In the restaurant that I own, I Privé in downtown Burlingame we receive a lot of feedback from our customers. Yelp, Travelocity and Facebook users send us both positive and negative reviews, all of them public. We solicit private feedback from our diners via email. We leave paper forms in the final bill before they pay.
While most of the feedback is positive, there is roughly 20% that is very negative, or areas where the diners tell us things could improve. The negative feedback could be related to service, the music we play, a particular dish they didn’t like, cramp seating or just a small change like the brightness of the TV’s
I read each feedback every day, our team discuss about each feedback and talk about whether it’s something we should change. If we agree, then we tell our team leads on the floor, in the kitchen or sushi bar. While we believe we listen objectively, I think there is a human bias to either brush off some comments as a single person’s point of view. We have to also keep in mind of our own subjective view.
Truly listening to negative feedback is difficult, realizing our own bias and gut reaction is the first step.
After hearing and listening to feedback, reacting and changing is the hardest.
First we can tell our team leads and they can tell the other team members, but to actually make fundamental change is hard. It will take repeating the message, noticing when we revert back and reinforcing the message again.
In the restaurant business, the easiest type of changes to make are concrete black or white ones. When customers complaint about being cold, we add heaters.
The next hardest is to respond to complaints about food. When a customer does like a dish, I go in and try it and tell my chefs if I think something needs improving. In order for me to know whether something has been fixed, I will need to try the dish again. I think we are getting better in responding to specific dishes. This is also subjective, so I try to make sure to focus on the quality instead of my personal preference.
Finally, responding to comments about service is the most difficult because we have to figure out which server it was that evening, whether the complaint is legitimate and working with the server over a long period to improve training and their behavior.
As an engineer working in the food industry, most the restaurant work is rewarding and it exercises another part of my brain and let’s me spend some time on my passion for food. Fast iteration based on realtime feedback is a lesson I learned that I can bring to my restaurant.
Our new Salmon Fiesta dish is as good as it looks. Enjoy six pieces of wild king salmon sashimi wrapped in cucumber and mango, served with sweet vinaigrette. It’s a refreshing and delightful way to begin your dining experience. And if salmon isn’t your favorite fish, the dish is also available with tuna or yellowtail.
Which fish would you try it with?
In helping my friend’s modern Japanese I Privé raise awareness, we decided to try to pay for marketing on Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo, Google. Here is what I’ve learned about the effectiveness of these companies. Keep in mind that is this my owner personal experience and not based on a large marketing budget and only apply to a small restaurant.
When we think about marketing, it’s not just about driving people to visit the restaurant, it’s also about building a relationship over the long term so that we can communicate with current and potential customers. The return on investment focused on long term relationship as well as sustained value.
Yelp is the first platform most people think of when they want to find a new restaurant. When we started the restaurant, we agreed that building a good reputation on Yelp is the primary focus. To do that, we have to focus on awesome food and great service and the Yelp ratings should take care of itself. We also agreed that we have to be listening and responding to any negative feedback and act on them.
We did pay Yelp for advertising in one of his previous restaurants and noted that the ROI for paying removing competitor ads, hosting a video, pay for view ads for similar restaurants was about $3 / click to our page. We thought that was not worth paying for. The main reason was that for a new restaurant, we wanted to build a good reputation on Yelp rather than just driving traffic. So we decided to pay $0 on Yelp but focused a lot of time responding to customer.
We do love Yelp’s transactional business model. The integration with Locu for $20/ month. The integration with online reservation with seatme.com for $99/month. These services are well worth the money. I did an analysis of Opentable, the cost would have been about 8 times the rate of seatme.com. We had the luxury of too many people wanting to get in, so we didn’t need the exposure of Opentable for immediate term traffic.
Future: We spend 50% our time focused on paying attention to Yelp and responding to our customers. We would love to integrate with Eat24 as well once the pricing model looks better.
When we looked at our referral data for our website http://iprivesake.com/, Yahoo and Bing combined to have < 1% of referral. We decided to first focused on improving our SEO and make sure when users looked for ‘i prive’ they would find us. We worked on this for 3 months, even thought the current search for ‘i prive’ still has a suggestion for ‘in private’, our website appears to be #2 in the search result.
At the 3rd month of opening, we decided to spend buying native ads on Yahoo Gemini. The Gemini ads appear on mobile, desktop and search on yahoo.com and other *.yahoo.com sites. To my surprise, we saw a 0.07% click through rate. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, the CPC was $0.48 which is almost 6 times better than Yelp. (While the CPC on Yelp is higher, I do agree the quality of the acquisition is way better on Yelp because people are looking to each that day or that week)
I also love the Yelp check in deals, because we get to see how many people checked in for the deal and how many redeemed.
Future: We decided to continue to buy ads on Yahoo in order to build brand awareness and expand our reach. There are some drawbacks in the granularity of the demographics and geolocations we can target to. It’s at the DMA level and not on the city level.
We bought Google Ad words ads which would show our ads on affiliates and on Google search for certain keywords. Very surprisingly, the Google Ad Words was not very cost effective. We had a CPC of almost $1.11. We were getting 40% of our web traffic from google.com, without paying them anything. They did a great job of refreshing their index and our SEO worked really well.
Future: For restaurants, Google Ad Words would drive clicks, but I cannot retain a long term relationship with the customers after that first click. We decided to stop and just pay attention to continue to improve our SEO and also the integration with Google+ into the search results is effective for coupon promotions.
I am not a personal user of Facebook, but I was surprised at how well Facebook marketing was. For a CPC of about $0.77, I’m able to get a Facebook like. From that point on, I’m able to market to about 10% of the audience via free news feed. Then I can boost my feed post to about 4,000 people for about $50.00. This is great to keep people engage on a weekly basis as well as do one time promotions of coupons.
Future: The bulk of marketing dollars will go into gaining Facebook likes for the next 6 months as well as posting photos to keep users engaged. Also it seems like people don’t really mind when we post about 1 photo a day. It’s not like email spam, because you can ignore the news feed posts.
From the beginning, my vision is to build a relationship with customers. Customers who subscribed to our email list will only get 1 email per month, never more than that. We get almost 250% better open rates than the industry norm. It’s a great way to build a long term communication channel with our customers. Email coupon campaigns have proven to be hugely effective.
Future: I think we continue to keep up our part of the bargain, never spam our customers and we built the email list. We are growing about 50% a month here, so it’s worth to keep on investing.
What surprised me is how ineffective Google campaigns are. Facebook demographic targeting, the real time feedback about how effective each ad is really has pushed Facebook forward and convinced me to open up most of our marketing budget. Yelp’s checkin deals are effective as well for restaurants. Ultimately, we want to own the relationship with our customers, so the most valuable marketing is our email database. And the surprising dark horse has been Yahoo Gemini ads.
Then she picked up a large copper spoon with a two-foot handle. She rubbed olive oil into the spoon’s cup and cracked in one of the eggs. I saw the golden-orange yolk. Holding the end of the spoon’s handle, Waters extended the egg into the fire. She held it there until the white turned opaque and puffed like a soufflé.
I spent $40 today at Yahoo! to measure how many calories my body burns if I were just sitting down. I spent 15 minutes breathing in a tube and out comes a chart of how many calories I burn. It turns out that my body burns 1,872 calories, plus 561 calories with just normal movement everyday, and if I burn 234 calories with exercise, that adds up to 2,667 calories / day. I did this test to understand why I’m snacking everyday and also to understand how much food and exercise I should be doing if I wanted to grow muscles or to loose weight. I highly recommend spending the money to understand your body.
C’s school uses this recipe for their annual fund raising event. This year I used it to make 100 crepes. The only caveat is that you have to adjust the amount of milk so that the crepe’s consistency is to your liking.
1 CUP FLOUR
1 EGG YOLK
1 TABLESPOON OIL
1 CUP MILK
PINCH OF SALT
Mix flour and salt, add eggs and milk, beat well, add oil and mix again. Let mixture stand at least 30 minutes then begin to make your crepes!
I had a craving for fresh Chinese dumplings on Friday and got my parents to pick up the ingredients from Chinatown. Friday my gf and I made a small batch enough to satisfy ourselves. Then this Sunday Kate and I finished up the entire batch. It really did hit the spot. Here is a recipe from Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook
I make crepes for Kate in the mornings whenever she asks. It usually takes me about 15 minutes or so to get some fresh hot nutella crepes in her hands. I usually make then without any butter as I’m a oil/fat freak.
Today I read an article on crepes on KQED Food Blog and I love this quote: Crepes are fabulous for breakfast. But only if you really love the people you’re making them for, or you love watching the sunrise.
11/27/2006 12:13 pm
for those who can’t wait to get started :”-)
I have a very simple crepe pan (12″) and I recently bought the wooden rake as well from Sur La Table. They recently started carrying it.
Tell you the truth, if the batter is of the right consistency and your stove top is not too hot, I usually just swirl the batter around to get it to spread correctly. The wooden rake is seldom useful.. This morning I used it maybe once.
Yahoo! User Yahoo! User
11/27/2006 12:08 pm
The recipe here is very similar to mine, but you have to also go by eye as well since eggs are of different sizes. I usually eyeball things and check the consistency.
1 1/4 CUPS WHOLE MILK
3 EACH LARGE EGGS, room temperature
3/4 CUP ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
3 ounces MELTED UNSALTED BUTTER,
+ more for the making of the crepes
1/2 teaspoon KOSHER SALT
3 TABLESPOONS SUGAR
1 TABLESPOON VANILLA EXTRACT
Yahoo! User Yahoo! User
11/27/2006 11:46 am
i meant i’ve never had them ready from start to finish in 15 minutes. we’d LOVE them in 15 minutes!!
Yahoo! User Yahoo! User
11/27/2006 11:44 am
we love crepes too. but never in as fast at 15 minutes! don’t you have to let the batter sit a bit?? please pass on a recipe if you have one.
Yahoo! User Yahoo! User
11/27/2006 09:51 am
hee, I made some for her today right before school. A few strawberry jam ones and some nutella ones
Yahoo! User Yahoo! User
11/27/2006 07:20 am
Nutella crepes???? That sounds sooooo good!
Am in Paris trying to save money by eating out during Lunch and cooking for dinner. Cooking pasta should be the easiest thing. I’m trying to replicate the flavors in Italy. For the next 3 days I plan to cook exactly the same thing in order to perfect this simple recipe.
a) fresh fettucine
c) olive oil
e) cherry tomatoes
boil fettucine, in parallel heat up 2 tbsp oil, throw in garlic and parsley. Lay the halfed tomatoes to pan frie. thow in fettucine and toss in oil. Result: not enough oil, the parsley got burned and didn’t taste fresh. tomatoes were also burned: scale of 1-10 : 5.
Decided to buy 4 gigantic scallops. boil fettucine, pore gobs of olive oil… a lot.. throw in garlic only, then place tomatoes face down, place scallops.. pan fry for 3 mins.. throw in fettucine, toss, then throw in parsley. Yum! still not enough oil, need double gobs next time. But the flavors were really good. The parsley was not burnt. scale of 1-10: 7
..last day in Paris tomorrow, then I’m heading home.
Day 3 (last day in Europe)
Threw in a lot of salt into the water while cooking fettucine. lots and lots of olive oil. Didn’t cook the tomatoes for very long, toss in the pasta, threw in parsley last minute and toss together. With a glass of wine, pasta was very very good. scale 1-10: 7
It’s been the same answer for the past few weeks. She wants fresh pasta, she helps make it. Gather the ingredient, stir in water, break the eggs, measure the flour, mix, help roll the dough, cut into fettuccine or pappardelle, cook the pasta, wash the basil, mix with olive oil, add salt.
I’m just the executive chef making sure she doesn’t burn herself :-)
We had 23 kids, probably 18 parents packed into a 2 hour
birthday party for Kate. I got up at 6:30am to cut up 3 cantelopes, 2
melons, 1 4lb papaya, 10 apples, 6 pears, 8 bell peppers.
The dish I’m most proud of is this big bowl of finely chopped pear, fuji
apple, bell peppers. It was a very refreshing salad, the pear gave it
the sweetness, the bell pepper made it taste like a grown up salad, the
apple gave it the crunch.
I’ve always loved small businesses owners. They risk their time, their life savings to open a business that they are often passionate about. The reward is usually not forthcoming immediately but they have confidence in themselves to plow forward and eventually a small percentage of them succeed and flourish.
Support your local small businesses (if they are good).
Some of my must shop places are toy stories, sandwich shops, local restaurants, coffee shops, pastry shops, stationary stores, sometimes bookstores (I can’t justifying pay 35% over Amazon for books)
If you are in Berkeley, check out Sweet Adeline Bakery (they’ve got free wifi), very big open space, warm and friend owner and of course good pastries and cakes
Saturday night we decided to make fresh pasta by hand. The recipe is very
simple, most of the work is in the rolling out of the dough. It usually
helps to have the traditional rolling pin to flatten out large area but
having the small roller is a must in order to shape the dough into a
Dough for 8 people: 6 cups of flour
good olive oil
in a huge pot bring water to a boil, put salt in to add flavor, put fresh
pasta in to make sure it separates, take out in 3 minutes then cool down
with cold water to stop the cooking processll. Toss with sauce, and top
with pine nuts.
Yes I’m off to Paris again, this time just with my parents. I think I’ve lost count, but this should be my 8th time to the most beautiful city in the world.
We have a 12 hour lay over in NY because I wasn’t thinking when I booked the flight. We are making the best out of the situation, so they are meeting some friends in NY while I go and explore East Village.
My plan is to have some unique breakfast panini and bruschette at the fabulous ‘ino for and a glass of Italian red wine, then of course over to Dumpling Man for a bit of research, finally off to some Chinese dim sum with a dear old friend of my parents.
Wish my stomach luck with 3 meals before 2:00pm :-D
Before New York was a town with a panino in every presser, there was ‘ino, the first and still the best of all the tiny Italian sandwich bars that have spread like parmesan foam in recent years. The owners have that whole Italian between-meals-snacking aesthetic down to a tee. Their panini, tramezzini, and bruschette are little masterpieces of bold flavor and superb texture, and the tiny room is a lovely place to linger over a carafe or bottle of wine provided you’re able to commandeer a seat.
Recommended Dishes: Panino with soppressata, fontina, and rucola, $8; panino with rucola, sun-dried tomatoes, onion, and fontina, $8; nutella panino, $5
Tonight I really wanted fresh pasta,
so I whipped out my rolling pin and got to work. 20 minutes later, I’m
having the best meal of my life.
1 part water
1 part flour
a dash of salt
a pot of water
On Sunday I decided to treat myself and check out a place my foodie brother-in-law has been raving about: Matsuhisa in Beverley Hills voted 100 best restauants in America by Zagat. The place is supposely frequented by Hollywood types and seen as catering to them. But I do believe the rich and famous also could know good sushi. They are just like us, no different.
If you know me recently I am wearing shorts and my running top, I walked into this fancy place and asked for a table. I was a bit intimidated by how underdressed I was, but what they heck, no one knows me here. I was extremely lucky since there was only one sushi bar spot open in the huge dinning area, the place was packed.
First thing I noticed was that the sushi bar was only about 12 foot long but had 6 sushi chefs behind it, it’s a very traditional Japanese way of setup. You will get 1-on-1 personal attention at this bar. I sat down and saw that they had omakase, which is checf’s choice of $80, $100, $120. I imediately asked the chef whether they had mirugai and monkfish liver. It’s my way of gauging whether a sushi place is a special place. They had it! Now I knew I arrived at the right place! I ordered the $80 chef’s choice, order up a cold sake and the journey began! If you can’t wait start with the Flickr slideshow!
A little background: I was told once that picking chef’s choice was your way of honoring a sushi chef by placing your faith on your chef’s to use his artistic talents to pick the best fish of the day and serve you the best meal possible.
If you decide to go, keep in mind that it will be expensive, open up your wallet and enjoy the interaction with the chef. Go around 9:30 and buy the chef some sake to share after 10:00pm (that’s the policy, no drinking for the chef until after 10). After I was done with my meal I felt my entire Santa Monica business trip was worthwhile, even though this meal will not be reimbursed. This was the best sushi meal I’ve had outside of the Tokyo fish market 7:00am sushi breakfast.
First dish was my recently favorite: monkfish liver It’s like foie gras but better, lighter, taste fresher.
Scallops thinly sliced over cucumber, string of squid, touch of hot sauce
Beautiful arrangement of fresh greens, tuna, spanish makerel over a grated daikon sauce
fried oyster in nest of fried taro over shiso leave and lettuce, fresh paper thin daikon
Chilean Sea Bass baked in sweet soy sauce with plumb on the side wraped in some kind of leaf
Torro one seared one raw
Simple yet delightfully crunchy mirugai nigiri, anago
Meal ended with a molten chocolate cake, 2 bottles of cold sake and a happy Tony and a promise to chef Ken that I will be back again one day.
Just wanted to document my very long but leisurely day with my little girl so I don’t forget.
Saturday morning started at 6:30 when Kate bounced up and asked me whether she could make crepes. Of course, I love crepes. She ran into the kitchen and got all the ingredients ready. She measured the flour, broke the eggs, pour the milk, the orange blosom, salt, sugar, olive oil. Then she poured the batter and flipped crepe. When she was done she had 2 nutella crepes, one lavender honey and one maple syrup.
At noon, I drove to SF Ferry Building, ran with her jogger stroller and picked up 2 jars of honey yorgurt from Sant Benoit. Turn the corner into Delica RF1 (menu here ) for Kobe beef over rice, salmon rice balls and butternut squash soup.
We had a spontaneous thought to take the ferry boat to the Sausalito, the ferry was leaving in 10 mins.
Came back to SF in an hour and jogged with Kate in the $50 jogger stroller I bought from craigslist along the Embarcadero.
Time to drive back, little Kate without a nap is getting weird on me. On my way back to Castro Valley a long time friend called to see if they could see me since they just had a little baby. I dropped by Hayward and hung out until 5:30, then headed home.
Kate and I had a plate of veggies, noodles followed by a ginger snap cookie and wrapped up the long day at 8:30. I actually slept at 8:30!
This Saturday, Kate didn’t have dance class so I actually got to spend Saturday morning with her at the SF Ferry building farmer’s market . I went in with $200 in cash and came out with $80. Pretty scary but the food is so so good.
If you like yogurt, you must try to buy this Saint Benoit Yogurt , it’s at most fine grocers in the Bay Area :-) They have honey, plum, strawberry, plain flavors. The yogurt culture is from France, it’s “sweet, mild and smooth”
16 bottles of Saint Benoit Yogurt == $34
5 baskets of strawberries == $16
1 lb of Pasta Shop paparadelle == $3
pastries from Fog Hollow with coffee == $26
1/2 lb of organic baby bok choy == $3
2 lbs tomatoes == $6
bag of kettle corn == $3
2 salmon rice balls, == $24
1 package of veggie sushi
1 bottle water,
1 bowl of soba noodles with radish
(from DELICA rf1 )
Someone asked me why I’m such a foodie. Why do I go out of my way to find the best croissant at La Farine in Oakland. Why do I have go to dim sum at the Koi Palace, hot dogs at Top Dog, cakes at Katrina Rozelle, good Belgium chocolates? So much trouble for just filling my stomach. My usual response is that why eat so so food when the Bay Area offers so many choices?
I realize that is not the reason. The real reason is that food brings back memories for me. croissants brings me back to Paris, dim sum reminds of childhood with my parents, Top Dog reminds me of college days at Berkeley, the cake reminds me of my wedding cake, chocolates remind me of my first trip to Switzerland. It’s like the movie Like Water For Chocolate, food is about memories, good or bad. New types of food offer another chance to build new memories.
Just came back from the SF Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. Now this is what you call a meal for a king. Strawberries, mint leaves, cherries, apricot, asparagus, honey yogurt, pistachio nut, honey glazed walnuts, apple turnover, costata, cherry krisp (from Fog Hollow Farms)
For breakfast I had some very yummie honey yorgurt from Saint Benoît Yogurt If you are into yorgurt, you have to try these.
For lunch, I had neiman ranch beef beef short ribs over rice with a glass of Vietnamese ice coffe from Slanted Door.