Archive for December, 2009
It’s a busy time for us on New Year’s Eve. Turns out people like the big sushi platters, so we have a full schedule preparing the food and (in the Raffles Place area) running around to the various office towers to deliver. Too bad we didn’t announce these platters earlier!
2009 has been a rough but positive year. I think being naive has helped in the creation of Standing Sushi Bar. In other words, if I knew then what I know now, would I still have plunged into the restaurant business? It’s a few months past opening and with many lessons learned, I’m ready to go! go! go! in the new year. Big plans, big dreams. And lots and lots of sushi to eat.
Happy new year, everyone! May 2010 have us standing!
Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you’re all celebrating Christmas with the ones you want to be with.
And of course tucking into a ton of delicious food!
If you’re out and about on Boxing Day (December 26), we’ll be open… humming along as one of the only shops in Raffles Place open for you to eat at.
As a holiday food celebration, everything on the a la carte menu is 15% off on December 26! You can move from food coma to food coma.
Credit card promotions at restaurants are rife in Singapore. I never noticed such promotions in the US, but here every restaurant has a tie-up with a bank where users of that bank’s credit card will get some type of benefit – be it a percentage off the bill, free food based on a certain amount you spend, 1 for 1 deals, etc.
Before Standing Sushi Bar even opened, banks were approaching to talk about tie-ups. I wish I had known more about how to deal with them.
Their value proposition is that they will increase awareness of your restaurant by including the restaurant in their collateral – primarily booklets and web sites that list all the venues that have deals with them and what the promotion is.
Since I was a soon-to-open restaurant, I figured that any awareness would be good. UOB is the bank best known for their restaurant tie-ups so when they approached me I signed on – offering discounts and a 1 for 1 omakase promotion to stimulate the dinner crowd.
The 1 for 1 omakase promotion was popular. It helped bring new people to the restaurant that would normally not eat dinner in the Raffles Place area. However a 1 for 1 promotion is hard to stomach, financially.
One of the awareness vehicles that the banks tout is that they will create banners and table tents with the credit card promotion that you’re supposed to place all over the restaurant. They pitch this to you as if it’s a good thing.
To me, a bank / credit card promotion should bring in customers from outside the immediate area. One of the advantages of a restaurant in Raffles Place is that the foot traffic is incredible – people will discover you and try you out regardless of promotions.
So a promotion should convince people that aren’t in the Raffles Place area to venture into the CBD and try out the restaurant. If a customer is already in the restaurant and has come of their own accord, the bank tie-up hasn’t contributed anything but the customer still gets the discount and then the restaurant makes less money without getting the benefit of the increased awareness by the bank promotion.
Tips on dealing with the banks:
- ASK FOR COMPENSATION
As a restaurant owner you’re losing money with every discount that you give. The bank is trying to increase the amount of times a customer will use their credit card (thus putting money into the bank’s pocket) by your restaurant’s promotion.
When negotiating with the bank, they should give you something tangible in return. While there is value in being included with their collateral and advertisements, you need to ask for money, subsidy, or an actual item. For example you could say to the bank, “I will do this 1 for 1 promotion with you if you subsidize the promotion by giving us 2,000 SGD.”
- TIE UP WITH THE BANK THAT PROCESSES YOUR CREDIT CARDS
You may be paying 2.5% of the total bill for every Visa transaction. If you partner with the bank that handles your credit card transactions they may be able to adjust the percentage rate to something lower.
- SET DEADLINES ON THE PROMOTIONS
Open-ended promotions are confusing for everyone. Make it clear when promotions will expire.
- EXAMINE THE BANK’S CUSTOMER DEMOGRAPHICS
Ask for the demographics of the bank’s credit card holders. Are they the right market for your restaurant? If a bank’s credit card is popular with students and you’re targeting professionals, you’re not going to want to promote to that bank’s credit card base.
- MEET WITH A FEW BANKS BEFORE COMMITTING
In the opening weeks, a flood of banks will meet with you and try to sign you to exclusive (i.e. can only sign with them or must give them the best deal) contracts. Make sure you’re getting a good deal from the bank (i.e. what they will subsidize) before committing.
- TARGET YOUR PROMOTION
Wait a couple weeks and see where you think you need help. For example, at the sushi bar we get a healthy lunch crowd – there’s no need for me to run a promotion to increase customers during lunch time. However we get few customers during the late afternoon and happy hour times. So with Standard Chartered I created a promotion that targets the happy hour crowd.
Cause it’s good to be king…
I’ve been messing about with Foursquare recently. It’s a social networking application a la Twitter & Facebook where you connect with friends and “check in” at the location you are currently at. It awards badges based on your check-ins. For example I’m an “Adventurer” because I’ve checked into 10 different venues.
For each venue, the person who has checked in the most at that venue becomes the Mayor of that location. Currently I’m the Mayor of Standing Sushi Bar.
Foursquare is fun! Being mayor is POWER!
Here’s our Foursquare promotion – if you’re the Mayor of Standing Sushi Bar, each time you come to the sushi bar you get your choice of either 2 pieces of salmon nigiri or 2 pieces of tuna nigiri for free. That’s right, free sushi for the Mayor of Standing Sushi Bar on Foursquare.*
Have fun playing! Let’s see who the first mayor will be.
*Limited to once per day, offer good until owner’s discretion to end it
Note – I won’t be checking in at Standing Sushi Bar else I’d always be mayor!
Doesn’t everyone love free sushi?
It has been awhile since I’ve written an informative entry on this blog. Straying a bit from my goal of sharing information for others who are interested in starting a small business or taking a step into the food & beverage industry.
I have a few topics lined up. Waiting for some time to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and write. It’s surprising how taxing the sushi bar and Microsoft both can be. I’m on an airplane now, winging my way to Beijing for a week full of meetings as well as presentations at a customer conference. Perhaps with a little luck I won’t have to go the whole time without sushi and I’ll stumble upon a Japanese restaurant in the Chinese capital.
I think it’s a good sign that even though I literally eat sushi for multiple meals a day, I often still find myself craving it. My own personal “Super Size Me” substituting greasy Mcdonalds for fresh raw fish.
Three months of sushi
Fish and rice play in my mind
All the time, happy
While I’m gone from the sushi bar, we’re implementing some changes to the menu. More sets! More variety! The lunch sets have proven to be popular so we’ll offer additional ones as well as the option to add on some sashimi. That is my goal! For everyone to fall in love with sashimi! Much as Microsoft has touted a PC on every desktop (that was their old vision), I shall make it my mission to put sashimi in every person’s stomach.
We’re also changing the glass boards to feature our specials that come in from Japan a few times a week. Currently our glass board and the printed menu display the same information. Customers have had to ask the chef what the specials were and during the lunch rush it’s hard to communicate. Re-designing the printed menu in conjunction with the glass boards will allow us to constantly display what new items we have. I’m excited about this; I feel people will enjoy seeing so many new types of sea creatures and sushi. It should be fun for the curious and adventurous diners! (One special that we just got… wagyu beef! A thick slice placed on a small bed of sushi rice and then lightly flamed… HEAVEN).
Basically I’m thinking about how to encourage folks to try out new dishes. People are happy and comfortable with salmon (sake), tuna (maguro), eel (unagi), prawn (ebi), and yellowtail (Hamachi), but there is a world of fish out there to explore. I will admit that some are an acquired taste. (Cod fish sperm, anyone? We had it two weeks ago).
Speaking of adventurous dining, my plane is about to land. And if there’s one culture that eats even more variety than the Japanese, it’s probably the Chinese.