Josh Kopel | Award Winning Restaurant Consultant

Restaurant Business Plan: The Future with Dean Alex Susskind

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Restaurant Margins

Who doesn’t love a great mashup? To get a read on where diners currently stand, the Yelp team released a survey to thousands of users. Cornell University analyzed that data and today we review their findings with Professor and Associate Dean Alex Susskind. His specialization centers around the strategic and operational elements of the industry but Alex is more than a theorist. He came up through the ranks of the hospitality industry and that’s where our conversation begins.

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  • Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the School of Hotel Administration
  • Been at Cornell University for 22 years
  • Started as a dishwasher at 14 years old
  • Managed restaurants and worked in the kitchen
  • Covid 19 highlighted issues in our industry
  • We have a very cashflow reliant business
  • Removing cashflow shows inefficiencies in the model
  • 94cents of every dollar made by restaurants on average goes back into the economy
  • Collapse of our industry would have a huge impact on the rest of the economy
  • Hospitality supports agriculture, wine, distribution, consumer goods, etc
  • Largest employer nationwide
  • Damages to the agriculture sector show the fragility of the food system
  • Maine’s fruit distribution closed broadline operations
  • Now is a great time to address the foundational issues of the business
  • Mending wage structures
  • Increasing prices
  • Larger chains are making changes
  • Typically prioritized shareholders
  • Starting to fix structural issues
  • Will make it easier for independent restaurants to do the same
  • Raising prices may turn away customers
  • Pivoting the restaurant structure
  • Find a way that will create a transaction that will keep your guests on side
  • Consumers are moving to a convenience model
  • E.g takeout
  • Yelp’s diner’s survey shows diners want clear communication
  • How best to handle guest complaints
  • Communicating with customers is changing
  • Technology in restaurants is increasingly important
  • Walk-ins are still necessary post-Covid
  • Reservations culture will continue
  • Hunger is spontaneous so restaurants will need a system to allow walk-ins
  • Cornell University study claims that the optimal model for restaurants post-Covid is ⅓ bodega, ⅓ takeout, ⅓ dine in
  • Good survival strategy for many businesses
  • Margins may be slimmer but efficiency could increase
  • Selling 6 pack of beer requires less labor than serving 6 beers
  • Struggles for surviving businesses post-Covid
  • Guest safety
  • Employee safety
  • Changing regulations
  • Quickest restaurant closures will be those who should not have been in business in the first place
  • Operators who lack passion
  • Operators who treat staff badly
  • How will Cornell help prep new hospitality leaders

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