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Ron Miller


August 22, 2014

What’s your why?

August 22, 2014 | By |

In my favorite Ted Talk, Simon Sinek makes the point that people don’t buy what you make, they buy why you make it. Tonight I stopped for dinner at The Tamale House in Tigard, Oregon and Simon’s point was really hammered home for me.

I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say The Tamale House is a hole-in-the-wall. Situated in a small strip mall next to a 7-Eleven. It’s not much to look at. It’s basically 6 tables crammed in together, a cash register, and a stove piled high with aluminum pots. In fact, when my wife and I walked in, I was going to turn around except my wife whispered to me, “It got good reviews.”

We ordered 4 tamales and some chips and sat down. About a minute later, the pretty young lady from the register delivered our food. The tamales were good. Good enough that with mouths full, we talked about coming back one day.

About then, a man burst into the place, loudly teasing the man at the counter who was wearing an LA Dodgers baseball cap. A couple of jabs later and the two men were hugging. From there, the man walked around and hugged the young woman at the register and turned to the young man in the back and said, “Take grandma home. She’s tired.”

Ahhh…a family business.

Tony & Magdalena at The Tamale House in Tigard, OR

Tony & Magdalena at The Tamale House (photo by the Portland Tribune, November 15, 2012)

A minute later, the man was at our table. “I’ve never seen you in before. Hi, my name is Tony. My wife isn’t here but her name is Magdalena.” With a sweep of his hand he gestured, “All these young people are my kids and that’s grandma. Thank you for coming to the Tamale House. How is your food?”

In under a minute, we went from wanting to come back one day, to wanting to come back tomorrow…and it had nothing to do with the food.

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

Tony’s why was everywhere. It was in these bright-eyed kids of his. It was in the picture by the register of one of his daughters holding a softball bat. It was in grandma who was clearly beat after a long day of making tamales. It was in his need to introduce us to Magdalena, even though she wasn’t there at that minute.

Plenty of restaurants are family run. That’s not my point. The point is that Tony wanted us to know why The Tamale House existed and why it was important to him. Tony cares about his place because it’s an extension of his family. He cared about us because now we’re part of all of this.

Do you know why you’re in business?

If you haven’t seen it yet, you should watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk. 






Ron Miller


July 25, 2014

Social Media and your Brand

July 25, 2014 | By |

Let’s face it. Running a restaurant requires that you wear a lot of hats. Only one of those hats is marketing and just part of marketing is social media. If you’re like most restaurateurs, you wish you could spend more time doing it. This article is about getting more benefit out of the time that you do invest.

Whether we’re talking about Facebook, Twitter or any of the other 1,000 social media websites, the fundamental thing to remember is that they are all different. You can’t treat them as if they were the same. I see so many people who just broadcast the same post to all of their social sites. You should have slept in a few extra minutes this morning instead of doing that. It never works. Instead, here is how to do it right…

Facebook logo


The goal with Facebook is to get people to leave a comment. The reason comments are special is that when you comment on something, the post you commented on appears on your timeline. This is how a post can go viral. The person doing the original post may only have 50 followers but if it captures people’s imagination, millions of people can end up seeing it. A common mistake people make is that they measure their Facebook success by counting up their followers. What’s more important is the quality of your content, which you can measure by how many people comment.

So how do you get comments? Ask for them! Always put something in your Facebook posts that encourages a response. For example:

  • Fall is our favorite time of the year and it begins with our new menu. Eduardo is adding Swiss Cheese Fondue to the menu. The taste will make you think you’re dining in Gimmelwald, high up in the Swiss Alps. What are your favorite fall food memories?

As good as a comment is a Share. What causes someone to share a post is that they feel the post is valuable. They are in a sense endorsing the content, staking their reputation on it. They won’t share it unless it’s good. To get shares, always include a beautiful photo. If you’re posting a recipe, take the time to format it so it will print nicely. If you’re posting some tips, include several.

What makes your business unique? How can social media build upon that?


Twitter logoTwitter

In my opinion, most people use Twitter all wrong. They write a catchy headline and then put a link at the end, in hopes that people will click on it and read their article. Do you have time to click on all of those links? It’s a modern-day version of what my grandfather used to do. He cut out articles from his morning paper and then once a month, would send them to me in a big envelope. I was grateful that he was thinking of me but really? I don’t have time to read all of the articles that find on my own. While Facebook is good for sarong articles, videos, pictures and infographics, Twitter is not. What works great on Twitter are 144-character tips like these:

  • I found some beautiful broccoli rabe at the market this morning. It’s going to be part of tonight’s grilled salmon special. $16
  • If your butter is too cold to spread, try grating it with a cheese grater.
  • Eduardo is cooking up his mom’s recipe corn chowder tonight. You can’t imagine how great this place smells!

The objective on Twitter are retweets. You want to make things sound so great that people want to share them with their friends.

Additional Tips:

  • Always include an image. People relate to photos and they get shared, commented on and retweeted more than anything else.
  • Social media is about connections. It’s you connecting to your customers but it’s also your customers connecting with each other. If your customers are talking, don’t feel the need to always interrupt.
  • You have an advantage being in the food industry. Pictures of food do really well on the Internet. Invest in quality professional pictures. You may think you can’t afford it but they pay for themselves.
  • Once you have pictures, marry them to recipes and post them onto Pinterest.
  • Keep the 4 R’s of your brand in mind: Reliability, Reviews, Reputation and Represent. For a refresher, you can jump over to our article on restaurant branding by clicking here. 



Ron Miller


July 7, 2014

Using Your Brand to Advertise Your Restaurant

July 7, 2014 | By |

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about restaurant branding. This week I thought I’d write about how to use your brand to create effective advertising that will grow your business. To recap, there are four parts to your restaurant brand: 

  • Reputation: If yours is like most restaurants, you’re pretty involved in your community. You donate, sponsor and host a wide variety of civic programs. This is part of your brand. Make sure your involvement is visible.
  • Reliability: Consistently delivering quality food, in a consistently clean location with consistently good service. People need to know they can rely on your restaurant and recommend it to their friends.
  • Reviews: Now days, everyone is a restaurant critic. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook and dozens of other websites make it easy for your customers to score their visit. Instead of fearing them, what do you do to make it easier for them to review you?
  • Represent: Your brand is bigger than your logo and actually a part of all of your graphics. What fonts are selected for your menu and the color palette that connects your interior to your signage is all a part of your brand. Don’t do your logo as a one-off.

These four things represent your brand, but even more, they represent the things that will differentiate your restaurant. Marketing, and your brand is a part of that, exist to get customers to choose your place over someone else’s. The best way to do that is to take these for elements to your brand, and use them in your advertising. Here’s an example:

Best practices for restaurant branding, marketing and advertising

Outlier’s is running an ad in a local direct mail book. It’s a simple ad but there’s a lot going on. The first thing you notice is the way they are representing themselves. It’s a memorable image that creatively demonstrates their name. The colors are warm and dark. The logo uses serifs (those little hooks on the edges of the letters) giving the ad a somewhat formal look. The tagline, “Inspired Food” tells you that the food might be unique. Without knowing anything else, can you picture what the interior of this restaurant looks like?

The ad copy consists of three bullet points.

Each one addresses elements of their brand:

  • We know they have a solid reputation: Outlier’s has been in business for 16 years.
  • We have a sense that their food is reliable: they they have an unusually sounding, “famous” smoked prime rib burrito.
  • We know that they get great reviews: they have great french fries.

The bullet points, along with the design of the ad, give us at least four reasons to go there, each one very different, and each one relating back to the elements of their brand.

  • Did they effectively differentiate themselves?
  • Do you want to eat here?

Notice they didn’t run a coupon in this ad, but still you read it and want to try it.

My next branding article will cover how to best communicate your brand in social media. If you like this article, please click one of these buttons below and share it! Thanks.

Ron Miller


June 6, 2014

Transforming Social Media for Restaurants

June 6, 2014 | By |

This will open your mind

Am I really going to write another article about social networking? Really? Aren’t you up to here with tips on how to make Twitter work for you? All you see Facebook doing for your company is it’s zapping your employees productivity!

Peach Restaurant Cloud PlatformToday I’m writing about something completely different that I think will open your mind, make your restaurant run more smoothly and improve your bottom line. It’s called Flow, and it’s free…

Humans are born to communicate. It’s how everything gets done. You know it’s important because you insist that everyone you hire be a good communicator. But communication in restaurants is tricky. The front of the house and back of the house barely talk. Then you’ve got shifts of people who never see each other. If you have more than one location, the people in your Poughkeepsie store never talk to your folks in Peoria.

Let’s try an example: imagine you just changed the recipe of your ranch salad dressing. You probably tested it but at some point, you had to just go with it. Now imagine that a lot of people don’t like it. How would you find out? How fast would you find out? Chances are a server might mention it to their supervisor who would share it with the manager who adds it to their weekly notes for the district manager…and up the ladder it goes.

Built just for restaurants

It’s for this reason and millions of others, that we developed Flow; a social media application that your employees can use to communicate. Flow is different from the social media applications you’ve seen before because Flow is closed off from the rest of the world. It’s just for you and the people you want to participate. Think of it as putting a fence around your restaurants and only the people inside are allowed to share. It’s web-based so your employees can access it anywhere, even on their smartphones and tablets. Once they log in, they can post, like and comment away, without the intrusion of advertising, competitors or anything else that would detract from the business at hand. You as a manager, can follow along, keeping your finger on the pulse of the business, like never before possible. Another thing about Flow is that it was built from the ground up, just for restaurants.

It’s free…really

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers just implemented a similar system. They’re using it to “connect the dots” between their corporate strategy and their 25,000 employees. It has accelerated recipe testing, new procedure development and sharing ideas across their entire organization. Chris Laping is Red Robin’s CIO. He said it’s helped employees feel more invested in the company because they believe their employer is listening to them. This is reducing turnover. (Bouton, 2014)

You don’t have to be Red Robin though to get these benefits. Red Robin custom built their solution but Flow from WhenToManage is free. No strings attached, no annoying advertising, no tricks…it really is free. It works whether you have just one location or 400 locations like Red Robin. You already know how to use it because it works just like other social media sites.

Give Flow a try!

Click here to give Flow a try. Like I said, it’s free and easy. You have nothing to lose!
If you want to learn more, click here to download our Flow flyer.


Boulton, C. (2014, June 4). Restaurant chain red robin socializes digital transformation. Retrieved from

Ron Miller


June 1, 2014

Restaurant Branding and Marketing

June 1, 2014 | By |

Brand: What makes people choose your restaurant over another

What does your restaurant feel like? Unlike businesses in other industries, you had to answer that question pretty early on. You started with a concept…a cuisine, recipe or the location. How your restaurant feels grew out of that. Think about it; all I have to say is “barbecued ribs” and a host of smells, tastes, sounds and images fill your mind. Of course what just filled your head isn’t accurate for every BBQ restaurant but this is where your unique brand lives.

Restaurant Branding and MarketingYour brand is simply put, the range of things that make people choose your restaurant over another. It’s what your customers and prospects think of when they think of you. It includes everything from how your food tastes, how clean the restroom is, to how your staff is dressed. It’s the smells coming out of the kitchen, the ads you run in the newspaper and the logo on your sign. If you do your brand right, more people will choose your restaurant. Do it wrong, and you end up on the Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible.”

Another thing to understand is that your brand might just be your most valuable asset. Imagine right now that there are two virtually identical colas in front of you. One is in a blue label that says Ron’s Cola. The other label says Coca Cola. The concept of brand equity (the value of your brand) is the difference you would be willing to pay for one over the other. I was in a convenience store this morning and noticed they had RC Cola in a 24-ounce bottle. It was $1.29. RC is a well-known brand yet the Coke product was priced at $1.79. I asked at the counter and the clerk said despite the price difference, she sells much more Coke. That’s brand equity.

In my town there’s a taco truck situated about 100 yards from a Taco Bell. I’ve eaten at the taco truck and it’s great. Tacos are $1 each and there’s never a line. Taco Bell on the other hand has a long drive-through line and tacos are $1.29. Truthfully, I think the tacos are better at the truck so why is Taco Bell the one with the line?

You want a great brand. How do you achieve it? Here are the four elements to restaurant branding, along with some tips for each:


If yours is like most restaurants, you’re pretty involved in your community. You donate, sponsor and host a wide variety of civic programs. This is part of your brand. Make sure your involvement is visible. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, one-in-four adults volunteer for community projects. These people prefer to support others that are involved in the community. Many groups will happily add your logo to their event poster. Some groups will give you a window sticker or other means of letting your customers know of your support.


Consistently delivering quality food, in a consistently clean location with consistently good service. People need to know they can rely on your restaurant and recommend it to their friends. Lots of things go into this, including your back-office data system. Mastering your inventory, having the right staff scheduled and communicating maintenance issues are all ways to improve your reliability.


Now days, everyone is a restaurant critic. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook and dozens of other websites make it easy for your customers to score their visit. And then there are the countless food blogs. Instead of fearing them, what do you do to make it easier for them to review you? If you see they have a smartphone or camera, offer to bring a light over so they can get the best picture. Offer incentives for reviews. You could even set up your own review site on your website using a widget like


When many people hear the word “brand,” what they immediately think of is their logo. Your brand is bigger than your logo and actually a part of all of your graphics. What fonts are selected for your menu and the color palette that connects your interior to your signage is all a part of your brand. Be deliberate and holistic in your approach to these things. Don’t do your logo as a one-off. Instead, hire one designer who will maintain consistency across all aspects of your business. Do the same when it comes to writing. Everyone has a different writing style and your menu and ads all need to sound the same.

A great thing about brand building is you can start making improvements today. Start by asking yourself some touchy-feely questions about how you want people to feel about your restaurant. Be nit-picky. Brands are about details and alignment. It’s about knowing what you want your customers to think and feel about your restaurant, and then being very deliberate about achieving it.

In our next article, we will talk about how you can use these brand elements to create everything from your menus to your advertising and website.


>> Download our “Your Brand” poster.
>> Try out Flow, our free restaurant communication tool.

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