hotels, such as The Melrose and The Mansion, there are steps that can be taken to improve these relationships:
- Host special events for local concierges so they are more familiar with what you offer
- Make sure they have menus and other promotional material
- Thank them for sending patrons your way with a note or even a gift certificate
- Social Networking. Parigi maintains a profile on Facebook that allows them to share information with “fans.” In fact, Janice believes that telling friends and fans on Facebook that Parigi was nominated by WFAA for “Best New American Restaurant” helped them win the honor, showing how passionate patrons can be mobilized.
- Twitter – she’s looked into using Twitter, but hasn’t decided on how to incorporate it into the promotional strategy.
Parigi’s current philosophy is that connecting to patrons happens when they are in the restaurant, so that experience needs to be amazing. This includes providing a great and comfortable environment, amazing food and stellar service. Janice would like to enhance this by connecting in ways that extend beyond the in-restaurant period, but when juggling all of the other facets of the business, time is limited.
Parigi entices clientele with:
- The Food – the food obviously must be tremendous and Janice lives up to this demand. High quality food, a menu that changes weekly and willingness to explore different ideas (such as blending Italian, French, Indian and Asian influences in creative ways) keeps things new, exciting and delicious.
- Ties to the Community. Janice believes in supporting the local community that supports her. This includes sourcing many ingredients locally, displaying the works of local artists and supporting various non-profit activities.
- Longevity and quality of staff. The staff – referred to as Team Parigi – mostly consists of people that have been at the restaurant for over a year. This focus on employee relationships helps to insure smooth operations and is supported by treating the staff like family.
- Personalized relationships. Part of the staff’s responsibility is to build relationships with their patrons. This includes knowing their faces, names, what they like to drink or even how they like their fish cooked. It’s all about creating “comfort in feeling like they’re home.”
- Keep things Fresh. Every year, from July 3-10, Parigi closes and gets a make over to keep the environment “fresh.”
There are a few things that help Parigi simplify operations:
- POS System - Parigi uses Triangle POS which helps to identify what menu items are being successful, but is no replacement for listening to customers. The system itself is pretty good, although there have been some problems with customer service.
- Reservation Management – Janice thinks that reservation systems like Open Table are great, but isn’t convinced that it’s flexible enough to handle the dynamics of Parigi where tables are constantly rearranged to accommodate patrons. Plus, the added hardware would make for a tight fit in the intimate space. She is sticking to the pencil and paper tables chart, although she would like to be able to capture patron information like birthdays and anniversaries – right now this is done through customer survey cards.
- Great Accountant. A great accountant is indispensable and keeps things organized.
- Great vendors. Parigi is lucky enough to have vendors that are responsive and have the same discerning taste as the owners. Vendors that you can trust save time by paying attention to your best interests for you.
The ultimate measure of success is a packed house with happy patrons. Beyond that, Parigi doesn’t measure many metrics, although the call to action on Facebook for the WFAA competition does provide feedback on effort versus results. Janice also thinks that measuring things like web traffic can be valuable, but it is a question of having the time to focus on that information.
Words of Advice
Janice recommends running a small restaurant so you can focus on the patrons. Beyond that, be passionate, hire the right people, serve food you are proud of, and keep your patrons and employees happy.
Connect with Parigi’s and Janice Provost
Location (view map)
3311 Oak Lawn Ave # 102
Dallas, TX 75219-4200
Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dallas-TX/Parigi-Restaurant/47213581430?ref=search
September 25, 2009 @ 12:30 PM – Janice Provost will appear at Texas State Fair Celebrity Chef Demo
October 18, 2009 @ 12:30 – Chad Houser will appear at the Texas State Fair Celebrity Chef Demo
October 24, 2009 – Parigi offers extended sidewalk seating for the Oak Lawn Halloween Block Party. This is the restaurant’s biggest event of the year for what is described as the biggest Halloween party in the country, where patrons get to have table service and see some of the most outrageous costumes around. If you want a seat, be fore warned that people make reservations a year in advance.
After receiving her Marketing and Merchandising degree from Stephen F. Austin State University, Janice Provost worked in sales for 12 years. Her love of cooking and entertaining led her to cooking classes at El Centro College in Dallas, which helped Janice get her foot in the door by working for free at a local restaurant. Eventually, she was noticed by Parigi’s Executive Chef – Melody Wolfertz - who gave Janice a once a week paying job doing prep work. From that point, she worked her way up the kitchen hierarchy until, after 9/11 when she bought the restaurant and partnered with Abraham Salum as the Executive Chef.
After 3 years, Abraham moved on to pursue other opportunities and Janice added Executive Chef to her role as owner. Last year, she added Chad Houser as a partner to help continue the growing restaurant and catering business – both sharing the same vision and passion for food.
- Mr. Lemley – a local farmer in Canton, TX that has the “best tomatoes and peaches in the world.”
- Tassione Farms - husband and wife team that uses hydroponics to grow amazing produce and is open to suggestions about what customers want
- Yvaun Olsen from Chef’s Produce – she knows that when it’s tomato season, Parigi wants the best (from Mr. Linley) and has even been known to rush deliver things that were inadvertantly left off the shopping list within an hour. The prices are great and the service is priceless.
- Dominion Farms – a great provider of meat from Denison, TX
- Koster Meats
- Dallas Youth Village
- Alliance Food Equipment – stainless steel genius
- David Sutherland Inc. – outdoor banquette designs
- Brant McFarlain Designs – interior designer
- Shane Pennington – the restaurant’s resident artist
- Luther Menke with Village Garden and Gallery – Parigi’s florist
- Leonard Sloan and Associates - uniforms for the kitchen and waitstaff
- Chuck Kneeland – Managing Partner of Steel restaurant in Dallas and Atlanta…a dear friend and mentor
- GDRA (Greater Dallas Restaurant Association) – amazing and inspirational organization, from which Janice has learned so much
- El Centro Community College, culinary arts program
- Les Dames D’ Escoffier – an all female organization that raises scholarship funds for women who want to pursue a career in the culinary arts
- Jonathon with Republic Beverage
- Chas Martin with Pioneer Beverages
- Henry’s Ice Cream – creator of Parigi’s signature oatmeal chocolate chip ice cream
- Mozzarella Company