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Be on the lookout

One of our colleagues is convinced he should cap off an outstanding publishing career by opening a restaurant with a partner he barely knows.  We’re still planning the intervention, but at least his kids are safe.

Like many avid restaurant patrons, he views the business as a hoot, a wellspring of excitement that could also spout enough money to make Donald Trump’s hair move. Plus, he’s mentioned the fun of having a place to hang out with friends.

He may not be incorrect on any of those points, but it’s far from a certainty. It’s nice to learn your teens want to attend a free in-state college, but you can’t assume that’ll be the deal. He’s already expressing surprise that negotiations with the landlord are dragging when the lease appears so boilerplate.

As our petition for commitment clearly states, he’s underestimating how difficult the business can be, whether you’re running a shift or protecting an investment. Just a whispered “Obamacare” should have him reaching for Mylanta.

You might be second-guessing this business yourself, knowing the biggest government burden since income taxes is the latest complication in an industry that’s always been easy to enter but hard to master. And never has it been tougher. You not only have the Great Recession hangover of tighter spending, but also a far more critical clientele with the megaphone of social media to broadcast any flub.

We’ve been considering the trials you face, old and new, for the last 13 months, which is why you’re about to see a wholesale change in what we deliver, starting with our online presence. On Oct. 1, you’ll find a radically different website where you previously found Monkeydish.com.

It’ll be exciting, for sure, and we don’t want to mute the wow by revealing specifics. One thing to remember: The website was crafted in direct response to your input via months of focus groups, surveys and informal conversations. You said you want a resource that delivers business intelligence—a clear sense of how you’re performing relative to peers, and advice on how to pull ahead of the pack. 

You told us what information you need on a daily basis, and we’ve engineered new ways of delivering it. We’ve adopted an approach that will give you key, substantive information for running your business, but in a glance. There are still ample stories, but we’ve arranged them in a way that helps you solve problems, quickly review sales and profit-building ideas, or understand the mega-currents unfolding around us.

But our changes don’t end with a new website. In January, we’ll enter our 112th year with a new magazine design and features that similarly grew out of research about what you specifically want in print.

To deliver it, we’re expanding our staff, starting with the addition of our new executive editor, Kelly Smith Killian. Many of you know her and have read her stories. She was the former editor of Restaurants & Institutions, spent a chunk of time with Martha Stewart’s publications, and started her career on the editorial staff of Money. She will be running our day-to-day operations and leading our expanded staff in our new headquarters, just outside of Chicago.

Finally, you may be wondering what I’m doing here. It’s been eight years since my column last appeared in Restaurant Business. I relinquished the editor’s role in 2005, serving most recently as editorial director with responsibility for multiple publications and websites.

But covering the restaurant business has always been my true love, so our parent company has green-lighted my request to focus once again on Restaurant Business. You’ll be hearing from me every month in this space, and more frequently via my blog, Restaurant Reality Check, which now migrates to a prominent position on our website.

Consider it a dialogue. You’ve never been shy about responding to our content, so we look forward to hearing what you think of our additions and updates.

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