June 26, 2017

Chuck Kneeland – Steel Restaurant

Chuck Kneeland - Steel Restuarant

Chuck Kneeland - Steel Restuarant

Chuck Kneeland is a veteran of the restaurant industry. His career started waiting tables in Austin, TX and has led to Managing Partner of Steel Restaurant Atlanta and Vice President of the restaurant management company, Restaurant Works. Along the way he has honed his experience growing national restaurant brands, starting several of his own restaurants, and helping to turn around struggling brands – learning several key things along the way:

  • Offer high quality food, service, beverage and environment.
  • Surround yourself with a great staff.
  • Provide structure and systems to manage uncertainty, but allow flexibility.
  • Aggressively squash issues before they spread. If you have an unhappy customer, hunt them down and delight them.
  • Finally, Adapt, Adapt, Adapt – 1) pay attention to your patrons, your neighborhood, the economy, technology, marketing trends …. and…. everything else. 2) Make adjustments as necessary.

With Steel Restaurant Atlanta, Chuck has created a beautiful, mid-town destination that embraces these ideals and attracts a mosaic of patrons. He strives to achieve Accessible Elegance, offering something for diverse palates and budgets.

I was able to sit down with Chuck and get a LOT of insights from him. That has resulted in a pretty long post, but it’s warranted considering all of the insights he provided. As always, you can read my summary below, but if you have time, listen to the entire interview (75 min, so it may take a minute or so to load) here

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Audience

Steel Restaurant Atlanta Wine Room

Steel Restaurant Atlanta's Wine Room

Steel Restaurant has a diverse audience depending on the time of day and which Steel Restaurant you are talking about.

Lunch versus Dinner

Lunch is more business people that work in the area. Dinner is completely different and can include bachelorette parties, corporate events, wealthy patrons that will buy $150 bottle of wine, as well as people that are looking for a good deal, but there is also a geographic difference.

Dallas versus Atlanta

Steel Restaurant Dallas' Wine Room

Steel Restaurant Dallas' Wine Room

The audience in Dallas is largely professionals, but transitions from older patrons that live in the Turtle Creek area early in the night to a younger demographic as the night progresses. When people go out in Dallas, it is an event that people dress up for.

Steel Restaurant Atlanta’s audience is more tricky. Similar to Dallas, it includes older patrons that live in mid-town high rises that love the food and service as well as younger patrons that like the hip environment. However, Chuck has discovered that Atlanta is much more neighborhood driven and casual than the Dallas market – kind of like his experience in Austin. Patrons – especially on weekends – are more likely to show up in jeans and t-shirts than in Dallas.

Both cities, however, demand a high quality experience.

Food at Steel Restaurant

Food at Steel Restaurant

Entice

Fundamentally, Steel Restaurant focuses on great food, service, and beverage programs in an elegant and stylish environment conveniently located in mid-town Atlanta and the Turtle Creek area of Dallas. More specifically, Steel offers:

  • Delectable sushi as well as dishes where seafood, chicken, and beef take center stage.
  • An excellent wine selection for those that demand the best.
  • “Craveable menu items” that stand out in people’s minds and aren’t available anywhere else.
  • Great service and attention to details.
  • Affordable Bento boxes around $15.
  • Noodle and rice dishes for cost conscious patrons – those looking for lunch under $10 or dinner under $15.

Steel’s offering is constantly being fine-tuned is based on patron feedback and even focus groups.

To address the neighborhood and casual culture of Atlanta, Chuck sees the need to “think neighborhood.” This includes:

  • Connecting more intimately with people in surrounding condos as an involved member of the neighborhood.
  • Taking into consideration the pedestrian nature of mid-town.
  • Marketing targeted specifically to the locals.

Promotions

Dining room at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Dining room at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Part of being able to execute on great promotions is having something great to promote. Steel Restaurant adds special events to their core offering (see the Upcoming Event section) to take advantage of this fertile ground. Some of the promotional tools Chuck has used include:

Traditional and Off-Line Promotions

  • PR – Chuck works closely with Jamie Annarino from Red Clay to help orchestrate an ongoing PR strategy.
  • Editorial – Chuck is a big fan of publicity through critic reviews, etc. … free promotion that comes if you are really good and can connect to the writers.
  • Steel’s website – Steel Restaurants’ websites have been great at not only providing people information about the restaurants, but also setting the tone for what they are all about. The look and feel is a reflection of the actual environment. Steel Restaurant also puts a lot of effort in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to improve their organic search result ranking.
  • Open Table – allows the collection of names through reservations which Steel follows up on by sending emails to visitors – especially those that take the time to write a review.
  • Radio – Steel doesn’t pay for any radio advertising, but does encourage radio personalities to come in and get a first hand experience of the restaurant, which frequently leads to on air mentions. Jamie has been able to help connect to these personalities.
  • Print Promotions – Steel doesn’t pay for promotions in print publications either, but has been able to work out a gift certificate trade program with some – notably Sunday Paper. He provides them with gift certificates in exchange for print promotions and they use the gift certificates in giveaways and resell them at a discount. This allows effectiveness to be measured by tracking the certificates that are redeemed. Overall, however, Chuck “doesn’t believe in print anymore,” it’s just too expensive for a single restaurant.
  • Direct Mail – the only mailing that Steel has participated in is with Welcome Mat Services that delivers special offers to people moving into certain zip codes. Steel offered a $20 off voucher with a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” message, which tied in well with Atlanta’s neighborhood mentality. An added benefit is that Steel gets the demographic and address information for the people that redeem the coupon.
  • Special Offer Book – Chuck is also providing a 2 for 1 special offer, included in a promotions book sold to corporations. Extending these offers is unusual for higher end restaurants, but he believes that there are more people using coupons now than ever before and it gives him a conduit to get new people in the door, stun them with Steel’s offering and turn them into patrons. These deals require no money up front, however, he carefully monitors the other restaurants that are included to make sure he is less susceptible to brand dilution.
  • Hotel concierges – Concierges are trusted by hotel guests and Steel Restaurant builds relationships with them by hosting special events, sending them gift bags and occasionally comp’ing their meal when they visit. Referrals can be tracked in Open Table to determine who is driving business to Steel and they treat referred guests as VIP’s through little touches such as providing a complementary glass of Champagne “from the concierge.”
  • Taxi Appreciation Day – At one point, Chuck distributed free lunches to the taxi drivers of Atlanta in an effort to increase word of mouth. In hind site, this doesn’t seem like it was very effective, but when friends of his asked a cab driver if he knew about Steel, the cabbie told them about the promotion (“Steel really cares about us”). It didn’t have a huge return, but the point is to be creative.
  • Membership discounts – Steel offers a variety of discount programs to different groups. For example, Mid Town Alliance members receive a 10% discount and residents of Plaza Midtown receive a 20% discount.
  • Cause Marketing - Steel is a proponent of helping local charities, not only because of the exposure that it provides them, but also because of the opportunity to give back to the community. They have helped raise money for non-profits through work with organizations such as  Camp Twin Lakes, Backpacks in the Park (sponsored by For the Kid), Toys for Tots, AID Atlanta, Jerusalem House, Breast Cancer Walks, Lymphoma Society, Community in Schools (Dine out for Kids), and Zoo Atlanta. This has included contributing to silent auctions as well as hosting events where Steel donates the food/venue and a percentage of the bar to the charity.

Viral and Social Network Marketing

The bar at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

The bar at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Viral and social network marketing is, in general, very valuable, but takes time. Chuck believes you have to schedule for these activities or these efforts are likely to fall between the cracks. Also, the staff must be part of the game plan, so he encourages activities like the collection of  customer feedback cards to build a patron database – creating ongoing relationships with patrons needs to be part of the culture.

  • Email Campaigns - email addresses are collected through Open Table and customer comment cards and followed with periodic emails. Chuck’s rule is no more than 2 messages a month and Steel Restaurant is working on developing more involved newsletters that provide comprehensive information about the restaurants and what they have going on to keep patrons plugged-in.
  • Local Search (i.e. Citysearch and Yelp) – Steel has been active on both Citysearch and Yelp (paying about $300/month), but tracking the performance of these sites has led Chuck to believe there is not a lot of value beyond the features that are offered for free. The most notable advantage has been the ability to monitor user posts, especially negative ones, so that Steel can resolve issues and ideally connect to individuals directly. He’s gone as far as, after receiving a negative review, calling every person with an Open Table reservation from the previous night to find the reviewer and offer to make things right.
  • Facebook – both Steel Dallas and Atlanta have Facebook pages – tapping into social networks – that have provided decent activity related to user posts and promotions. They don’t have a lot of fans, but “the ones that are on there are the most loyal.”
  • Twitter – with over 1,200 followers on Twitter, even if a fraction of Steel’s posts are seen, it provides a way to stay on patrons’ minds.

NOTE: Steel’s willingness to provide special offers is worth highlighting. Many higher end restaurants resist this idea because of concerns about how it reflects on their brand, but Chuck makes the point that things are different now – “who pays full price nowadays?” When you live in a world where Macy’s is having 50% off sales, he believes you need to change to meet the market’s demands.

Leverage

Wasabi Booth at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Wasabi Booth at Steel Restaurant Atlanta

Chuck believes that word of mouth is “the most important thing of all.”  Good word of mouth leads to returning customers, event bookings, and referrals. Making it easier for patrons to spread the word is the responsibility of the organization.

  • Social networks like Facebook allow for news and upcoming events to be rapidly shared with the click of a button
  • Twitter allows information to be “re-tweeted” easily
  • Email thank you’s keep Steel Restaurant on people’s minds and makes it easy for them to respond, forward the email to friends, or click to make another reservation
  • Email newsletters can also be easily forwarded

Some of the tools that help build the email database are:

  • Open Table – Open Table serves as a valuable funnel of email information on patrons reserving through the site.
  • Mailing cards – Steel also encourages patrons to fill in survey cards with their information that can be entered into their contact list for email or physical mail follow ups.

Connect

The most obvious connection points to patrons is their time in the restaurant, but in this competitive market, taking the extra steps required to maintain a dialog is a huge advantage. Chuck’s dialog focuses on:

  • Being Appreciative. Call, email, or send a card to guests after their visit using information from Open Table, your POS system, or customer comment cards. Show them that you value their business.
  • Being Informative. Keep them informed about the organization using email campaigns, but DO NOT ABUSE THIS. No more than 2 a month.
  • Feeding those with passion. Provide a way to connect with your most passionate patrons; being active on Facebook and Twitter allows people to choose how they want to interact with you. Think about it this way, if you try this and no one signs up, then you didn’t annoy anyone. However, if you have patrons that want to actively be informed about what your organization is up to real time, whether you understand it or not, why not feed their zeal?

Steel Restaurant Dallas' bar

Steel Restaurant Dallas' bar

Simplify

Throughout this interview, it became obvious how many things Chuck focuses on to make Steel successful. Obviously, anything that can simplify this helps a lot and here are some of his tricks.

Non-technology

  • Add process and structure – having procedures in place so that employees know what to expect helps to streamline operations. This includes managing work schedules, taking monthly physical inventory, systematizing ordering and delivery processes, etc. People like structure and knowing what to expect.
  • Be flexible. While structure is important, don’t be so rigid that it stifles the patron experience, let the staff do their job.
  • Partner with people that make life easier. Find partners that understand their success is intertwined with yours and that are willing to go the extra mile. For example:
    • Cat Chang performs every Friday night at Steel Restaurant Atlanta and promotes herself in addition to Steel’s efforts.
    • National Distributing is a vendor that works with Steel to build a wine strategy, comes in to dine and refers others to visit – Chuck does business with people that do business with him.

Technology

  • POS – Steel uses Aloha POS, which provides information on not only what food items are popular, but the activity of various discount programs and analysis of Net sells derived from those programs.
  • Open Table – Open Table provides information on guests, including phone number, email address, birth dates, etc. This makes it easier to build your patron database, which in turn enables you to Connect and Leverage word of mouth.

Success

Using metrics to find out what promotional tools are successful and the aspects of your organization that are working – and those that aren’t – is critical. Steel has a robust framework in place for this, with a focus on efforts that show quantitative results.

  • User comment cards. This is low-tech, but can provide great feedback for detailing people’s in-house experience.
  • Special Offer redemption. Steel tracks who is redeeming special offers and where those offers are coming from. This closes the loop for their efforts and let’s them know where to focus more resources.
  • Web Activity. Steel actively monitors how active their Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Citysearch profiles are and tracks how people are finding their website (through Google Analytics). Instead of paying a online reputation management company approximately $2,000 a month to do this, they have enlisted the help of a Georgia Tech student that provides them with monthly reports.
  • POS – Aloha provides metrics for what menu items are popular and which are not, helping to refine Steel’s offering to meet the demands of patrons. It also allows them to track the special offers previously mentioned.
  • Open Table – this has provided a wealth of information about patrons and the frequency of their visits.

Words of Advice

Dining room at Steel Restaurant Dallas

Dining room at Steel Restaurant Dallas

Chuck believes that you first must be passionate about what you do. Beyond that, he advises:

  • Don’t just say you are customer driven, be customer driven to obtain repeat business.
  • Stay committed to quality, no matter what.
  • Your people are your best asset and mediocre people equal a mediocre business.  Take great care of your staff and spend the time to choose them wisely.
  • Organization and structure is critical – watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

Connect with Steel and Chuck Kneeland

Steel Atlanta

Located in Plaza Midtown at the corner of 9th and West Peachtree
950 West Peachtree St
Suite 255
Atlanta GA 30309
(view map)

Steel Dallas

Located in The Centrum Building at intersection of Welborn and Hall
3102 Oak Lawn Avenue
Suite 100
Dallas, TX 75219
(view map)

Steel Restaurant Atlanta: www.steelatlanta.com
Steel Restaurant Dallas: www.steeldallas.com
Chuck Kneeland on LinkedIn
Twitter: twitter.com/steelrestaurant
Steel Atlanta on Facebook
Steel Dallas on Facebook

Upcoming Events

Dallas

  • Monday – Thursday, 5:30-7:00 PM – Sunsets at Steel. 3-course dinner for $30.
  • Wednesday nights, 5:30-7:00 PM – Sushi Night. Complementary Sushi and happy hour specials on Steel specialty cocktails, beer and hot Sake.
  • Thursday nights, 5:30 PM – close – Kampai Thursdays. 50% off Sake by the bottle.
  • August 14-30Restaurant Week 2009. Prixe Fixe, 3 course meal for $35 that benefits North Texas Food Bank.

Atlanta

  • Monday – Saturday, 5:00-6:30 PM. Pre-Theater Menu. 2-course menu for $19.95 or 3-course menu for $24.95.
  • Wednesday 5:00-7:00 PM. Steel Happy Hour. Complementary Sushi and signature cocktails.
  • Friday 10PM until. Fantasy Fridays with Cat Chang. Live on piano and mic… check her out at http://catchang.com/.
  • August 5, 2009. Participating in Taste of Asia’s Public Tasting at Macy’s.
  • August 29 – September 6, 2009. Participating in Midtown Restaurant Week.
  • August 20, 2009 . Participating in  Dine out For Kids. Helps to raise money for Communities in Schools.
  • TBA. 2 year anniversary party
  • Lots more !

Background

Chuck Kneeland started his career as a waiter paying his way through the University of Texas, which led to bar tending and night club management. After graduation, he spent a brief time at 3M before returning to the restaurant industry:

  • He began by working for Sfuzzi in Dallas in the late 80′s. This grew from one restaurant to about 19 across the U.S. and Chuck moved up in the organization.
  • He then moved on to Lettuce Entertain You out of Chicago which was bought by Brinker International, leading to a role with the Maggiano’s division. He worked there for 7 years in Chicago, D.C., and ultimately ended up opening the Maggiano’s in Atlanta.
  • In 2001, Chuck opened an Italian restaurant in the West Village (Dallas) called Ferre’ with his current business partner, Patrick Colombo (founder of Sfuzzi). This was followed by a wine bar next door called Cru.
  • Steel Restaurant in Dallas was owned by one of the investors from Ferre’ and Cru – Mike Chen – and was struggling, so Chuck helped turn the restaurant around, creating a successful sushi restaurant in a market with very strong existing players.
  • After turning Steel Dallas around, Chuck decided to expand the concept to Atlanta, which he was familiar with from his Maggiano’s days. He felt that there was a hole in the Atlanta market that Steel could fill and they opened in November 2007.

Chuck is also the Vice President of Restaurant Works – a restaurant management/ownership company founded by Patrick Colombo that, is involved with Steel Atlanta, Steel Dallas, Victory Tavern in Dallas, Ferre’ in Fort Worth and Cru’s multiple locations.

Chuck continues to focus on the growth of Steel Restaurant Atlanta, but is also considering how to expand the concept in addition to growing the other properties associated with Restaurant Works.

Shout Outs

Steel Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon You can also see this interview from Urbanspoon.

Janice Provost – owner of Parigi in Dallas, TX

Janice Provost at Parigi

Janice Provost at Parigi

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)

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Audience

Parigi serving beautiful food

Parigi serving beautiful food

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

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:

Parigi's menu board

Parigi's menu board

  • 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.

Parigi's pation on Oak Lawn

Parigi's pation on Oak Lawn

Leverage

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.

Connect

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.

Entice

Sample Parigi dishes

Sample Parigi dishes

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.”

Inside Parigi

Inside Parigi

Simplify

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.

Success

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
(214) 521-0295

Website: http://www.parigirestaurant.com/
Blog: http://parigidallas.blogspot.com/
Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dallas-TX/Parigi-Restaurant/47213581430?ref=search
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/janice-provost/10/a36/434

Upcoming Events

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.

Background

Janice and Chad - owners of Parigi

Janice and Chad - owners of Parigi

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.

Shout Out’s

Parigi on Urbanspoon You can also see this interview on UrbanSpoon.

Salah Ananse – DJ, producer and promoter

DJ Salah Ananse

DJ Salah Ananse

DJ Salah Ananse spins at venues around the world – from Brazil to London to Ethiopia to his home town of Atlanta. He is a DJ, producer and promoter and constantly faces the challenges of running organizations and getting butts in seats. I spent some time with him at Spice Market in the W Midtown and he shared his experience about how to be successful. For all of the details, listen to the full interview

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Promotion

Being both a DJ and promoter, Salah is constantly facing the challenge of how to deal with promotions – and has been successful through innovation. He has a diverse toolbox that includes:

Social Networking

Salah in Action

Salah in Action

“The most important thing about building your business through social networking is you want a targeted audience; you want someone that’s going to respond to what you’re giving out … unless it’s something targeted to my audience, I’m not really worried about it.”

There can be a lot of noise in social networking. When you consider Facebook’s blending of people poking you and asking you to join their mafia, the promotional message can get lost. These networks connect you to everything that is related to everyone you know and it can be difficult to focus attention on connecting to those that are interested in getting out of the house and showing up at your events. Salah breaks it down like this:

  • Myspace – He used to use MySpace, but has moved away from it.. it’s no longer that effective.
  • Facebook – Facebook is still a great way to promote. He lists his upcoming events, updates his status for more unique events, and has a group page. He recommends keeping the information fresh by including new photos, videos and and links to free music. However, his biggest complaint is that Facebook has a more passive audience. People check it occasionally and announcements can get lost in the noise of the friend feed. He’s been moving more and more to Twitter.
  • Twitter – this is where Salah sees the most opportunity. Twitter users are more likely to be monitoring their friend feed and he believes they are more active and more likely to be looking for things to do in the real world. The people that he follows and that follow him are “in a community that feeds off of each other.”

Other Technologies

DJ Salah Ananse

DJ Salah Ananse

Beyond social networking, Salah uses a number of other technologies, creating a diverse blend of connection points to his audience.

  • SMS – sending text messages should be limited to more intimate messages versus a mass broadcast. He uses this to connect to individuals that he wants to personally invite. One major thing to avoid is overloading people – he doesn’t want to hear from a DJ that is spinning on Monday and then again on Thursday – use in moderation.
  • Email campaigns – These can be very effective, but again should be used in moderation. Try to send no more than one email every 1-2 weeks and include a consolidation of everything you have going on. Don’t take advantage of your fans’ patience and wear them out.
  • RSS – rss allows subscribers to digest your information when they are ready to, is less intrusive, and still keeps people informed about what’s going on. If and when they are ready to connect to you, they have a single place they can look to find information about what’s going on without all the noise. Salah is implementing rss on his new site.

Salah is always looking at new ways to use technology as well. One idea he is actively working on is being able to extend special offers through SMS so that people can get benefits like no cover to his shows and RSVP through their phones.

The Human Touch

For some things, there is no substitute. Getting to know people on a personal level and being a great person is the first step in building an audience. People need to love your music and you. Turning your fans into friends helps to insure that people show up and builds connections that get you gigs.

Leverage

Word of mouth is “the most effective form of promotion, no matter what anyone comes up with.” This ties back into the Human Touch as well as using viral social networking tools and real world conversations. Putting something in people’s hands is also a key part of this. A fan telling him that they need a new CD because some girl stole the old one is a metric of success.

Audience

DJ Salah formal

DJ Salah formal

Salah describes his audience as ranging from 18-45 and educated. This is fertile ground for his intelligent music that blends house, soul, hip hop, salsa and Reggae. Although he does do some lounge, his patrons mostly come to him to dance. The gigs that he gets are mostly clubs, some restaurants, larger events (like opening for Dave Chapelle 8 times) and corporate events including Hennessy, Lincoln Properties and even Whole Foods.

Connect

Social networking combined with real world interaction allows Salah to keep connected to his patrons. Providing people with a great experience keeps them coming back for more.

Entice

Give people music that makes them dance and be a reliable resource for venue owners that fits with the vibe they are trying to build and draws crowds – that is the magic enticement blend.

Simplify

Salah uses the technology tools already mentioned to simplify promotions, but also has some tools of the trade to make DJ’ing easier. Most notably is Serato that allows him to perform with only his laptop in hand – critical when you are traveling internationally for a show and don’t want to drag around vinyl or CD’s. In fact, it is a prerequisite for all of the DJ’s that work for Salah.

Success

DJ Salah spinning

DJ Salah spinning

Success is fundamentally measured by how many people show up and if they are on the dance floor. Effectiveness of different promotional tools can be loosely measured by the amount of activity on the social networks, including retweets, RSVP’s to events, comments on past events, and the fan base of his Facebook group.

Final Words of Advice

Music always comes first, but DJ’s need to also be aware that they are Personalities. They need to connect on a personal level to their fans, look the part for venue owners and event organizers, and do a lot of leg work interacting with people and promoting to be successful. For promotions, it is critical to reach your target audience effectively and to respect them – connect with them on their terms and don’t beat people over the head with announcements.

Background

Salah Ananse was a child actor and actively involved in dance and promotion since he was very young. He broke into the scene with the help of his DJ friends that gave him access to gigs and he worked his way up by building strong friendships and being good at what he does. He is a DJ, producer and promoter – through his organization Soul Sessions which has worked with people like Erykah Badu and Rafael Saadiq.

Upcoming Events

Residencies

Other Events

Connect with DJ Salah

Website: www.salahananse.com
Soul Sessions: www.soulsessions.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/salahananse
Myspace: www.myspace.com/salahananse
Salah on LinkedIn
Salah on Facebook

Shout Outs

  • Dave Chappelle – just a great guy to work with
  • Anthony David – Grammy nominated singer
  • D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik – hype man based in Atlanta
  • Sean Alvarez from swanksociety.com - great people to collaborate with. Check out Swank Society’s page and hear music that will get you through your work day or party night.
  • DJ Kwestanother great collaborator.
  • Mausiki Scales – Jazz/Afro-beat musician that Salah is collaborating with on album, due out in August
  • The Tabernacle – Salah always has a great time spinning at this venue in downtown Atlanta
  • Sugar Hill – although closed now, this was a great venue with great people
  • Jazz Cafe – the amazing venue in London is a great experience for any artist

DJ Rodd Summers – Ambience Amplifier

On the 1's and 2's at Top Flr

On the 1's and 2's at Top Flr

Like hipsters without ironic t-shirts or sundaes without Reddi-Wip topping, a great night out just isn’t complete without the right music. DJ Rodd Summers has spent over 15 years creating the soundtracks that keep heads bobbing while conversations flow.

I met Rodd at Danneman’s coffee shop in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood to talk about his experiences and see what insights he might have to offer the DJ’s and other organizations in the Community. Below is the summary, but you’re missing out if you don’t listen to 24-minute interview in its entirety

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Promotions

Rodd is a people person… and I mean he is really a people person. It seems like every time I go out, he’s there and knows everyone. If he doesn’t know someone, he’ll chat them up before the night is out. That’s how he promotes – he gets to know people and lets them know where he’s spinning … face to face.

Recently, he’s been sending out event announcements through Facebook, which has had some success, but emails and text messages are out. He’s found that people just get tired of receiving them. He’s also been considering using a publicist that can help him get the word out more effectively, but this is in its early stages.

Leverage

Rodd relies on word of mouth. He tells people where he is spinning, they tell and bring their friends and the intrinsic viral nature of Facebook helps the message spread digitally.

Audience

There seem to be two type of DJ’s – those that are centerpieces and those, like Rodd,  that become an integrated part of a venue’s overall experience. The same way a wine is selected to complement a meal or lighting is used to set the right mood, Rodd designs his sets to fit the atmosphere, with a big emphasis on Soul, Funk, and Jazz. When talking about his Friday and Saturday sessions at the Drink Shop in the W downtown, he says he “designs songs around the cocktails” which is what the Drink Shop is all about.

The venues that he chooses can be classified as the urban lounge scene. The demographics vary, but are generally professionals from the mid-20′s and up, people that are looking for the stage to be set to socialize. He describes his audience as people that like “intelligent music” they can listen to while chilling with friends – perfect lounge scene philosophy.

Connect

The game plan for connecting to his audience is simple:

  • Get to know people on a personal level and keep them informed about where you are spinning.
  • Have a consistent schedule so your audience knows what nights you will be performing at specific venues.
  • Connect to them by delivering the right sound for the atmosphere.

Entice

Rodd’s model for enticement is also simple – provide the sounds that help make people’s nights out perfect by amplifying the overall vibe of the venue. He places a priority on taking the pulse of the room throughout the night so he can mesh his music with the ebb and flow of the crowd.

Simplify

While he started off spinning vinyl (records), Rodd has now moved on to using CD’s which makes queuing up songs faster and greatly reduces the bulk of what he has to bring to a gig. He also has his eye on incorporating a Mac that would allow him to bring 50,000 songs to a gig versus maybe a few thousand on CD. It would also allow him to use newer tools like Ableton Live, Traktor DJ, and Serato.

Regarding the debate over vinyl versus newer technology, Rodd says, “it’s not about what you use, it’s about the music you play… that’s it.”

Success

Success is measured by the number of butts in seats, however Rodd makes a point to mention that venues need to be patient on growing their audience with a new, weekly DJ. In the same way that changing your entire menu produces results over time – as people learn about the update – a new DJ takes time to build an audience for their nights.

Final Words of Advice

Go out and meet people and talk about the music you are passionate about. Invite people out personally.

Upcoming Events

Wednesdays
Top Flr – 9PM until.
Mid-town chill with Jazz, Soul and Funk
http://www.topflr.com/
674 Myrtle St View Map
Atlanta, GA 30308
404.685.3110

Thursdays
Whiskey Blue @ The W – Buckhead – 10PM until.
Indie pop that you won’t hear on the radio
3377 Peachtree Rd. NE View Map
Atlanta, GA 30326
678.500.3100

Fridays and Saturdays
The Drink Shop @ the W – Downtown Atlanta – 9PM until
Funk, Soul, electronic, with a heavy emphasis on Jazz
45 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard View Map
Atlanta, GA 30308
404.582.5800

Connect with Rodd Summers

Facebook: facebook.com/roddsummers

Twitter: twitter.com/RoddSummers

Shout Outs

Here are some of the people Rodd has worked with that stand out as being awesome in Atlanta

Etc…

Listen to the entire interview to hear more a lot more, including:

  • How to start out as a DJ
  • How to find gigs
  • How to get compensated
  • What to look out for

Jake’s Ice Cream – Jake Rothschild’s Atlanta Ice Cream Dream

On June 3, 2009, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jake Rothschild – a serial entrepreneur in Atlanta that started Jake’s Ice Cream 10 years ago. Since that time, he has grown the company to 3 locations and established distribution deals with local businesses as well as national chains. Here are some of the highlights and advice he offers other organizations – sorted into the CC: ScoreCard.

Click here to listen to the whole interview

Jake's Ice Cream

Jake's Ice Cream

PROMOTIONS

Where should time and money be spent regarding promotions?

  • Traditional Advertising – Jake is not a fan of advertising with media like printed publications, TV, and radio. Historically, this hasn’t produced great results for him and there are no real metrics that can be measured to determine the effectiveness of these efforts… no traditional advertising for this ice cream business.
  • Online Advertising – this experience consists of working with Citysearch and, to some degree, Yelp. While Jake’s has paid for promotions with Citysearch and doesn’t think that it has been a waste of money, he has no plans to continue the effort because there’s no indicator that it’s been effective enough to justify the cost. Most of the value has stemmed from the user generated content on these sites (user reviews), which is free.
  • Jake’s Website – the website provides a place that serves as the authoritative source of information about the business and has proven to be a good way to publicly present what the company is all about. It’s the easily accessible marketing face of Jake’s and is frequently one of the first places a potential patron learns about the business.
  • PR – Jake’s Ice Cream has been featured on msn.com, NPR, Zagat, Wall Street Journal, and Frommer’s. It’s these less bias sources that have added fuel to the business’ growth – “it means so much more to (people) than a full page ad.”
  • Cause Marketing – he recommends being a co-sponsor of organized events. Working with organizations like Special Olympics – Georgia has helped to reach new patrons and drive sells.
  • Social Networking – tools like Twitter and Facebook have given Jake a way to stay connected with existing patrons and he thinks these are great for fostering the customer relationship – the most important thing about his business.

LEVERAGE

Jake believes that word of mouth is the number one way that people find out about Jake’s. Social network tools like twitter, the Jake’s Ice Cream group on Facebook, and user reviews on sites like Citysearch and Yelp help to accomplish this as does providing a great customer experience that leads to traditional word of mouth… ya know, where people actually talk to each other.

AUDIENCE

Jake describes his first-tier audience as “label readers” – the people that are concerned about what they are putting in their bodies – they are the people that shop at Sevananda, Return to Eden, or Whole Foods. His second tier audience is people that simply want a great quality product. His focus on high quality ingredients and a great product is the right message for this audience and he reaches them through Promotions and Leverage.

CONNECT

Jake’s uses the various means mentioned in Promotion and Leverage to Connect to their audience, however, the ongoing dialog is done through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter and the in store interaction. Due, in part, with the time required to update their website, they are also excited about implementing email marketing by using Constant Contact to keep all of the subscribed patrons up to date on the daily flavors available at each store.

ENTICE

How does Jake entice his audience?

  • High quality product. Enough said.
  • Superior customer service. Jake wants to know everything about his customers to personalize the experience – “we want to know their dog’s name, we want to know their kids’ birthdays.” It is also a goal to respond to any customer complaint within 30 minutes… by a personal call from Jake.
  • High quality in-store experience. This includes providing a comfortable environment that can serve as a second home to patrons.

Jake also offers incentives to customers, with one of their most successful campaigns being the distribution of “Moolah.” These $1 and $5 gift certificates can be purchased in each store or can be distributed by Jake’s for promotions. This “virtual cash” can be redeemed for any purchase (versus a 2-for-1  or 10% off coupon) and is credited for the programs success.

SIMPLIFY

The main way that Jake simplifies is through technology:

  • NuRol POS – Jake’s POS system is “monkey stupid easy” and has the ability to report on the sell rate of all flavors at any point in time, which helps determine the flavors that are successful.
  • Quickbooks is used as the accounting system and is “extremely user friendly.” They did try out Peachtree Accounting, but it was more difficult to use.

SUCCESS

There are a few areas to evaluate when it comes to measuring success.

PR, Advertising, and Social Networking

Measuring the success of all of these efforts continues to be a struggle, as it is with all organizations. There is the feeling that traditional media hasn’t delivered the results desired and even the metrics provided by local search solutions like Citysearch that shows the number of profile views has not been able to measure ROI. There is a feeling that the efforts of Facebook and twitter are effective at keeping in touch with existing patrons.

Incentive Programs

The Moolah program does provide some feedback. There are relations that can be drawn between the number of virtual dollars distributed compared to the number of those redeemed.

Technology

As mentioned under Simplify, NuRol provides easily generated snapshots of what flavors are selling, which helps determine the quantities that should be produced and identify slow moving products.

SHOUT OUT’S

I asked Jake about any vendor relationships that he considers exceptional. He highly recommends:

  • U.S. Food Service – Their customer service is excellent and they show their love of working with small business in myriad of ways.
  • 360 Media – Our PR Firm loves on us like we are family.
  • Carlton Fields – a great law firm that protects us, suggests to us, and nurtures us so that we are a healthy company

FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE

  1. Do what you love. If you are going to lead your own organization, make sure it is something you are passionate about and adjust the direction as needed to insure this.
  2. Never quit on your dream. Running your own operation is hard, but be persistent.
  3. Learn how to ask for help. You don’t have to know all of the answers.

BACKGROUND

Jake wants to be Willy Wonka when he grows up, but he doesn’t plan on that happening anytime soon. When he was 10 years old, he used to make children’s books as gifts for his grandmother. When he was in college at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he introduced the first instant, all natural hot chocolate on the market – something that caught the attention of Money magazine. His first physical business – a coffee shop in the Morningside neighborhod called MOCHA (Museum of Contemporary Humorous Art) – transformed into the first Jake’s Ice Cream over 10 years ago, with the original location in Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta.

Jake’s playful nature is much more serious when it comes to his products. He is dedicated to providing the community with high quality, uncompromised products – with a focus on all-natural ingredients and hormone free dairy. This diligence has led to a number of local restaurants including his creations on their menus and has recently resulted in an agreement with Planet Smoothie for a non-fat, agave sweetened yogurt called YMG, or Yo My Goodness. The focus on the product is rivaled only by his commitment to the experience of his patrons.

CONNECT WITH JAKE

Website: http://www.jakesicecream.com
Facebook Group: Jake’s Ice Cream
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jake-rothschild/5/b61/741

UPCOMING EVENTS

Non-fat Frozen Yogurt

Non-fat Frozen Yogurt

June 5-7, 2009 – See Jake at the Virginia Highlands Summerfest.

June 8, 2009 – Jake’s new product line YMG (Yo My Goodness) – non-fat yogurt sweetened with agave – will be sold at Planet Smoothie at The Peach in Peachtree Shopping Center – 2900 Peachtree Rd, Suite 113 Atlanta, GA, 30305.

JAKE’S ICE CREAM LOCATIONS

Jake’s Ice Cream – Irwin Street Market
660 Irwin Street
Atlanta 30312
(678) 705-7277
Jake’s Ice Cream Cafe
2745 Lavista Road
Decatur, GA 30033
(404) 343-3525
Jake’s Just Desserts
2144 North Decatur Road
Decatur, GA 30033
(404) 963-7151

PURVEYORS OF FINE JAKE’S PRODUCTS

Anis
2974 Grandview Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
www.anisbistro.com
(404) 233-9889
Valenza
1441 Dresden Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30319
www.valenzarestaurant.com
(404) 969-3233
Dave’s Cosmic Subs
1540 N Decatur Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30307
www.davescosmicsubsatl.com
(404) 373-6250
Inman Perk at Inman Park
240 N. Highland Ave., Suite H
Atlanta, GA 30307
www.inmanperkcoffee.com
(678) 705-4545
Haven
1441 Dresden Dr NE
Atlanta, GA 30319
www.havenrestaurant.com
(404) 969-0700
Inman Perk at Flowery Branch
5866 Spout Springs Rd., Suite D
Flowery Branch, GA 30542
www.inmanperkcoffee.com
(770) 965-6065
Our Place Bakery
3387 Main St
Atlanta, GA 30337
www.ourplacebakery.com
(404) 767-3181
Inman Perk at Gainesville
102 Washington St. NW.
Gainesville, GA 30501
www.inmanperkcoffee.com
(678) 943-8080
Planet Smoothie at Ansley Mall
1544 Piedmont Ave., Suite 301
Atlanta, GA 30324
www.planetsmoothie.com
(404) 541-9124

Jake's Ice Creams & Sorbets on Urbanspoon You can also see this interview on UrbanSpoon.