Sometimes, something as simple as a guest comment can propel a restaurateur to the next level. Restaurant consultants often agree that listening to guests is one of the key ways to keep your business on track. This Forbes article, about restaurateur Piero Selvaggio is a case in point. Selvaggio opened a small storefront restaurant in 1972 with a $4,500 investment, founding Valentino in Los Angeles. The guest comment – a negative one about the food – came three years later, after he had bought out his partner. It was then that Selvaggio became determined to learn and practice what he didn’t know, subsequently traveling throughout Italy to do it.
Accolades followed, including Wine Spectator’s ranking of Valentino as having one of the top 10 wine lists in the world, and The New York Times declaring it the best Italian in Los Angeles. Selvaggio wasn’t afraid to reinvent – to be aggressive and creative, much like the success stories behind Mario Batali and Roberto Donna, whom he cites. He went on to make changes as consumers’ tastes and needs changed, though always keeping to his strengths and concept. Selvaggio reinvented his bar into a Vin Bar about three years ago and, after the economic downturn, developed a new concept with small plates and televisions for more casual, increasingly frugal, guests.
Restaurant entrepreneurs can take from Selvaggio’s story the courage to reimagine, reinvent, recommit and rededicate to excellence. Your customers, mystery shopping services and your own staff can make the observations that help you do it. Stick with your concept, says Selvaggio, but don’t be afraid to make changes. And always ensure that your staff members feel a responsibility for the ultimate success of the restaurant.