If you owned the yellow highlighter concession for our office, Warren Buffett might’ve called you to beg for a share. Yellow was the color we arbitrarily chose to flag new components on the schematics for our revamped website, which went live Oct. 1 after eight months of brainstorming and research. By the end of the exercise, the boards looked like aerial shots of sunflower farms.
Let’s dispense with the big change right away. Our site was formerly MonkeyDish.com. We’ve killed the Monkey. From now on, our site will be known as RestaurantBusinessOnline.com, playing off its 111-year-old print sister. Call us crazy, but we think that name makes more sense.
But don’t expect a magazine in digital form. In extensive research during the ideation stage, restaurateurs told us loud and clear that what they need most is help in running their businesses. That doesn’t mean a recount of what happened in the industry last week or a look inside Mario Batali’s home pantry. Post-Great Recession, they explained, assistance is direly lacking in three areas.
Hence Demand No. 1: “Break us out of the isolation imposed by a 70-hour week and the four walls of our restaurant or office.” As they put it, today’s restaurateurs need to understand the economic and consumer forces shaping the larger world, otherwise they might as well slap their investment on a roulette table and hope for the best. They were oblivious to how the hike in payroll taxes would discourage dining out in January and February or how gluten, an ingredient intolerable to less than 1 percent of the population, would be demonized as a health threat to all.
If you go to our site, you’ll see how we’ve responded, starting with a legislative and economic news feed that’s delivered in partnership with Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call, the top media source of Capitol Hill. Operators can get a daily update of developments in the larger world that will soon affect their top and bottom lines. Whole other sections are devoted to macro-economic issues and their implications for restaurants.
Operators’ second demand: “Show us how we’re performing relative to our peers, and what best practices they’ve hit upon. And by the way, we view everyone who sells food as a competitor, whether or not they fall within that artificial division we call our ‘segment.’”
The sharpest turn we took on the new site is a result of that request. Instead of following the model of a bazillion other sites, we lead with measures and benchmarks, part of a dashboard designed to help visitors drive their businesses. It’s presented in full on the home page, but appears on every page that follows, to keep you apprised as you browse. We want the whole site to be a business tool.
And the capper to the industry’s information request: “We don’t give our customers ingredients and tell them to complete the meal. So don’t just give us information and leave the rest to us. Complete the process by showing us what to do about the currents shaping our world.”
So everything we post has a practical element and a forward spin. The idea is not to rehash what’s happened, the usual rear-view mirror approach, but rather to look through the front windshield and advise where ahead to turn.
But, don’t worry. We’ll not subject you to leaden content that reads like furniture assembly instructions. We share your belief that nourishment should be delivered with flavor, color and an emphasis on the overall experience. And that’s why you’ll find the same sauce and sass we’ve always incorporated into our editorial material, though with far more graphics this time around, as per your request.
Indeed, the whole website was tailored to the needs you cited in our extensive research. But don’t stop the conversation here. Let us know what you think of RestaurantBusinessOnline, and what else you’d like to see. Drop me a line at email@example.com, and tell me how we can continue to deliver the information you need to succeed.