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Episode 5
WOWing Your Restaurant's Guests

With Marvin AlBalli, Award-Winning Food And Beverage Executive.

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About The Episode

Marvin Alballi is an award-winning food and beverage executive with twenty two years of international experience managing franchise chains, celebrity-chef restaurants, independent establishments, and global hotel F&B operations.

He’s spent several years with the InterContinental Hotels Group, for which he oversaw 745 restaurants and bars for 212 hotels overseas, and the Fortune 500 company Brinker International (Chili’s Grill & Bar) named him Training and Operator of the Year. Marvin’s also launched several franchise locations internationally, namely Caribou Coffee and Applebee’s. Additionally, Marvin delivers seminars and keynote speeches and offers consulting-both online and in person. Marvin shares his tips for wowing your guests and running a successful F&B business.

Watch Extracts

How To Build A Restaurant Strategy

Upselling In Restaurant Is Taught Incorrecty

Craveable vs Instagrammable

The Interview

[00:00:00.350] – Jean-Philippe

Hi, and welcome to the fifth episode of Soppy Talks podcast. Today, I’m joined by Marvin Albali. Marvin is an F&B executive who’s won several awards and who’s got 25 years of experience managing franchise businesses, celebrity chef restaurants, and stand-alone businesses. Marvin has been widely exposed to launching franchise locations internationally, namely, Caraibou Café and Applebees. He’s also won the Training and Operator Award of the Year, given by the Fortune 500 company, Brinkers International, who own Chili’s Grill & Bar. But not only that, Marvin has worked with the Corporate Office of Burger King in Miami, leading all of the Western region of the Burger King operations in Canada. He’s also worked with the Intercontinental Hotel Group, overseeing over 700 restaurants and 200 hotels. And if all of that is not impressive enough, then Marvin is also a best-selling author on Amazon, having written the book Restaurant Excellence, which is one of the most comprehensive F&B books written. Marvin, it’s great Good to have you.


[00:01:00.860] – Marvin

Thank you. Thank you for inviting me to the show. Great to be here.


[00:01:04.380] – Jean-Philippe

Marvin, I want to start by talking about your book. It was very comprehensive. You covered a lot of the topics that a lot of restaurant owners would want to know about. Can you tell us a little bit about your book?


[00:01:16.750] – Marvin

Restaurant Excellence is a journey of four years. What I did, basically, I was looking, JP, I was looking for a book in the market that would cover every aspect of the business. I wanted to find a book that talks about service, hospitality, training, cost management, profitability, marketing, basically every piece of the business. And I couldn’t find. You can find the book today on culinary. You can find books on marketing, but you don’t find a single book that covers every aspect. So I said, I’m going to do that. I’m going to write this book. Actually, the main reason for writing the book, JP, is the following fact. A lot of people, especially immigrants that go to North America, they really invest all their life savings in opening a restaurant for it to fail after 2-3 years because the restaurant business has the highest failure rate than any other business in the world. I said, then somebody has to write a book. Somebody has to show people there is a better way and there is an easier way. That was really one of the key drivers for writing the book.


[00:02:27.630] – Jean-Philippe

Amazing. Look, I read I read your book over this week, and I thought that it was very complete. It’s a book that talks about, again, a bunch of the different topics that you would want to know about as both a starting restaurant owner, but also a seasoned restaurant owner. It’s impressive the level of detail in which you go into. I learned a series of things that I wasn’t aware of. For example, kitchen design, how having an air vent that is badly positioned can affect the temperature of the food that is being And how this then impacts the guest experience. I mean, these are the kinds of mistakes that you absolutely want to avoid as a starting restaurant owner. And it’s a mistake that if you’re able to avoid it, it saves you time and money. So that’s the insight that I found very valuable and intriguing in your book. So in your book, Marvin, you talk about how upselling is taught incorrectly in schools and even in restaurants. Can you tell us a little bit about Yeah, sure.


[00:03:32.120] – Marvin

It’s an interesting fact because if you think about it, JP, when you start, I don’t know if you worked as a waiter ever, but when you’re starting out as a waiter, the first thing they tell you in the restaurant, increase the check average or sell the most expensive item on the menu. But by doing that, and hotel schools will tell you the same, but by doing that, you’re not really selling the most popular or the tastiest item on the menu. If you’re a first-timer, if it’s your first time at a restaurant and they sell you the lobster, which is the most expensive, instead of the paeya, which is the most popular, as a guest, you would leave that restaurant having paid a lot of money not really wowed by the food, and the chances of you coming back are slim. But if I suggested to you the most popular dish, which is less expensive than lobster, but super tasty, and you fell in love with If you don’t put that item, you’re going to come back three, four times more. So I make more money on the long run when I win you and bring you back.


[00:04:37.920] – Marvin

But what we’re taught in school, we’re taught when a customer comes in, sell them the most expensive item, or increase the check average as much as you can. But it’s not about that. Even upselling should be about making the meal better. If you order a burger and I suggest cheese and bacon on it or a steak, and I suggest sautéed mushrooms on it, it will taste better, and I make money. So it’s really about striking a balance between the two. And I think that’s what upselling is all about. But I can bet money on a JP. I can take you to 20 restaurants in the region and go and ask about the most popular dish, and they’ll try to sell you the most expensive dish. And that’s really a sad fact in the training world of the restaurant business.


[00:05:24.560] – Jean-Philippe

And that’s the nuance that you go into in your book. So upselling is not a short term goal. It’s a long term goal, and you do it by, well, essentially being genuine with your customers. Speaking of interacting with customers, can we talk about what makes great service in a restaurant? You have an entire chapter dedicated just to that.


[00:05:45.340] – Marvin

Yeah. You know, JP, service and hospitality, I always talk about them together. I don’t separate them. Is about anticipating, recognizing, and exceeding guest expectations. Service and hospitality is a mixture of art and science. The art is really reading your table very well, having a seamless service process. An example of you don’t want your customers, your guests, to wave to get served. That’s really art. That’s really the art of service. You’re there, you’re serving the table. It’s a seamless process. As a guest, I don’t even feel there is someone interacting disrupting my meal. The science part is obvious, is knowing your menu inside out, knowing the ingredients, knowing what to suggest, knowing what to upsell. So you need to have both. It’s really about social and technical skills at the same time. And I’ll tell you, JP, we teach the technical side so much in the industry, but we fail completely on training the social side of service.


[00:06:57.200] – Jean-Philippe

Can you tell me a little bit about the difference between a fly-by table check and a touching table, table check.


[00:07:05.910] – Marvin

Yeah. A table visit versus a fly-by. Yeah, visit, sorry. A fly-by is the most… Seriously, it’s not genuine at all. So someone would come and say, Hey, how’s everything? And they walk. They don’t even take the time to listen to your answer. That’s a fly-by. A genuine table visit is when a manager comes over and says, Hi, my name is Marvin. I’m the manager on duty. How’s your food tonight? How’s your experience? Is there anything else we could do for you? It’s genuine. It shows care. It shows attention. A flyby is when a manager is forced to do a table visit.


[00:07:43.330] – Jean-Philippe

I want to go back to a couple of things that you mentioned in your chapter on superior service. Some of the points that you mentioned, I have to say I was laughing on my own in the living room because they seem to… I mean, one would think that these part of common sense, and yet you mentioned them here as if they weren’t that evident to some restaurant owners. And I’d like to mention a couple of them. Servers with bad breath, long finger nails, and poor grooming. Starting the meal with super cold butter that guests cannot spread and cold dry bread.


[00:08:17.860] – Marvin

Look, a restaurant is a business of a thousand details, and an experience is a combination of those details. If you miss a couple of details here or there, you end up having a bad experience. So think about it. Someone comes to your table with a dirty uniform, or the food takes a while to get to the table. It’s a combination of details. So it is definitely a business of details. And operators like Pitfire Pizza, like Metos, those successful operators like Orfalee Brothers, are obsessed with the details for a good reason.


[00:08:57.710] – Jean-Philippe

I saw in one a part of your book where you said that you were basically explaining how one time you saw the VP of a very large corporation.


[00:09:09.000] – Marvin

I think- The Brooklyn International.


[00:09:11.260] – Jean-Philippe

Oh, I think that was it. The VP had 1,200 branches or franchises or locations under him. And you said that you saw him go into the kitchen and analyze every single detail of the kitchen line. And then you said, I was impressed by how a top-tier executive was so detail-oriented. Well, the importance that this has, not just on leadership, but also on operational excellence. Sure.


[00:09:36.550] – Marvin

It goes back to what you said. This was when Chilies were… Chilies in the ’90s were amongst the highest generating sales brands in North America and globally. The restaurant I worked at in 1999 was doing $200,000 a week with 45 minutes waiting time. So I was talking about Ted Leovitz Rich and Don Reagan, whom they would go into the kitchen. They come for a visit from the corporate office, but they will go to the kitchen and really check a lot of ingredients. And that sent a message to the top management all the way to the dishwashers that ingredients matter, everything matters, every detail matters, and quality first. Quality comes before anything else. And I was only 23 years old at the time, and I was They’re like, wowed by that, by the attention to details. A lot of people talk about the importance of being strategic, and they say, If you focus on the details, you’re not being strategic. But in the restaurant business, you cannot afford You have no choice but to focus on the details. Maybe in other industries, not so much, but in the restaurant business, in the service industry, you have to.


[00:10:56.390] – Marvin

Let me give you another example of the CEO of Chipotle. When they were extremely successful, it was only burritos, but the focus was about every single ingredient and how fresh every single ingredient, how it’s prepped. So really, in the restaurant business, part of your strategy should be focusing on the details. It sounds like a paradox, but that’s the nature of the business.


[00:11:24.200] – Jean-Philippe

Yeah, I agree with you. It actually resonates with the podcast we did last time with the Ziad, who from Cucklay, who said that no job was beneath him, and that he was extremely detail-oriented and was checking everything. So it does resonate. So, Marvin, speaking of good quality service, I’d like to talk about what matters most, which is the people that you hire. Tell me a little bit about how you hire the right person, given that it’s quite an important part of your business.


[00:11:52.690] – Marvin

This might chalk you, but I never ask skill-based questions. I never ask you what goes with meat, what wine goes with meat. I never ask you, Do you know how to carry five different glasses in one hand or five dishes? I never ask you, do you serve from the right or from the left? I ask all that question that I ask are personality-based. We can train you the skill, JP, but we can’t change your attitude. For me, the number one factor in the success of a food service career is the Being a team player, having whatever it takes attitude to impress the guest, reading the guest. I can’t teach you how to read the guest. It’s really about hiring people with the right personalities. When I do interviews, people come in, I look at the smile, how cheerful is this person? Is he an extrovert or an introvert? And it’s very important to be an extrovert in our business to connect with people. That’s what I look for. And then I can teach you the skills. It’s not really hard to pick up two additional from the kitchen and serve them to the guests. We’re not operating a very complex business here.


[00:13:06.190] – Jean-Philippe

Yeah. So let’s say that you’ve hired the right person now based on the attitude, and then you’ve provided the training for them. I’d like to go back to one of the things that a previous guest has told me, which is a secret to a successful business is consistency, which you also mentioned in your book, by the way. And he says that consistency is attained notably by maintaining the same talent for a number of years because they start to understand how things work and keep things consistent. Yet it’s one of the hardest things to do, to retain talent. How do you keep your team motivated?


[00:13:43.390] – Marvin

Yeah. Let me first answer you about consistency, because I think I agree to an extent, but consistency is also built on systems. Chilis and Applebees and Outback Steakhouse and TGI Fridays and Burger King and all those franchises, they have high turnover, JP, but they have a flawless system that ensures consistency. So retention, yes, helps in consistency, but it’s not the solution. And in my book, there’s about five to 6 pages where I talk about zoning, labeling, kitchen schematics, and the whole science behind consistency. It’s a science. Revenance, really. Now, retention helps without a doubt. But retention is about treating your people well, showing them a career path, providing a career path, paying them slightly above market average, and caring about them in a genuine way, really showing that you care. Every operator that I talk with that is successful, they’re amazing at managing people.


[00:14:57.390] – Jean-Philippe

Where do you see the role of culture in the middle of all of that?


[00:15:02.520] – Marvin

Oh, this is a fantastic question, JP. I had the honor of working under a VP of HR in Canada for a restaurant company called Whitespot. Whitespot is the oldest North American restaurant company that exists. It’s about 95 years old. So Denise Buchana used to tell us, Culture eats strategy for breakfast. And I totally agree because you can write a strategy strategy about expansion or consistency or guest satisfaction, but without the right culture where people are happy and enjoying their work and the retention is high and there’s a lot of training and a culture of high standards, you’re going nowhere. Culture first. When I used to do consulting for several restaurants and hotels, I used to tell them, all the policies and manuals will end up nowhere if you don’t have the right culture, if you don’t inspire people, if people don’t believe in your mission or envision. So really, culture is everything.


[00:16:06.530] – Jean-Philippe

How do you instill a culture?


[00:16:08.630] – Marvin

There are several ways. Number one, you have to be a role model as a business owner or a leader or an F&B a director, or a hotel general manager, or a CEO. You have to show that you care about people. I mentioned that a few times. You have to establish certain standards in certain DNA that you don’t allow shortcuts. You’re fair. You’re tough on standards, but not tough on people. So you show that you have high standards. You don’t accept inferior quality. You don’t allow late food. You’re all about developing people and training people. So you establish those standards, but at the same time, you’re very good with your people. You look after them, you take care of them. I mean, these are some aspects of building a culture, right? Having an open-door policy, community, allowing people to vent out, to share their opinion. There are hundreds of books that are written about culture. It’s a big thing.


[00:17:11.150] – Jean-Philippe

So you’ve been exposed to a lot of restaurants, as we’ve mentioned, and to a lot of executives. What makes a great leader?


[00:17:19.130] – Marvin

I’m extremely fortunate that I worked under amazing leaders. Warren Earhart, Whitespot. Warren was the President of the company. He’d see you in the corridor He always have this… Most amazing leaders have a positive personality, optimistic, can-do attitude. They give people the benefit of the doubt. They give people several opportunities. They give you a room to make mistakes and a room to grow. So Warren was that leader. And the average tenure at White Spot was probably 20, 25 years. I worked under Haytham Matar here in the region, super kind guy. Steve Weyberg and Burger King, also an incredible guy. And so many, I mean, I’m afraid I’m going to miss some of the names, but all those CEOs are in their positions because they know how to inspire a team. Because there is a huge difference, JP, between management and leadership. Management is getting things done. Writing a schedule is management. Doing a table visit is management. Holding a pre-shift briefing is management. It’s task-oriented. Leadership is totally different. It’s inspiring people. It’s leading people. It’s making people believe in the vision, in the mission. Totally different skill sets.


[00:18:44.750] – Jean-Philippe

Let’s switch topics now. In your book, you talk about the difference between craveable and Instagramable. Can you explain?


[00:18:52.630] – Marvin

I’m smiling because at every single interview, radio or podcast, I get this question. Yeah, on my Instagram, I wrote, Cravable is far more important than Instagramable. And there’s a reason to that. So, JP, Instagram has influenced chefs around the world in a negative way. Okay. Let me explain. Everyone is obsessed with presentation and steam and decoration and how the food looks, but what they should be focused on, and their biggest concern or their number one goal should be taste. Taste is what brings people back. You can’t do much with a pulled beef sandwich, JP. It’s going to always look like a sandwich. But if it tastes amazing, it’ll bring you back. So there’s a lot of, and I see this with hotel chefs a lot, even independent restaurants. And it’s sad because it’s not helping their business. It’s a lot of, Pour the chocolate, get some steam going on, Have different flowers. I’m not here for all of that. Taste. When people crave your food, people come back. And cravability is powerful. And if you have dishes that, if you don’t hear customers say, I loved it. This food is amazing. I’m going to be back.


[00:20:16.580] – Marvin

You’re not on your way to success. People have to love your food. How many times, JP, you go somewhere and say, I love that chocolate cake. I want to be back next week. Or even that sandwich. It could be any dish, that steak. So cravability is a key element in the success of any restaurant company.


[00:20:37.620] – Jean-Philippe

Yeah. Look, I think in this day and age, the presentation still does matter. I get your point, which is that cravability still matters. In your book, actually, you mentioned in the chapter that talks about signature dishes, you talk about how there was this mom and pop shop that was selling a couple of recipes only, and yet the line was immense. The presentation wasn’t really what they cared about. Cravability and the quality of the ingredients and the quality of the flavor was what mattered most. But in this day and age, I would say that I understand why some restaurants try to just get as many eyeballs as they possibly can together, but 100% crevability is still not true.


[00:21:18.760] – Marvin

I agree with you. Look, as long as you have amazing flavors and that’s where you spend 80% of your time, that’s fine. Then you can play with the presentation. You can play with the desserts a lot. Desserts are where you can play with presentation, maybe main courses, but you can’t be… Not every single dish has to be a work of art.


[00:21:37.280] – Jean-Philippe

Yeah, got it. Speaking of Instagram, what do you think of influencers?


[00:21:44.470] – Marvin

I don’t know if you were listening to my interview with Helen Farmer. I’m not a big fan of influencers. Let me tell you, I’m not a big fan of paid media. I’m a big fan of genuine honest feedback. The problem with influencers offers JP, that whenever they go to restaurants because they’re paid, they’re going to tell you, The food was amazing. This restaurant is incredible. It can’t be possible that every single restaurant is incredible and has amazing food. It’s just not possible. I appreciate more food critiques, and there are very few of them. I want to mention here Samantha Wood, the food diva, because she’s really a true critic. She’ll tell you. She’ll come to your restaurant, she’ll tell you what’s right and what’s But if you are an influencer and all they’re talking about is positive and amazing experience, and they have no experience in the kitchen, they never worked as cooks, and they give an opinion, they share an opinion on food, I think it’s even unfair to the chefs. I think you’re an influencer when you really influence people to behave differently or go somewhere. I don’t think they should be even called influencers.


[00:22:55.610] – Marvin

They’re marketers. They’re paid marketers.


[00:22:59.050] – Jean-Philippe

All right. What do you think is missing in many restaurants today?


[00:23:03.550] – Marvin

The UAE has an incredible, rich, and diverse, and creative culinary scene. On the culinary side, we are up top. We’re top-notch. I think what I see missing is training. Sometimes you go to a restaurant that the investment is probably 3 to 5 million dirhams, and then you’re greeted by a food server who doesn’t even know the menu or can’t even speak, communicate properly. Can you imagine you spend two years to build a restaurant. It cost you $5 million, you put it in the hands of this one food server to go and represent you, and then this food server goes and represent you in a bad way. Training, there’s a lot There’s a lot of reliance on marketing versus experience. Some operators who don’t listen to feedback or don’t believe in customers’ feedback, they’re in denial. They won’t make it. They won’t be successful. That’s that aspect, too. There’s a lot of reliance on TripAdvisor, but you could be number one TripAdvisor and have no customers in the restaurant. I’ve seen it many times.


[00:24:12.980] – Jean-Philippe

How come?


[00:24:14.550] – Marvin

Because you can influence TripAdvisor. Your staff could write reviews on TripAdvisor and make you number one. Got it. Yeah. And also, the problem with guest feedback, JP, 9 out of 10 customers shy away away from honest feedback. It’s a big problem because you go… So you’re a restaurant manager, and then you go to your own business owner and you say, Hey, listen, everybody’s happy. They love the food. But the owner says, But how come I don’t see any? How come we’re not busy? How come the restaurant is not busy? Well, because many customers do not… Nine out of 10 unhappy customers don’t tell you the true feedback.


[00:24:59.810] – Jean-Philippe

How do you get it then?


[00:25:01.290] – Marvin

You have to work hard for it. Table visits, YES, online reviews, focus groups, listen to your food servers. One of the biggest problems problems when a restaurant manager responds in a negative way to a food server’s concern, next time, the food server will not share their concern. So you really don’t know what’s happening with customers. So you really need to work very hard on it. And when I do table visits, when I was a I ask a restaurant manager, if I ask a guest, And how is your food? And then they said, It’s good. I’ll say, Oh, just good? How can we make it great? How can we wow you? So you really want to get that feedback and see what’s missing. And the proof is in the pudding. If your restaurant on a Friday night is on a waiting list, JP, you’re doing well. And if it’s not, if on a Friday night and Saturday you’re not busy, you really have a big problem. So you better take a good look at yourself in the mirror and ask your staff what’s going on.


[00:26:01.280] – Jean-Philippe

So speaking of running successful businesses, can you tell me a little bit about how to design a strategy as a restaurant owner for your business?


[00:26:09.680] – Marvin

I’m glad you brought up the strategy piece to this conversation. We covered culture, but strategy is very important. Unfortunately, with mom and pop restaurants and new restaurateurs, there is not much of strategy. And that’s why you see a lot of failure. As I mentioned earlier on the show, the restaurant business has the highest failure rate than any other business in the world. So strategy, if you have a restaurant, your strategy, in my opinion, should be built around: guest experience, consistency, consistent procurement, training and development, succession planning. And if you want to grow and expand, what’s that strategy? Over how many years? By how many outlets? Brands And here’s a key point. You should never be running a restaurant. You should be building a brand.


[00:27:08.350] – Jean-Philippe



[00:27:10.060] – Marvin

That should be a fundamental part of your strategy. You should have a mission and a vision. If I were to When I work for you as a food server, I want to know what’s the mission and what’s the vision. When I worked at Chili’s back in the ’90s, in the ’90s, we’re talking 25 years ago, JP, I still remember till today what was the vision? The vision was to be the guest’s first choice in casual dining. The mission was clear. It was a poster on the wall where we had all our pre-shift briefings that we connected to this. We talked about the vision and mission nearly every day. It’s powerful. It gets people moving.


[00:27:58.370] – Jean-Philippe

I’d like to finish off with this question when it comes to guest experience and strategy, how do you wow your guests for a great revenue formula?


[00:28:10.640] – Marvin

You must have picked up this from the book. I like to I think we need to simplify things. I don’t know if you notice, the book is written in a very simple language. It is. I don’t like fluff or fancy words. Here’s a simple formula, JP. An average experience will give you average sales. A good experience will give you good sales. A wow experience equals wow sales. So the shortest route to achieving high sales and high revenue is really delivering a wow experience. But it’s not as easy as it looks. Wowing your guests requires training, empowering your team, requires thinking outside the box, requires culinary innovation, service innovation, and all of that. If you want to win in this business, always aim to wow your guests. In the book I wrote, as a food server, before you go to the table, You should walk to that table and saying, I’m going to wow those guests. If every food server, JP, on your team thinks the same way or have the same objective, man, you will be unstable, period.


[00:29:30.000] – Jean-Philippe

All right. You now know how to create a wow experience for your guests. Consistency, training, being obsessed with the quality of your ingredients, being close to your guests. These are some of the things that you can do to run a successful business.


[00:29:43.290] – Marvin

And exceed guest expectations. Wow them. This is a surprise and delight. They come in with a certain expectations. Let them leave with, Oh, wow, I didn’t expect that. That was amazing. That was incredible. You want to hear those sentiments. If you are a restaurant owner, And if you’re not hearing, it was amazing. It was incredible. I loved it. You have a big problem. You have a huge problem.


[00:30:07.410] – Jean-Philippe

In your book, you talk about shock tactics, I think, which is how would you calculate some of the things that you enable your staff to do to wow your guests experience, such as giving out a free dessert every once in a while? First of all, did I understand correctly?


[00:30:26.430] – Marvin

You’re nearly there. So shock tactics is about, as I said earlier, exceeding guests’ expectations. So you’re coming to my restaurant five days a week. By Friday lunch, you’re there every day for lunch. And then I’m the manager, I come to you and I say, You finished your meal, right? Then you ask for the bill. Then I say, you ask for the check, and I say, Mr. Jp, thank you for your loyalty. Today, your meal is on the house. You didn’t expect it, you didn’t ask for it. Say, Wow. One thing I did, at one of the companies that I worked for, we used to have birthday data. What we used to do, two weeks before your birthday, we had a commercial offer. We’d call you, we’d say, Mr. Jp, we know your birthday is coming up. In 15 days, would you like to book with us? It was purely commercial. But on your birthday, on that day, we never offered you any commercial offer. We call in the morning, say, Good morning, Mr. Jp. My name is Marvin. I’m calling you from this restaurant. I just want to wish you a very happy birthday. Enjoy your day, and I wish you great health, success, and happiness.Wow. You said it.


[00:31:41.250] – Marvin

Wow. That’s it. I wanted to create emotional connections, genuine emotional connection. There are a ton of ways if you want to wow your guests. My advice in my consulting work, when I work with restaurants and hotels, I’ll tell them, Go back to your team, write down 5-6 steps that are allowed for the team members to wow the guests, and use them and see how it goes.


[00:32:13.900] – Jean-Philippe

Great. Fantastic tips. Marvin, you’ve had a lot of experience working with franchise businesses. I’d like for us to dig deep a bit into that subject. Can you explain what is the difference, first of all, between a restaurant owner deciding to franchise their business and a restaurant owner wanting to open up a second or third location that they manage.


[00:32:36.410] – Marvin

What’s the difference? If you own a restaurant, you open a second location that you own, that’s not franchising. That’s domestic expansion. Franchising is a different ball game, and it’s a fantastic model for growth. With franchising as a business owner, you’re not investing your money. If you become a franchisee, JP, of one of my restaurants, you’re buying the furniture, you’re setting up the restaurant, you’re hiring the team, it’s your money, but you’re expanding my brand with your money. Franchising is tricky because You have to support the franchises. And what I see in the region, the understanding of the word franchise is actually there’s no understanding of the word franchise. I see a lot of people who sign franchises, and I feel sorry for them, and got stuck in agreements, legal agreements that they cannot get out of that do not stipulate what the franchisor should do. If I were a franchisee, I would ask you, where is your cutting edge training programs? Where are the new dishes? Where is your corporate design manual? What’s your strategy? Where is your evaluation of my restaurant? How often do you visit my restaurant? What’s the new training? What’s the new marketing campaign that you’re creating?


[00:33:59.310] – Marvin

Where’s the artwork? There’s a lot of requests, and there’s a lot of services that have to be provided by the franchisor. But in our region, there’s not much experience with franchising. So you see those deals where, unfortunately, you pay 6% of the top line as royalty, and you receive none of the service.


[00:34:22.700] – Jean-Philippe

So the benefit of franchising is that you basically are able to expand your brand and your business without putting the majority of the capital yourself as a restaurant owner. But even though it’s a very attractive expansion model, it still is one that requires a tremendous amount of investment on your end as a franchisor because you need to prepare all of those training programs and those legal agreements and-You need to have a team. And the consistency that goes with-The team at the head office.


[00:34:53.720] – Marvin

Yes. Look, if you own a restaurant, I want to franchise it, you have to think from the How I’m going to let go? It has to be part of the strategy. Do I have a design manual? Do I have recipes? Do I have SOPs? Do I have training materials? How I’m going to go about procurement? Can I get my product if I’m franchising to Saudi Arabia? Can I get those ingredients over there? How I’m going to inspect and train and check on quality? What’s the mechanism that I have to check on customers’ feedback? So it is a huge undertaking. It’s a beautiful model, if you get it right, because you can end up having 20, 30, 100, 1,000 restaurants, and you become a global brand. I love franchising, but if you want to either franchise or become a franchisee, you have to do your due diligence. And many people don’t know how to go about it, even in the first place.


[00:35:50.790] – Jean-Philippe

Both franchisers and franchisees. Yes, sir. When do you think a restaurant is ready to franchise if they decide to go down that route?


[00:35:58.930] – Marvin

As I said earlier, When you have done everything possible to make sure that the experience will be replicated somewhere else exactly to the dot similar to your restaurant, and you’re going to protect the brand and maintain the integrity of the brand. You’ve done all the manual, the structure, the design, and everything that the franchise would do.


[00:36:22.200] – Jean-Philippe

Marvin, could you explain in a couple of words, now that we’re talking about multi-branch businesses, why it’s so It’s so important to have a restaurant inventory management software to handle all of those operations, and what’s the consequence of not having one?


[00:36:37.450] – Marvin

Yeah, sure. Look, in any restaurant in the world, your largest controllable expenses are food and labor. So food is a big… Sometimes it could be from 28 % up to 45 % of seen food cost. So you really need to have an inventory management system that will make sure… Because you’re ordering hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food, you want to make sure you’re not running out of stock, you have a freshness of product, you know what your food cost is, because that impacts your profitability. It’s a no-brainer, and you cannot do it on an Excel sheet. I’m sorry. It will never be right.


[00:37:17.650] – Jean-Philippe

All right. I’d like to move on to something that I’ve called rapid fire questions. You’ve got to answer those on the spot and in under a minute, if you can. Tipps. Should they be Should they be given only to the waiter? Should they be distributed amongst the front of house team? Or should they be distributed amongst all teammates, including the kitchen?


[00:37:39.400] – Marvin

Wow, a difficult question. I prefer to have the food server get their own tips, but they got to share it with the kitchen, not with the entire restaurant.


[00:37:51.250] – Jean-Philippe

What do you think of restaurants who ask their waiters to memorize an order and not write it down on the spot whilst taking it, which you often see in fine dining restaurants?


[00:37:59.870] – Marvin

Not in fine dining. No, I totally disagree. You got to write it down. What’s the point there? Order accuracy is more important than memorizing or writing it down. I agree. Yeah? Don’t please don’t bring me a salad when I order a steak.


[00:38:14.310] – Jean-Philippe

Should chefs visit tables?


[00:38:18.480] – Marvin

If you have a celebrity chef like Gordon Ramsey and Jason Atherton, I would love them to visit my table. If the kitchen is operating smoothly and the food is fantastic, by all means, please go out and visit the tables. But if your food is inferior and the food is not coming out of the kitchen, please don’t be in the dining room. Go back to the kitchen.


[00:38:35.960] – Jean-Philippe

All right. Last question. The psychology of bread and butter. Is there a reason beyond just providing a free appetizer for guests? Is there a reason beyond that?


[00:38:48.530] – Marvin

It’s cultural. So in the Middle East, when you go to a restaurant, you get olives and pickles and bread. In France, you get baguette and butter. It’s cultural. It’s very cultural.


[00:39:00.040] – Jean-Philippe

All right. And to finish, you are known for a concept that I’ve recently learned about, which is called Marvinism. Can you share a couple of examples? Of Marvinism? Of Marvinism.


[00:39:13.620] – Marvin

Some Marvinism. Guest, not customer. Frequent repositioning of restaurant is a mistake. Consistency determines consumers’ trust or the lack of it.


[00:39:25.970] – Jean-Philippe



[00:39:26.410] – Marvin

You are an experience maker, not an order taker. I have a ton of these. That’s all.


[00:39:36.280] – Jean-Philippe

All right. Amazing. Marvin, thank you so much for being on the show. Restaurant Excellence Book. You can get it on the Instagram page of the book, Restaurant Excellence Book, in just one word, and you’ll get all the details over there. Marvin, thank you.


[00:39:50.250] – Marvin

My pleasure. Thanks so much.


Guest & Host

Jean-Philippe Serhal

Sr. Marketing Manager

Ziad Kamel Couqley

Ziad Kamel

CEO & Co-Founder
Rosy Hospitality

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