Business and Operations
The Odds Are Tough
How to make it anyway
There’s nothing better than the moment after a rush,
when it’s all over and everybody looks at each other; you’re hot,
you’re dirty, you’re sweaty and you go, ‘whoa – we did it.’”
How to make it anyway
There’s nothing better than the moment after a rush, when it’s all over and everybody looks at each other; you’re hot, you’re dirty, you’re sweaty and you go, ‘whoa – we did it.’”
When Annette Fazio shared this familiar anecdote with her audience at the New York Pizza Expo, they nodded their heads knowingly, confirming this pasta diva has definitely lived the restaurant business.
Fazio admits that before she opened her restaurant 18 years ago, she didn’t know anything about the business. She didn’t know how the food got from the kitchen to the dining room. She had no money and nothing to put up but herself.
Her odds weren’t good – but she made it anyway.
Fazio calls herself the pasta diva because the foundation of her restaurant was built on her homemade pasta, which she says is the very best pasta ever. Period.
Sound pretentious? She says it’s just good business.
Fazio said if you can’t turn to the person next to you right now and tell them with sincerity one thing your restaurant does the very best, better than anyone else, than you’ll never be able to convince your customers or (here’s a scary one) the bank!
Fazio waited months for the bank to confirm her loan. She was months away from her opening date, and they still hadn’t given her any money.
“I took a copy of the business plan and walked right into another bank and said, ‘this is what I have, this is what I need and this is when I need it. You have less than two weeks to give me an answer because I can’t fool around.”
You must be willing to fight hard for the help you need, and a business plan should be your best weapon.
“I know, I say ‘business plan’ and people think oh, shoot me now, no shoot me later,” joked Fazio.
If you’ve been in business for years and have never had to make a business plan, make one. And if you have one, pull it out of the drawer, she advised. Compare and adjust your initial speculations.
Maybe you want to quietly infuse new trends into your concept. Gently nudge your customers into a new direction if you feel your restaurant is just pulling you along. Fazio said that is what the business plan really does – it lets you take the reigns.
Concentrate on the things you can control and never compare yourself to someone else.
When you do, you become a reactive business owner and “I really don’t think there’s a quicker way to go down than to react to what is going on around you,” said Fazio.
Drive your business with your own values. If you were left with only one value to drive your business with, what would it be?
“If it’s money, it won’t last you (although it will make it a lot easier). They say money isn’t everything, but it is right up there with oxygen.” Fazio’s comic relief never seemed to fail.
Make sure your employees know what your values are. In fact, teach your staff as much as you possibly can, advised Fazio. When you treat your staff with integrity, they will, in turn, treat your customers with integrity.
“When you walk into a restaurant, it’s personal.”
Fazio credits a lot of her success to word of mouth advertising from locals in her hometown. She said if the locals think you care about them, they will send customers to you.
Fazio believes that being involved in your community is one of the most important things you can do.
“Giving a gift certificate is nothing more than just that. It’s nice that you gave a gift certificate to the local rotary – so they’re not going to talk bad about you because you weren’t stingy and chinced them out. But it’s just money and that’s all it is.”
Fazio suggested volunteering at local charity events, even if it’s for a couple of hours.
And if you’re going to send food, “always go with the food.”
In 2001, Fazio was suffering the loss of her husband and, after 9/11, really felt she needed to so something to make herself feel better. A local church adopted a firehouse in Brooklyn, and she felt this was her opportunity to give back.
She adid what she does best – she fed them. And before she knew it, dozens of journalists were snapping her photo, creating a wealth of free publicity.
“But that’s not why I did it … it’s what I do and I’m a New Yorker.”
Determine what it is that you do best and you too can beat the odds. Never compare yourself to someone else. And when you find a cause you feel strongly about, give to it personally – “go with the food,” so to speak. •