Episode Thumbnail
Episode 20  |  58:35 min

S2:EP20 - Ken McGarrie, The Surprise Restaurant Manager

Episode 20  |  58:35 min  |  04.05.2021

S2:EP20 - Ken McGarrie, The Surprise Restaurant Manager

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This is a podcast episode titled, S2:EP20 - Ken McGarrie, The Surprise Restaurant Manager . The summary for this episode is: <p>In the next 60 minutes, we dive into finding and hiring new staff, training staff, and uncovering problems in the restaurant industry and his approach to finding solutions. He's huge on having measurable marketing results and for any restauranteur listening, this episode will bring you a ton of value! </p>
Takeaway 1 | 01:18 MIN
How to market a restaurant
Takeaway 2 | 01:56 MIN
Pushing Ideas Forward

On this episode of Restaurant Misfits, Brett is joined by Ken McGarrie, published author ofThe Surprise Restaurant Manager and founder of Korgen Hospitality; a restaurant consulting group, dedicated to working alongside passionate restauranteurs to elevate both the guest experience and the bottom dollar. 


Over the years of operating his business, Ken has found that there is a huge advantage in having measurable marketing results in order to scale - something my company has been implementing for hundreds of restaurant owners around the world. 


In the next 60 minutes, we dive into finding and hiring new staff, training staff, and uncovering problems in the restaurant industry and his approach to finding solutions. For any restauranteur listening, this episode will bring you a ton of value! 

Guest Thumbnail
Ken McGarrie
Published Author & Founder of Korgen HospitalityLinkedIn

Brett Linkletter: In this episode, I interview Ken McGarrie, who's the founder of Korgen Hospitality, which is a restaurant consulting group. He's also a new published author on his new book, The Surprise Restaurant Manager. And I'll tell you, after our conversation, I am personally so excited to read this book. We talk about a number of interesting topics from hiring and finding new staff, to training your staff, to a number of the problems that Ken has seen in the restaurant industry and how he as a consultant approaches these problems. He's huge on having measurable results, which I think a lot of restaurateurs could get behind. I think a lot of times in this industry, we want to make things better, but we lack the ability to measure our success. And he's huge on this, which I personally absolutely love as a marketer. I think that's great. For us, marketing is about measuring success as well. And so we definitely resonate on this topic. Ken is such a cool, interesting guy. He got into this industry actually kind of by accident. He was a musician, wanted to be in a band for life, but then fell in love with the restaurant space. And so there's a lot of interesting topics I think any restaurateur would absolutely benefit from this episode, a lot of interesting tips and insights from Ken. And so without further ado, let's dive right in. Hi, my name is Brett Linkletter, CEO and founder of Misfit Media, best damn restaurant marketing agency on the planet. Here at Misfit, we help restaurant owners grow and scale their business through strategic online marketing practices. Right now, you're listening to our podcast, Restaurant Misfits. We'll discuss all things related to restaurant marketing, management, and everything else in between growing a restaurant business. This podcast is also brought to you in collaboration with Total Food Service. For over 30 years, Total Food Service has provided the restaurant and food service in with exclusive interviews, to the latest news on products, trends, associations, and events. You can sign up for a free monthly subscription by visiting totalfood. com today. And from all the misfits over here, we hope you enjoy the show. Cheers. Ken, how are you doing?

Ken McGarrie: Doing really well. Thanks for having me.

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely. Thanks for coming on the show. So you have an interesting background. I know we were kind of just discussing right before we started up the show. But tell us about your background. I know you said that you were a musician, or you were attempting to be a musician, or whatever the case. Then you found yourself in the food space, so tell us how that all happened for you.

Ken McGarrie: Yeah. I think that my first love is definitely music. And I came up thinking that was going to be the end all, be all, travel around in a van, do that. While I was doing that, I was serving, bartending. Then I realized very quickly I wasn't massively talented at being a musician. So it's a great hobby, I enjoyed my time doing it in college, but what really took hold was working in the restaurant industry, and so just started how a lot of people started, is serving, bartending. Actually, my first job was as a dishwasher at Chuck E. Cheese.

Brett Linkletter: Wow, no way.

Ken McGarrie: And yes, I did wear the mouse outfit, before you ask.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Ken McGarrie: That was part of the job, wash dishes, then go out and wave at cars or to go birthday parties in the mouse outfit.

Brett Linkletter: That's a throwback. Are they still around?

Ken McGarrie: They are. I will admit that I'm so old that when I started, it was Showbiz, and then it turned into Chuck E. Cheese, which the only real difference is that they changed the little animatronic things that come out and scare kids during their children's parties. But otherwise, it's still kind of the same concept.

Brett Linkletter: I think when I was a kid, I've only been two or three times, but it was kind of scary for some kids, I feel like, that robotic mouse type thing.

Ken McGarrie: They always moved very... Yeah, it's terrifying for children.

Brett Linkletter: It's such a funny thing anyway. And now you're the founder of Korgen Hospitality, so tell us about that and what you guys do exactly.

Ken McGarrie: So Korgen Hospitality is a company that is based on working with restaurants, large or small, to help develop, whether they are in the process of opening, or they're already open and they're trying to figure out maximum profitability, or improving their hospitality. And Korgen is that, I think probably the best term for using it is a consulting firm. And I firmly admit and even write on my website that I fully acknowledge that being a consultant in this industry is a pejorative. A lot of people use the term consultant. And quite honestly, it does not have a great name. So when I built the company with my wife, I built it based on a lot of things to try to redeem what it is to actually advise restaurants and not just come in and point at problems, and then take your check and walk away.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. Yeah, no, I should discuss with you because I saw this on your website. You go into some pretty deep detail on this, which I respected that. I think that's really cool because I think like any restaurateur approaching a consulting firm, you're literally addressing exactly, I think, their hesitations. What is this going to be? Are they going to take my money and run, and whatever the case?

Ken McGarrie: Happens a lot.

Brett Linkletter: Really?

Ken McGarrie: Every restaurateur I know has a horror story about hiring a consultant. They came in, pointed at a few things, and didn't really change anything. And it also doesn't help that usually on resumes whenever there's a gap in people's resume, they always write down that they were a consultant. So I mean, have you ever noticed that? People have a one year gap, it's like, " Oh, I was consulting." So when we built the company, it was really based on the fact of measurables. It's an agreement that what we are going to charge for is based on what you can actually measure. So if you come in and you say, " Oh, I want my service to be better," well, great, I can't magically make that happen. I can talk about your training models. I can talk about your pre shifts. I can talk about all the things that you can do to make it better, but I can't magically do that. I can't magically make sales better. I can talk about streamlining. I can talk about that. And that's the only thing that I charge for. And half the time that I sit down and do a consultancy with people, I give them entire lists of things that they should do to fix their business. And then I say, " You don't really need me." If you have the bandwidth to do this, this, this and this, great. And if you don't, then I can help you out.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. No, I like what you said about it's based on measurables, because even for our company, Misfit Media, our agency, biggest problem in the restaurant industry when it comes to marketing is no one knows if marketing actually works. You have so many restaurants spending thousands on billboards, radio, television, social media, all this crap, honestly. And then at the end of the day, I don't know if it worked or not. They come to me and say, " I don't know what happened. I don't even know. We're spending five K a month, 10 K a month in all these different directions." What's working best for you? We have no idea. We've been doing this for five, 10 years. We haven't questioned it. If you can't measure the success from what you're doing, you can't scale it. And if you can't see at all what's going on, why are you doing it to begin with? So how do you guys do that? How do you guys consult based on your measurables? Is there a way to measure based on bettering service? How do guys measure that?

Ken McGarrie: There's a way of getting to it with the hopes of having better service. The number of times I walk into restaurants and find out that the staff has never tasted the menu.

Brett Linkletter: Oh, God.

Ken McGarrie: Just frightening. But you really can't build a service level based on genuine hospitality if people are given scripts and told what to push. And so a lot of times, I spend a fair amount of training working with re- exposing people to the brand and understanding why they fell in love with it in the first place, and then talking about those things from passion. It's the same thing as a table touch when you go back and do your requisite two by check, you're asking because you care, because it's something that matters to you, not because your manager in the beginning of shift said, " Go push the salmon, it's going bad."

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Ken McGarrie: Because that happens more often than not.

Brett Linkletter: Oh, my God.

Ken McGarrie: That service level really does go back to the staff engagement more than anything.

Brett Linkletter: Got in. And Ken, I know you originally, you said you were a musician. You kind of got in the restaurant industry, bar space, kind of just by almost mistake it seems like. Right? Just kind of happened. Right?

Ken McGarrie: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: Would you say everything you know today, most of your expertise in the space is purely from experience? Or what else did you do to get better? How did you learn to master your craft?

Ken McGarrie: I messed up a lot. That's exactly how I got to where I am, is that my first management job, I was a bartender, enjoying coming in, making myself a bloody Mary in the morning and just staying behind the bar. And then they handed me the keys, and zero training. And unfortunately, I find that a lot. I find a lot of, there's definitely training for servers and bartenders and other positions, but I really don't see a depth of training when it comes to management, especially when you get to the mechanics of the philosophy of it, of how to turn tables, or how to really dive into improve your online reviews. And even more to the point of how to deal with negativity and how to not burn out. And that was really kind of the whole point behind writing the book, was it was simply a, you have the keys, great. Now let's talk about how you can build this because being a restaurant manager to me, it's boot camp. You don't go to boot camp just so you stay in boot camp. You go to boot camp because you're going off to something greater. Being a restaurant manager, if you went from a bartender to a manager, then you 100% went from making twice as much money for half as much time spent, to being a manager, where you're making half as much for twice the responsibility. So the biggest thing that I focus on with restaurant managers is: Why are you doing this? And what's your end goal? And what's your passion that makes you decide that this is really your career?

Brett Linkletter: I love that. I love that. There's a book. Is it Getting To Why? Do you know what I'm talking about, what book it is? Or it starts with why?

Ken McGarrie: I've heard of the name. I have not read it. But if you say good, then I will put it on my list.

Brett Linkletter: I haven't read it. But one of our mentors has told me about it. I'm blanking on the name now. I think it's Start With Why or something like that. But I think in our business too, I think that's so incredibly important is: Why are you doing this to begin with? I mean, it's funny. I've got a buddy who's totally different industry, but he's made an app, a really cool app. Actually, what am I saying? It is in the restaurant space. It's an app that's supposed to, it's kind of like you can imagine it like Yelp meets Instagram type deal, more of like a social review platform. But there's no negativity. It's only positive, so you recommend places. Right?

Ken McGarrie: Wow.

Brett Linkletter: And he took a pretty damn early investment that I didn't think he needed. And I asked him, " Well, why did you need that?" " Well, we need the money." " What do you need the money for?" " I don't know. We just need the money." And I said, "Well, why are you doing this?" And I think people, they start doing something, and they don't even know why they're doing it. It sounds good. It feels good. They think you're supposed to do it. But really, why are you doing this? It's such an important question. And people forget that way too much.

Ken McGarrie: There's a romantic aspect. Absolutely. And it really depends on what station in life that you're doing this and why. And for a lot of young managers, it's because they are rightly wanting to build their future in it, and they can see this as their next logical step. Working as a server, or a bartender, you are definitely required to focus on tips, and that can be hit or miss, so that there's consistency with that. So that seems attractive. The number of people that I know who've retired and said, " You know what, I've always wanted to open a restaurant and it looks like fun," that literally does... That's my bread and butter is people honestly have said, " Oh, this seems like an easy thing to do," and then realizing that there's a reason that restaurants fail, and how really, really challenging it is. The biggest owners that I run into that have challenges are the ones that say, " I don't want to be involved. I don't want to do operations. I just want somebody else to run it." Well, that's a death blow nine times out of 10. You have to be involved in it, or else you shouldn't be running it to begin with. It shouldn't be yours.

Brett Linkletter: Yep, 100%. 100%. Question for you, actually. I'm kind of curious because you've worked with a lot of restaurateurs. You've seen a lot of winners and losers in this industry. You actually just spoke, literally right before this podcast, in another podcast with a chef named Brian Lewis, really incredible chef, really cool guy, smart guy, tons of experience. And he went from a chef, traditional chef, doing really well. I mean, he had a very successful career, still does. Now he's moved into the ownership role. And he's running three going on four locations now. And he was talking about elevating from the chef role to the owner. It was like for him going from the artist to the art dealer. Right? And he says that kind of transition has been really, really interesting for him to see. It's a totally different skillset. For you, as a restaurant consultant, I mean, have you seen... One thing we got into, by the way, was, I see it in my business, I see oftentimes his story, the chef turned to owner. I also see the guy who worked in finance say, " The restaurant space sounds fun. I want to dive into it." And I think I'm curious for you. Have you seen, or maybe not at all, have you seen successes more or less in either side of the owner? The finance guy who dives into the space, or the chef? Because you could argue to say that the guy who was in the finances knows his numbers and knows what to do in that scenario. You have the chef who, he knows the food and the service side and this and that. Have you seen winners or losers on either side? Or does it really not matter from what you've seen?

Ken McGarrie: Absolutely. And to me, it goes right to culture because I'll use an example of a current client that we have. An amazing space here in Chicago, incredibly popular. And one of the first things I did when I got connected with them is I pulled the staff and said, " Why are you here? What is your motivation for choosing to be here every single day?" And their response categorically was, " We love the owners. They're amazing. They're here all the time. It re energizes my love of the hospitality industry." They just love the ownership. And when you meet them, you understand exactly why. But they're looking to scale. They're looking to open up a place 30 miles from here, and a place in Michigan and beyond. And my conversations with them have everything to do with: How do you get that culture into another place that doesn't have your influence? So when you talk about owners, a lot of times, and I use this term in the most positive way possible, they're cult leaders. They legitimately are people that people are drawn to them, they're excited about what they offer. And they're really happy to work with them. But that only works as long as they're in the space, which is why I go back to people that choose not to be involved, and they want to be hands off. They traditionally fail because people want that affirmation. So the successful brands are the ones that I think are able to replicate that out. Probably the most perfect example of that is like a Danny Meyer, who it's my understanding, with every new person that joins any of his concepts, he at least makes sure that part of that orientation, the first 30 days, is a meeting with him, is a conversation, so that they understand exactly somebody who has that massive level of success, there's still that, I'm doing this and I'm taking ownership because I believe in Danny Meyer, and I believe what he does. And so that model I think works really well. And the absence of that is where I've seen places go, and go open another locations and crosstalk.

Brett Linkletter: Totally. I like what you said though, the owners are cult leaders. That is so true.

Ken McGarrie: That's my second book. I'm just going to go ahead and let you know inaudible. My second book is about exactly that. That term, if you look at it, it is so true. You build a following in the most positive way possible and you empower people inaudible you.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. Well, let's talk about your first book, The Surprise Restaurant Manager. When'd you launch this book?

Ken McGarrie: So it is on presale right now.

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Ken McGarrie: Where all finer books are sold.

Brett Linkletter: Yes.

Ken McGarrie: And I will blatantly plug that. And it moves hour by hour, so maybe when this pops up, it might not be there. But right now, it's the number one service industry book on the new releases. It's on Amazon.

Brett Linkletter: Amazing.

Ken McGarrie: So I have to tell you, now I watch it just every hour by hour, and click off and, "Oh," and then two hours later, it pops up. So I've gotten a little obsessive with it, but the book is available as just a regular print version.

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Ken McGarrie: There is an audio version on Audible. And there's an E version. I purposely made sure that the E version, which is only available on Amazon because that's the only way that I could lock in the price, is 99 cents.

Brett Linkletter: Awesome.

Ken McGarrie: I did it because it's more important for me to get the information out than anything else. And I truly want as many people to read it as possible.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Ken McGarrie: Someone email me, I'll send you a PDF. It's about getting that out because this is the information that I think is lacking in a lot of people being able to be successful or move to the next position in their restaurant.

Brett Linkletter: Totally. I love that, man. Are you the voice in the Audible?

Ken McGarrie: I am the voice.

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Ken McGarrie: Now the forward for the book is celebrity chef, Fabio Viviani.

Brett Linkletter: Amazing.

Ken McGarrie: Who you might know from two seasons of Top Chef. I've opened about a dozen places with him nationwide, so he and I have a long history going way back. And not only did he write the forward, but he also did the first chapter of the audiobook, so you get a little bit of his flair.

Brett Linkletter: That's amazing. I think crosstalk I have a copy in the mail right now. It's either arrived or probably will be arriving very, very shortly. I'll have to check it out for sure.

Ken McGarrie: I will send anything that you need. But the only problem is Fabio is such an amazingly dynamic and thick Italian accent, his one forward inaudible my 25 chapters just in charisma. He's so good at it. But it's a great start to the book, so I'm very, very pleased that he was part of it.

Brett Linkletter: That's so cool. Yeah, very, very cool. So and who is your target customer for this space? Is it an owner? Is it a restaurant manager? Is it anyone in the restaurant space? Who do you want to read this book? Who's it for?

Ken McGarrie: It really is restaurant managers and people who are looking to move into restaurant management.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Ken McGarrie: So if you are that person who is just getting there, then that's great. Now the book moves in a progression, so it starts out with: Why are you a restaurant manager? And then how to find staff, how to interview, things that you would want to talk about in interviews, how to support your team on the floor. And then it moves into philosophical things, a lot more having to do with: How do you deal with strong personalities? Because owners have a tendency of having strong personality. How do you deal with negativity? How do you not allow it to bother you? And then how do you use all of these tools to have work life balance?

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Ken McGarrie: And that's probably one of my biggest focuses because we lose so many good people in this industry to not having any work life balance.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Ken McGarrie: It's brutal. And that to me is the sadness. The number of people that I know who have reached out and been like, " Hey, great. I want to buy your book. That's great. I'm doing something different." And I'm like, " Ahh," because they were so good at what they did, but for some reason, working in churn and burn shops made them go, " I don't want to do this." And that's their representation of what it is to be in the industry, but it's not for everyone.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. So you said you started with how to find staff and train them. That for me, when I speak to any prospect clients of ours, or any clients of ours in general, and I hear about their biggest pain points, it's one, figuring out the marketing component, which we solve as an agency. But then the second thing is how to find staff and train them, because I think especially right now too, since the pandemic, I mean, I'll tell you this. We had a pretty large client base in the UK area, more specifically London area. They're all gone because of the pandemic. Right? But speaking to them about what's happened, which obviously is really sad, the government was literally paying people in the area more than to work at the restaurants. So the restaurants were like, " How can I hire?" It already was hard to find good people. Now it's even harder. Right? Because now you're competing with salary against the government, which is insane. But anyway, what would be some of our tips on how to find good staff? What are some tips and tricks that you might have?

Ken McGarrie: Well, I think that obviously, and what you're talking about, we experience all over, which is simply a challenge in finding staff. And right now in certain markets, for example, I'm based out of Chicago, and as more things are opening up, everyone's vying for the same talent pool. So there is that kind of, " Oh, my gosh. I need so many people," and it comes from this level of scattershot, which unfortunately, never really gets you the kind of people that you totally want. So the first thing is to be very, very cognizant of how interviews go. I actually list the eight things that if people do it in an interview, don't hire them because literally, they're telling you who they are in interviews. One of the absolute killers for me is bashing previous restaurants. The number of times I sit in an interview and someone's like, " I don't like that person," and they bash down wherever that previous place was. I won't hire those people because I know that they'll exhibit the same qualities for something else.

Brett Linkletter: Interesting.

Ken McGarrie: It's first not tricking yourself into thinking, hey, I can build this person. You don't have time for projects. You take people for what they are. And then we've had success with a lot of cross training and a lot of utilization, and making bartenders into key holders, and giving the ability as a whole for training. So simply, you're not pigeonholing, I need eight servers, and I need four bartenders, and I need two hosts. It's I need this many people, and I'm going to figure out where their strengths are. And then I'm going to maneuver those things around. And that, between that and obviously reputation in the industry of, we all know the places that are chop shops, turn and burn, killers. And then we also now places where people are lined up to work there just because of the culture.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Ken McGarrie: That's kind of been the edge that has continued to kind of open up. And even with the ads that we put out, I oftentimes will put in ads, " We hire adults and treat you as such," because you're stating at the very beginning, " Hey, we're not here to babysit you. We're going to work, and we're going to make this happen." I also say, " Don't send me a resume, and send me two paragraphs about yourself." I don't care what you write, just send me two paragraphs. And then if someone automatically attaches a resume, I don't hire them. And if they only send one paragraph, I don't hire them because you've given them a task at the very beginning, and crosstalk. But so many people will be like, " Well, they attached a resume, but that's okay." No, it isn't because you said, " Don't attach a resume." I actually write, " Please don't attach a resume. They're boring." And then please give me two paragraphs. And if they can't follow those two directives, they're telling you at the beginning they're not going to follow directions.

Brett Linkletter: This is really good, though. This is really good. It's funny. We do something similar at our company when we are leading up to the interview. One of the thing I specifically like, upload a video to YouTube in a private link and send it to us. And there's three questions on it. And the amount of people that can't figure out how to create a private link on YouTube and send you a video is incredible. And it's such an easy thing though, in general. But we're a digital marketing agency. If you can't figure that out, good luck, bro.

Ken McGarrie: 100%. You can Google it. If you don't know, teach yourself.

Brett Linkletter: Yes.

Ken McGarrie: Yes. I know a great gaming concept that uses an entertainment gaming basis, but they also have food and beverage. And when they do open calls, they'll purposely bring people in and they'll say, " Hey. It's going to take a few minutes for your interview. Everybody else is waiting. They're out on the gaming. Go out and play some games." And as they're waiting, they'll go out there. And there are people who are planted that actually work for the company that are among the people who are waiting, and they watch the people who are waiting to go in. And if they walk up and they're like, " Hey, my name's Todd and I'm going to get you ... Let me play," and then they're conversational, then you know that they're going to bring that same enthusiasm to the guests when they come in. But if they just walk over and they sit on their phones, and they're like, " Eh," and they're not engaging with anybody else, they're just waiting for their interview and they're not very friendly, then they're not going to get along with your staff, and they're not going to be great at your tables.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Ken McGarrie: So long before they even walk into the interview, they have literally a snapshot of who that person is when they're not being on. And whenever you can get that as part of your interview, you get to the true nature of who somebody is. And I always thought it was genius.

Brett Linkletter: That is amazing.

Ken McGarrie: Anytime I can crosstalk, I do it.

Brett Linkletter: That is so cool. Ken, I know, again, I asked you this earlier. But you said you have a lot of experience. You made a lot of mistakes. What would you say is maybe, what's your biggest failure? What's your biggest mistake you made in your experience? And what's a lesson you learned from it?

Ken McGarrie: Oh, gosh. The thing is, I continue making them, so I mean, it's just a reality.

Brett Linkletter: Oh, totally.

Ken McGarrie: But that's good. That only makes it better. I mean, biggest mistake operationally, I think was always getting defensive and deciding that I knew what the guest would want.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Ken McGarrie: I write about it in the book that I had opened up a barbecue restaurant in Canada. And it was amazing, it literally when I met the owner, he asked me who the three kings, and because I said Freddy, Albert and BB, he goes, " Yep, you're good," because it was all blues and barbecues, so it was based on that level of awesome.

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Ken McGarrie: But I was so self convinced, and I was much younger in my career that when people would come in and have challenging conversations about our barbecue because we made some definite mistakes, I was defensive. And that's probably the biggest mistake. And I see that a lot when I'm working with people on online reviews, is that whenever they're responding, they want to defend. They want to say, "No, no, no, no. You're wrong," instead of trying to understand the motivations behind why people reached out. So when people reached out about my barbecue shop, they were reaching out because they care and they were invested. And instead of me seeing them as adversarial, I should've seen them as being helping me try to get better.

Brett Linkletter: I love that. Yes.

Ken McGarrie: It's huge though. If I was going to do it now, first off, I would allow an 86 list because we decided 100%, we're always going to have everything, which meant that you're reconstituting brisket, and good luck on that. You make it, once it's gone, it's gone. Franklin's out of Austin, Texas is a perfect example of place to where you just go through it and it's good, it's great, and it's some of the best thing in the world. Things like that, that we just wouldn't allow ourselves at the time to do because we thought we knew better. And any time that I think I know better, I'm failing, 100%.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Ken McGarrie: I even admit that all the way through the book. The book is full of advice and suggestion, but I will say to you that it is based on me making a lot of mistakes, and there's still a lot to be learned.

Brett Linkletter: I love that. Wow. I'm excited to read this book.

Ken McGarrie: Good. I'm excited to get your feedback. crosstalk.

Brett Linkletter: No, 100%. You said something actually that I really liked here. So read this book recently a couple months ago called The Diamond Cutter. It's basic business teachings by the Buddha. And it's really interesting. And it's like taking Buddhism teachings into business. And it's about this guy, he was one of the second or third employees of this diamond company. And I think they blew up past over a hundred million in sales a year, and whatever the case, wildly successful. But one of the biggest things in the book that took from it was everything in life, everything that you see and interact with, is empty from its own side. Meaning nothing is good, or bad, or whatever, until you give it meaning. Right? So a review, like you just said, is either going to be good, or bad to you, or neutral, or whatever you make of it, however you respond to it. Right? But you've taken something, a review, a negative review. And you're like, "No, no, no. This isn't someone bad mouthing us. We shouldn't get defensive. This is an opportunity." Like you just said, they're invested in your business. They care. They care enough to take the time out of the day and write you something about your restaurant. That's fantastic.

Ken McGarrie: Which is a level of passion, though.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Ken McGarrie: I always think about it like a relationship. If you're in a relationship with somebody and you're arguing, as much as that's not great, there's still passion that's keeping you back and forth. It's apathy that's the killer. It's the, " Whatever." The minute that you get to whatever, that's the problem. I can't even think of a time that I sat down and wrote somebody, " Oh, my God. Your restaurant is blah, blah, blah," in a negative fashion. I'm the person that's probably the hardest to find. I just don't come back. So if you're not doing a good table touch, and if you're not watching, if you're not communicating with somebody like me, who's really a non commoner, then I just go away and I never come back. If your care enough to go onto Yelp and give me a four paragraph about how much you hate all of us, and it's a one star, great. I can get you back because I can turn that negative passion into... I actually in the book mention because the whole focus on being right is huge, I take a three star Michelin restaurant and I pull an example of it, that somebody did one star and said, " You should put McDonald's on the menu because it is so bad." It's literally, arguably, one of the best restaurants in the entire world.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Ken McGarrie: And the review's wrong, but the response can't be defensive. Yeah, we have three Michelin stars. We know what we're doing. inaudible like that because there's a very good possibility that their response was sticker shock, or maybe that they were on a date and it was a bad experience, 1000 other things that might not have anything to do with the actual dining experience at all.

Brett Linkletter: Ken, do you have any preference when it comes to review sites? I mean, I'll be honest, I have a lot of clients that honestly despise Yelp. I mean, I had a client I spoke to yesterday that says, " We're pushing Yelp reviews. No, no, no. We've got to do Google. I can't stand Yelp." Do you have any preference of these review sites? Or what are your thoughts on that in general?

Ken McGarrie: Well, I will tell you, if you Google me, you're actually going to see a picture of me at Yelp headquarters in a very bad sweater.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Ken McGarrie: I went through a sweater phase to where all I wore was sweaters and it's a very bad sweater. But when I was working at a restaurant, I actually created a philosophy that was very simply how to address online reviews and how to understand the philosophy of why someone reviews, instead of going at it from that. And Yelp found out and invited me over to the headquarters here in Chicago. So then I did that training with them. And then I did that training with about 300 people at their sales and marketing. And then they flew me out to San Francisco, and I went to their coast to coast thing. So I've done a lot with Yelp. And the first thing that I say at the very beginning is, " I hate Yelp." 100% because it's completely ridiculous that I work so hard to create something, and make, and I mean train and build, and then somebody says, " Parking sucks. One star." And you're like, " Really?"

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Ken McGarrie: Oh, and then Yelp has a tendency of, and I actually train on this, is so many people stand up in the friends and family and say, " Hey, Yelp us." Well, their bots will sense that and will absolutely lock down all your positive reviews. And I've seen a number of restaurants, including some of my own, to where it's been flooded so much that they all suppress them. You can see at the bottom called the unrecommended. So it's all these five stars that don't actually hit your rating because the bot realizes, well, you solicited it, and it wasn't a genuine response.

Brett Linkletter: So what you're saying, a restaurateur asks our guest to leave a five star review, and Yelp sees a bunch come in instantly, they'll get rid of it.

Ken McGarrie: Lock it, lock it. There's a restaurant here in Chicago that did that. The owner, a friend of mine, stood up and said, " Please go on Yelp." He got 50 on his friends and family, all of them suppressed, and the only thing that ever went through was the negative. So for his first four weeks, he had two star reviews. That's all he had.

Brett Linkletter: But why would they do that? If a guy is standing up, he says, " Hey, please leave me a review. I'd really appreciate it," what's wrong with that?

Ken McGarrie: There shouldn't be. There absolutely shouldn't be. But there is a bot that goes through on Yelp that looks for things that are overly positive, that looks for things that are all five stars, that come in the same time, that come in from the same IP address, that look like they were manufactured instead of organic.

Brett Linkletter: Interesting.

Ken McGarrie: And especially with a brand new place, then yeah, you're absolutely... The ability for that to get suppressed and unrecommended happens a lot. Whereas you can do that on Google, and you can get all the five stars that you want, and Google's not going to un- recommend you.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Ken McGarrie: If I'm thinking about what is my favorite, I have seen far more responses from Yelp or other sites that allow for a large discourse.

Brett Linkletter: Interesting.

Ken McGarrie: And the more people write, the longer their dissatisfaction, the easier it is to get them back. So as much as I don't like any of those social media sites that allow them to openly bash, what they're doing is it's a table touch outside the four walls of the restaurant. You know?

Brett Linkletter: Yeah, it is.

Ken McGarrie: It's a situation. Obviously, the server missed it. Obviously, the manager missed it, the owner. Everybody missed it. But you're still table touching three weeks later because somebody went on Yelp and talked about it. Thank God for that.

Brett Linkletter: I love that you mention that because I think when the pandemic first hit, a lot of restaurants we were speaking to were like, " How do we create that restaurant experience outside of our four walls?" I was like, " Well, you do it in a number of ways." One is like you just said, through reviews. One is on social media, yada, yada, yada, whatever. Right? But I think people forget that. They forget that is an extension of your business. So many restaurateurs have been in business forever. I don't know. I've seen this. I've seen a lot of resistance to some of this social media, technology, digital stuff. Why is that? Have you seen the same thing? Why are they so resistant? Why not embrace this? This is good for you, for the most part.

Ken McGarrie: I think that's, I'm not going to put it all to age, but there is definitely an aspect and an understanding that communication through the digital age, especially with social media, is drawn by certain usually marketing. And marketing to me, I will tell you that when I moved to Chicago and worked with a restaurant group, it changed my entire philosophy on marketing because I was amazed to find out that the marketing team was in the initial conversations about new concepts. So it wasn't like, hey, we created this and here's the menu, and here's what we're going to call it. And this is what we're going to do. And hey, marketers, go market this. It's, hey, we need to come up with the name of a restaurant. Marketing team, talk to me about what's good, what's trending. Hey, we need to do design. What do you want to put on the walls? Well, they're putting pictures of Ryan Reynolds on this place in New York, so you should look at what they're doing. And they brought this whole aspect to it, which meant that marketing acumen, because they speak for who you're truly targeting at the very beginning. But what that does is it requires restaurateurs to acknowledge that marketing is intrinsically important at the very inception of the concept, instead of you creating it and sending it, which is no different than my barbecue restaurant, to where I created and then told people this, you're supposed to like it, instead of taking that input earlier.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Ken McGarrie: I think that's probably the resistance that you see from a marketing standpoint, is people that value it as an afterthought instead of an inception point.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. By the way, again, really glad you brought this up. Have you read the book, The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss?

Ken McGarrie: No. And I'm very familiar with Tim Ferriss, and I have not read that. I feel like that you're going to have to send me a book list after this. I feel very bad.

Brett Linkletter: No, no. It's okay. I read a lot. You're obviously an author. And I'm excited to read your book in general. But what you just mentioned is one of the principles in his book. He's like, when he came up with the title, The Four Hour Workweek, what I thought was so brilliant is just what you said. When he was trying to figure out the title of the book, he had I think it was something like 300 different titles or something he came up with. And then he ran, I think it was just a Google ads campaign, a cost per click campaign, and that was it. And this one got the most clicks, The Four Hour Workweek. He's like, " That's my winner." Right? And this just took off. I mean, it's so interesting what you can use marketing for. And like you just said, I mean, people put marketing in a little box. I think for a lot of restaurants we speak to, also the thing about it is they're just stuck in traditional marketing. They're stuck doing the billboards, the radio, these kinds of things, which my problem with those is you can't tell if it's working. You really can't. You can look at your bottom line and say, " Oh, well, sales went up." Well, was it because of the billboard, or it was because your research just has now went from 25% capacity to now 50% because they lifted the pandemic. So whatever. You know what I mean? There's a lot of factors to it. But I love what you brought up. I think that's really cool. One more thing you mentioned, I don't know, you said that you help restaurateurs also deal with strong personalities. I think this is something that most people in general need to learn how to do better. What are some of your tips around this?

Ken McGarrie: So for me, I had to realize long ago that I am not a strong personality when it comes to taking on risk. And most restaurant owners that I know, most marketers I know actually, as well, embrace risk. And so in the book, I talk about it as called the boulder theory. And very quickly it's, if you have a huge boulder that's in the middle of the field and you have to move it and takes a lot of people to move it, there's really two schools of thought. One group's going to push it as fast as they can immediately. And then if it goes the wrong way, they'll figure it out. And then the other one's going to plan it and make sure that all the trajectory. What could go wrong? And figure out all the issues, and then they'll methodically push it. But if it's a race, as long as the people who started pushing immediately, throwing everything at it, they're going to win. It's only the times when they push it the wrong way, they push it into a ditch, that the people that are guarded actually win. And I, by my own nature, am guarded. I am somebody who figures out all the angles. I'll talk to restaurateurs about all the issues that they might be running into if they're doing these things. A lot of owners are just like, " We're going to make this... " Back to Fabio Viviani, he's one of the most headstrong people I've ever met in my entire life, so he's the person who at 4: 00 will change the menu and want it done by 5: 00, and we're going to do it. Let's just make it happen. And as an operator, I'm like, " Well, can we do this? Shouldn't we wait?" And by acknowledging that there's equal benefit in both camps, that strong personality, you can learn from. I've gotten more risk averse, or risk prone, by being surrounded by people that have strong personalities. And in turn, they'll tell you that by having someone who looks at other angles, it's kept them out of the ditches a few times. So that's kind of those personalities, I see almost categorically with owners, especially with successful owners.

Brett Linkletter: It's so funny because you're telling this story, and this is exactly me and my partner, me and my business partner.

Ken McGarrie: Which one are you?

Brett Linkletter: I'm the guy who just pushes that boulder down the mountain.

Ken McGarrie: Yep. That's marketing. crosstalk.

Brett Linkletter: I'm the crazy one. Fuck it, let's go.

Ken McGarrie: 100%. Yep. And you're going to win the race nine times out of 10 because you were first, you're first. But you're a pioneer, and pioneers get arrows sometimes, and that's just inaudible.

Brett Linkletter: Oh, yeah. But you're also totally right in the fact that I'll be like, " Let's do this crazy idea," and then my business partner will be like, " Well, let's think about this." No, let's just do it. He's like, " No, let's think about it." We think about it. Okay, he was right. Good thing we thought about it. So you kind of have to have that yin and yang.

Ken McGarrie: You do. You do.

Brett Linkletter: You absolutely, you do need that 100%. I think in any kind of business partner relationship, I think that's the best. You get two strong personalities, that's a recipe for destruction, I would say.

Ken McGarrie: Completely, completely agree.

Brett Linkletter: Ken, what about, do you have any mentors that you follow or any specific podcasts that you enjoy that help you get better in general?

Ken McGarrie: Quite honestly, there are the traditional people, besides the people that I'm so fortunate to work with, and some amazing chefs. I admit at the beginning of the book that I have all love and respect for chefs because they can do... They're artists and they do what I can't do. My book is more focused on front of the house, simply because they teach me every day about things that I have no concept of. Obviously, I mentioned Danny Meyer. They're definitely restaurateurs, but to me, my biggest idols or people that I follow are in stand up comedy, of all things.

Brett Linkletter: Interesting.

Ken McGarrie: Because I think it speaks to truth. I think it speaks to unpopular opinion. And I enjoy it immensely. And so for me, I can listen to certain comedians, certain podcasts, and then come away feeling better, stronger, more clarity just because of their ability to talk about something that I might not even agree with, but their ability to say it emboldens me to move forward and speak my truth.

Brett Linkletter: I love that. I love that. That's really, really cool. I'm kind of curious. So you've worked with obviously a lot of restaurateurs. You've seen a lot of problems. You've fixed a lot of problems. What do you think is the most common problem you see that just keeps coming up over and over again?

Ken McGarrie: Well, I will admit to being very surprised at how many restaurants that I encounter that haven't figured out their costing model, that haven't gone through and streamlined their menu, that don't understand the true nature of what it costs to be able to produce a dish and how to maneuver that revenue.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Ken McGarrie: But I think that the biggest single fallacy that I encounter that I think requires a total philosophical change are restaurateurs who believe that staff should be happy that they work for them. And it's that level of, I've got a stack of resumes, and if you're not working out, I got 100 people who want your job. Well, no.

Brett Linkletter: Yes.

Ken McGarrie: Good people in this industry can find work anywhere, especially not, legitimately. So if you're a restaurant owner, or you're a restaurant manager, every day you have to understand that your staff wakes up and makes a conscious choice. It's not every situation to where people say, " I have to go to work." You don't have to. You make a conscious decision every day to go work at that restaurant. And for that, your management, your ownership must be appreciative of that, and say, every single day, " Thank you for choosing to be there." So the dynamic is absolutely changed. It is not I have this thing, and you should be happy you work. It's thank you so much because I know you could work anywhere, but you choose daily to work for me.

Brett Linkletter: I love that.

Ken McGarrie: That philosophy is going to get people to an appreciation that will lower issues with communication errors, that will lower HR issues, that will build empowerment, and that will save a lot of the hospitality industry that's working in a world that thinks of it as service versus genuine hospitality.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. One thing I also hear a lot, which I love this objection when someone is deciding to work with us or not. They say, " Well, Brett, I don't know if we'll use your programs. What if too many customers come and we can't handle the rush?" I say, " Well, hey, that's a great problem to have."

Ken McGarrie: That's the bold part of you that's like, " I'm just going to put as many people in as possible and we're going to make it work." And I'm the person at the door going, " Now, how are we going to take care of 200 people that just walked in the door?" Absolutely.

Brett Linkletter: So how do you do that? Any kind of tips and tricks around that?

Ken McGarrie: Well, that is 100% the headstrong part of you, and that is required that gets people to come in. Now in that scenario, there's understanding and empathy of, well, you've now got an influx. And whether that is an acknowledgement at the door, or passing drinks, whatever that is, we understand that this situation is obviously a little untenable, but we're going to make it right. And that communication is so huge. That's why the table touching that is obviously required in restaurant management everywhere is so important, that you're in the kitchen, and you know that you're going 20 minutes on a dish, at 10 minutes, you should be at that table talking to them beforehand, before it's an issue. So if you have an influx, and you've got too many people, then you're talking to them before it's an issue because people are understanding if you explain what's going on beforehand. It's a lot harder to rescue after it's hit the ground.

Brett Linkletter: Got it, 100%. I think what I've noticed too is a lot of restaurants... I don't even know this, to be honest. Maybe you do. Is it a new law now since the pandemic that you can only be at a table for 90 minutes? I know in California it's-

Ken McGarrie: Different states.

Brett Linkletter: Different states, yeah.

Ken McGarrie: In different states. We have a place in Florida, there's no limit there. Texas is obviously completely open. Chicago, for a long time, it was six people, and only 90 minutes. And I'm sure that you have had your fill about COVID conversations throughout this entire-

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Ken McGarrie: I think that the biggest challenge that is happening is that we have made our servers and bartenders into bouncers. And the number of consternation, I mean seriously.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Ken McGarrie: I remember last summer, I was working with a client, and they had... You're having to walk around to tell people to put on masks. And it's not only for the fact that there is literally code enforcement with cameras, and I've seen this happen, taking photos of people not wearing, and you're getting issued tickets when they're not being compliant. And all of that, it's not only the mandates from the city or the state, it's also that it was incredibly hard, especially in the beginning with the staff, who were terrified. They didn't have information about what the nature of this is, and everyone's freaked out, and they feel unsafe in their environment. So it created this thing to where you are purposely putting servers and bartenders and other people who aren't trained with the same level of conflict deescalation that bonded security people are, in order to traverse when people are choosing not to wear masks. And it really, really drove a huge wedge in hospitality because it's hard to then say, " Hey, I'm going to make great suggestions about what you want to have for dinner," after you spent 10 minutes chiding them to stop taking off their mask.

Brett Linkletter: Yes. God, it's so interesting what's happened.

Ken McGarrie: And then that's where I've seen a lot of resurgence of the 20% service charge and all of those things, which has its own unique challenges, both positive and negative. For a lot of reasons, that was challenging.

Brett Linkletter: Do you consult on your clients on... You know when you walk into a restaurant now and they take your temperature? I always think it's so awkward and strange when they just put that thing up to your head. It's like, " Come on, man."

Ken McGarrie: I tell them wrist. Absolutely.

Brett Linkletter: Yes. But so many restaurants still do this thing. I'm like, " Come on, man." This is not inaudible.

Ken McGarrie: Literally, three days ago because they do this whenever in my building, whenever you want to go to the gym, they make you go through the temperature. So the door guy goes to point it at my head. I said, " Just do it on my hand." And he goes, " Does that work?" And I said, " Yeah. It totally works." He's like, "Oh, I learned something new." I just think that's just a disconnect to where nobody said, " Take your temperature literally anywhere." And it's a lot more weirdly, it's less invasive than making somebody lean forward and sticking it to their head.

Brett Linkletter: So awkward, yeah.

Ken McGarrie: It is. And again, it's the beginning of... When you start out any guest experience telling them all the things they can't do, and the threats of, well, if you do this, it's very hard to then turn that into a genuine, appreciative hospitality thing.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Ken McGarrie: If there is one thing that I've worked with, with staff, it's saying, " Do you remember what it was like to sit at home when everything was closed? And you were thinking you would do anything to get out of your house, and you would do anything to be back at work. Don't let go of that." Don't let go of that feeling because you have to remember how you felt six months ago when you were on your couch, not earning, bored, scared, all of those feelings. And now if you're in an environment or an area that's opening back up, and you're dealing with the challenges with what it is to go from zero to 100 immediately, because there are a lot, don't forget what it was. And if I can turn it all the way back around to the book, that's why I think that the book is timely, because there are a lot of places looking for managers, and a lot of bartenders and servers being handed keys and told, " You're going to manage now." And that's not a recipe for success.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Ken McGarrie: So that's why the book, that's why the eBook is a dollar, because I really just think that everybody-

Brett Linkletter: Oh, 100%. I'm super excited to read it because my background, I've never owned a restaurant. I'm not a restaurateur, I'm a restaurant marketer. But I've enjoyed this industry so much since I first got into it. And it's incredible. And I love soaking this stuff up. That's why honestly, when I first started this podcast, I was like, " Hey, I want to speak to really bright people in the restaurant industry." That's what I wanted to do. That was it. So I'm definitely going to read this thing, and I will definitely give my feedback. I'm excited.

Ken McGarrie: inaudible that. That's awesome.

Brett Linkletter: Again, tell me this. Obviously, yes, pandemic's been tough, whatever, lot of changes in the space. Let's talk about now opportunities. What are some opportunities that you see that have opened up in the restaurant space, maybe because of this, or just what's happened over the last year, and what you see coming? What are some of the big opportunities you see happening?

Ken McGarrie: I saw a lot of people left the industry that we miss. I saw some people who left the industry that should've left the industry. And if anything, there is a way of doing more with less. There is a way of reinvigorating a team and cross training and cross utilizing. The people that made it, and made it back, are to be celebrated. I use the term industry as a badge of honor. And literally the last chapter of the book is, If You're in the Industry, Don't Ever Do These Things. It's the rules that no one ever told you. Don't ever ask for comps and things like that.

Brett Linkletter: Yes.

Ken McGarrie: inaudible that straight now, someone should've told you that when you're in another restaurant, don't ever be the last person there because you're that guy. And don't be that guy. But with the industry itself, there's an opportunity to embrace the people who this spoke to, and why they're there, and then what their hope is for changing and progressing because that's the big change that I'm seeing, the digital aspect, how people are using software and different platforms to be able to bridge the gap, what it is to use delivery platforms, and how that changes your business model as well. In the same way... I mean, and I'm sure you've seen this. If you give your food to a third party person, but they mess it up, the number of times that I've seen restaurants go, " Well, that delivery service, that's their problem." No, it isn't. It's yours. It is 100% a reflection of your company.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Ken McGarrie: And people lose that sight. They blame whatever third party platform it is. But again, without those third party platforms, we would be in a lot worse situation coming out of the pandemic.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. 100%. I think people want to point fingers, and they can't. Take responsibility. You've just got to. You know what I mean?

Ken McGarrie: Yep.

Brett Linkletter: So anyway, Ken, again, this has been an incredible conversation. I can't wait to read the book. I will 100% give you my feedback as soon as I do. It sounds incredible.

Ken McGarrie: I look forward to that.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. And so for anyone listening to our podcast today, how do they find you online?

Ken McGarrie: So if you go on Amazon, you can get the 99 cent eBook. You can get the audiobook that's available on Audible. And you can get the print copy. There are also the print version is available at most other stores if you want to support independent, excuse me, independent bookstores. Then there's Bookshop, Barnes and Noble, all of those things.

Brett Linkletter: Nice.

Ken McGarrie: Just Google me. If you just Google me, you'll find me. And you'll find that really bad sweater picture of me. It's embarrassing. And it's a very inaudible.

Brett Linkletter: I need to find the sweater photo.

Ken McGarrie: You know what, when you go up and you put it on YouTube, to where you've got that tag picture to get people to watch it, it should just be that picture of me in a sweater standing in front of the Yelp sign. It's a real bad picture. But if it makes people Google me more, fine. That's hilarious.

Brett Linkletter: I love it. I love it. What about social media? Are you also on social media as well, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

Ken McGarrie: Korgen Hospitality is on Facebook, and I myself as well. And we are on LinkedIn. And I will admit that I am slowly but surely getting into Instagram. Fabio put the post up about the book. And he got a huge, huge response on Instagram. And my draw seems to be more LinkedIn.

Brett Linkletter: Perfect. Awesome. Well, hey Ken, thanks again for your time.

Ken McGarrie: Thanks. Appreciate it.

Brett Linkletter: What we'll do on this episode is I'll put all those links to your book, your LinkedIn, your Facebook and all that stuff, on this episode, so everyone can check it out. But again, thank you so much for your time, Ken. That was amazing. And I look forward to reading the book.

Ken McGarrie: Thank you so much. It's been fantastic.

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely. Absolutely. Chat soon. See you.

Ken McGarrie: Take care.

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