I would like to submit my time as the owner and manager of Mr. Tai's Chinese Restaurant as a project in my overall career portfolio. I think it makes sense here, because the experience of owning and managing a restaurant cannot help but to inform how I relate to clients and how I understand the issues that clients are dealing with.
My venture into restaurant ownership came about during a period of transition when I happened to visit an old high school friend. The original Mr. Tai was about to move to California and was looking for someone to take over his small Chinese restaurant in Lexington, Minnesota (about 20 minutes north of Saint Paul).
Like many people, I had fantasies of owning a restaurant and this unexpected opportunity seemed like it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I went into the venture well aware of the risks and the difficulties of the restaurant industry and aware that I would be highly dependent upon keeping the services of the cook who ran the kitchen. I brought marketing and management skills to this venture, but had no ambitions of becoming a chef.
Unfortunately, my cook had a medical emergency only weeks after I took over the restaurant and suddenly we were in crisis mode. It would be several months before he was able to return. In the meantime, the quality of our food suffered and we began to loose customers. We would never fully recover from this set-back.
While my adventure in restaurant ownership was not a business success, I learned from failure and found much to be proud of during the time that I owned and managed Mr Tai's. We ran an excellent social media marketing effort that was cheap and effective at bringing new faces into the restaurant. People often arrived at Mr Tai's for the first time and introduced themselves to me as if we were already friends.
I hired and trained a team of up to 10 part time employees, who brought a wide range of skills and experiences to our team. We had difficult times, but we also had fun. As the owner, it was my responsibility to hire and fire, keep the books, build and maintain the website, manage the marketing, meet and greet customers, roll the silver ware, wash dishes, and on occasion I was the delivery driver.
Once it was clear that we were going to close, we promoted a final Friday night in business in our active Facebook community. The response was overwhelming. We set our all time sales record and customers patiently waited up to 90 minutes for their food.
There is much to be learned in the restaurant industry that applies to the development of websites. The little things, such as the importance of making sure that the exterior of your restaurant is welcoming and inviting to newcomers. The importance of making sure that the inside of the restaurant is comfortable and user friendly. Most importantly, the critical importance of providing quality and satisfying content (I meant to say 'food').