Considering a culinary arts school, before you do, read on.

Chef-Savory

We have hired several newly “minted” chefs directly from culinary schools usually through an internship program. In every case culinary students find their biggest challenge to be timing and pressure. They have the knowledge to create dishes from scratch (a valuable tool for an Executive Chef) but can only understand the pressures a commercial chef faces by working in an actual commercial kitchen environment. Don’t get me wrong, I continue to view the hiring of culinary students through intern programs a valuable tool and find qualified students who continue to advance in their career at our bistros and bakery. However, my first hand experience is that, despite all those newly learned skills and knowledge, only one out of three will make it in the industry.
Before you spend the money, you need to ask yourself three key questions that will tell you if you are right for the chef position
Question One –  Do you thrive under “blow and go” pressure and love having new challenges thrown at you from left to right? A yes answer allows you to move on to Question Two.
Question Two – Can you maintain a clear mind and balanced personality with the ability to inspire people to push themselves to the limit day in and day out? If you answered yes, fantastic! Move on to Question Three.
Question Three – Can you consistently produce quality dishes that not only taste great but also look fantastic each time?
If you have answered yes to these three questions, you may just be chef material.

Now you can move on becoming a chef.
Culinary school is a valuable (but not necessary) tool if you plan to move up to Executive Chef. As mentioned above, it provides you with valuable knowledge on the “how to” of creating and in some cases, saving dishes. It will also give you a pretty good idea if you want to be a savory chef (cook) or pastry chef (baker) two very different professions.

Working in a commercial kitchen is a “required” tool to get in and move up in the industry. And we’re not talking in a chain, which will only teach you how to heat up and serve food.
If you plan on making this your career, it’s better to start out in prep for free in a fine dining restaurant then get paid to work as a “head chef” in a chain.

If you have answered yes to my three questions, get into a fine dining restaurant doing anything you can. Watch, listen and learn. Move up through the ranks. Experience is a more valuable asset than culinary school at this stage. Don’t get me wrong, culinary school is a valuable arrow to have in your quiver, but experience is the bow. It will tell you if you’re cut out for the business, what area you excel in, all while providing you with added chits for your resume. Think of experience as the cake, culinary school as the frosting. It should be the finishing touches to position you in a very rewarding industry that, although extremely challenging is also extremely rewarding.
Good Luck.

J Stephen

Why do all restaurant waiters tell me their names?

Watress Two Older Guests

The answer to this question is simple…. Tips. Research has clearly shown that when a server states their name they become a real person to the guest. When they kneel down, touch your shoulder, speak to your kids, they further personalize themselves, all resulting in increased tips.

You might stiff a faceless “food deliverer” but almost never a person you are acquainted with.

This may sound like a cold hearted fact but doing these things is actually a win/win for all parties. The server makes more money (usually) and believe me they work hard for every penny they get, the guest feels special and the proprietor has provided a service that will assure their guest will come back to that special place that treats them so well.

Where the system breaks down is when the process is institutionalized. When chain restaurants all “train” their staff to follow “standardized” welcoming rules, they become rote and lose their meaning. Servers then “blindly follow” their “training” without thinking because it’s the “rule”.

At our Forney, TX European Bistro, we ask our servers to treat people like they have just come in to visit them at their home. Do those thing that will personalize you to your guests, but do them because you mean it, just as if you are talking to a friend.

Not easy to do when you have a line of guests waiting to be seated, looking for refills and awaiting their dishes. But that’s the art of being a professional server. Understanding who needs attention and the attention they require is an art not a process. Chains who are all about systems and controls often lose site of that fact.

J Stephen

Eating alone at a fancy restaurant. One simple change can make a difference!

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I personally like to eat alone on some occasions, especially when I’m working on business issues that I need to think through. One of the things I do hate is when hosts make you feel like a loser when they ask “JUST one?” The question makes one feel as if, you really can’t find even one more person to dine with?

At our European Bistro in Forney Texas,  I always have my team ask “will anyone be joining you?” When the guest says no, we say “great, let me clear these settings so you have a bit more room.”

I believe this simple change makes our single dining guests feel welcome and comfortable.

J Stephen

Do many/any nice restaurants serve meals to a table “one-at-a-time-when hot” vs. all-at-the-same-time? What is the general restaurant trend around this?

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Our chef’s are all classically trained from Le Cordon Bleu. Although classically trained, when they start with us (or any restaurant for that matter) the most challenging task they immediately face is the ability to create AND provide all dishes simultaneously. This is when most aspiring chef’s “wash out” (decide that being a chef is not for them).

Delivering dishes on time goes beyond one dish and one ticket. It includes the monitoring of multiple tickets all with multiple dishes. Most chef’s use several timers to help achieve this. Our kitchen features multiple staff members, all gliding from task to task, reacting to multiple timers, to assure that each table is served as quickly as possible in a timely manner. Granted, we make all our dishes from scratch which only add’s to the complexity of the assignment and in order to cut down on the complexity and time to provide dishes, many kitchens pre-make many of their dishes. However, the basic challenge still remains.
A great example of this is the following scenario for a seemingly simple party of five breakfast at our European Bistro in Forney, TX: Our sample order consists of five dishes; (1) waffles, (1) pancakes, (1) soufflé, (1) eggs Benedict and (1) oatmeal.  Seems simple, right? Well lets give you a little insight into just what goes into crafting those dishes.
Our chef’s know that the waffles take 4 minutes, the pancakes 11 minutes, the soufflé 20 minutes, the Eggs Benedict 4 minutes to poach the eggs, 16 minutes to bake the crab cakes and the oatmeal takes 8 minutes to cook, 1 minute to slice the fruit and 3 minutes to brûlée. In addition, our chef’s are usually working multiple dishes at the same time.
This simple breakfast seems quite simple to the guest but involves great training on the part of the chef.  Now take that same ticket and multiply it by 20 tickets all in queue at once with some parties as large as 20 people! I believe that will help you understand what it means to be a chef and just what goes into providing those SIMPLE dishes all at once to your table.
Being a chef requires two often conflicting capabilities, intense focus as well as the ability to multi-task while under great pressure.
To assure all dishes come out simultaneously all cooked to perfection is the magic that separates the chef from the cook.
J Stephen

Where… What… When

CRUMBZZ-CRUMB-CAKES

Photo of the actual headline a photo on July 29, 2014 in Time Square NYC

As most of you who follow our posts know, we are big believers in PR over traditional advertising (ad placement). With that in mind, we thought you would be interested in a recent pr article we posted with the media. It’s an excellent study in getting the word out on your company in today’s media fragmented world.

For several years, we have been sending what we call Diplomacy Cakes to world figures who are in the middle of a dispute. With each cake is a gift card made to look like it came from the other aggrieved party, suggesting that they get together to discuss their differences.

The cost for this program is our cakes, packaging and shipping. We get no monetary benefit in return. On the surface, this might seem like a financially foolish move. But, there is value and sometimes that value can be much greater than the money we would receive from a two cake sale. You see when we send out these cakes, we also send out a pr piece to the media. On occasion, we may get some local media coverage but usually, they’re not picked up by the national media. But every once in a while you strike gold!

A case in point is our most recent Diplomacy Cake venture.

On July 29th, we sent out a pr piece on our latest shipment. On that date, we posted the following news release:

Is there a simple way to get Putin and Obama to agree on something?

Chef J Stephen Sadler of Crumbzz thinks so

With the recent events in Ukraine further highlighting the increasingly frosty relationship between Russia and the U.S., diplomats from both countries are looking for any areas of mutual agreement. Chef J Stephen Sadler, the Executive Chef and owner of Crumbzz, an artisan crumb cake provider from Dallas, TX, thinks he has the answer. “Instead of breaking bread together, I say, let them eat cake”. And Chef J Stephen puts his money, or in this case his cakes, where his mouth is. 

For the past several years Chef J Stephen’s company, Crumbzz, has been shipping his artisan created old world cinnamon streusel crumb cakes to warring factions around the world. “There may be disagreements that can’t be bridged, but everyone loves home made crumb cake and if you can get warring parties sharing in even one thing, that’s a start”, says Chef J Stephen. 

This isn’t the first time Crumbzz has shipped their diplomacy crumb cakes to disagreeing parties. Obama has been the lucky recipient three times, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have each received two Crumbzz cakes as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who have each received one.

Crumbzz does not restrict the gifting of its diplomacy crumb cakes to political parties. Corporate America is well represented by Apple’s Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and GE’s Jack Welch, media’s Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC and Roger Ailes Fox News Channel CEO have also received cakes. Even Hollywood and the sports world have received their share including; Kobe Bryant, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr., to name just a few.

In an interesting twist, Crumbzz attaches a gold leafed gift card with each diplomacy crumb cake stating that the cake came from the warring party and suggesting that they get together to discuss their differences.

Lately, Chef J Stephen has been re-thinking his policy of sending his cakes to warring factions. With just a hint of sarcasm, Chef J Stephen states that “We may be fomenting world turmoil by encouraging world leaders to create an issue just to get another free Crumbzz Cake. Maybe in the future, we’ll send them a note stating that they’ll get their cakes once they settle their issues.”

Nonetheless, Crumbzz will be at it again, preparing to send Russian President Vladimir Putin his second cake and Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko his first. Add’s Chef J Stephen, “Hopefully they can use our cakes as an excuse to call each other and start their conversation about how much they enjoyed their cakes”.

A funny thing happened with this release. The headline “Crumbzz Crumb Cakes sends Diplomacy Cakes to Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko” along with a picture of our gift cakes, hit the Thomson Reuters big screen in Times Square!

What happened from there is true grass roots marketing at its best. With little or no marketing budget, one press release caused our phone to ring off the hook. People from across the country wanted to know how they too could send a pair of Diplomacy cakes to friends and family members who were in dispute.

Don’t get us wrong, not all calls were for orders.  We get plenty of emails and letters from people who think its a great idea and just as many who think we’re crazy. We’ve also gotten some wonderful letters from folks, thanking us for providing a tool to help them break the ice. But, the bottom line is, we’re getting plenty of attention from many folks who had never heard of Crumbzz before our release. To assure we maximize our coverage of this event, we even sent a follow up press release letting the local media know about our fortunate placement in the heart of New York City.

What made this release so newsworthy? Key words is the simple answer. No one cares about a crumb cake like we do. And believe us, although your product may be the highlight of your life, unless it’s another iPhone, no one will care about your product either. But key words on trending issues make news. And we used plenty. Vladimir Putin and President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and GE’s Jack Welch, Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC and Roger Ailes Fox News Channel CEO,  Kobe Bryant, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. and of course Petro Poroshenko the President of Ukraine, were all mentioned. Each one of those names is trending and is picked up by thousands of media sources.

Was the program designed to generate media attention? No, the idea actually came over the dinner table while discussing an ongoing disagreement with a family member. We decided to send one of our cakes along with a note. And then like a bolt of lightning, it hit us, if it could work for our family, why not for other’s. Sending it to well known protagonists is where the pr value of the Diplomacy Cakes came in.

A Diplomacy Cake may not be the right strategy for your company, but you get the idea. You must stand out from the pack to get attention. In our case, sending Diplomacy Cakes fits our brand, is produced at minimal cost for potential maximum return and is, to be quite honest, fun to do.

J Stephen

3-Steps To A Vibrant Downtown

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Most cities want to have a vibrant, destination downtown. Few find the keys to succeed in that goal. Why? One of the reasons is how they look at the problem. As a member of our towns downtown business association, I participate in several city downtown re-vitalization discussion groups across our state. The common theme on the posts is one of regulation. Clean it up and they will come… in droves.

It’s understandable that, as a public servant, city personnel’s first inclination is to respond to the challenge based on what they have been trained to do best… regulate. But you can’t regulate your way to success. Trying to revitalize a downtown by cleaning up the decrepit buildings through diligent code enforcement, is only one part of a successful plan.

Code enforcement covers the “penalty” portion of the equation but does little to “revitalize”.  An excellent analogy would be the removal of drugs from a drug user. Although an important element in their rehabilitation, it will never be successful without providing an alternative that replaces the urge. As with the drug user, decaying downtowns need an alternative to further decay and that alternative is a robust “business focused” incentive program.

Because there are no competitive do-or-die pressures similar to what a business person operates under, it is extremely hard for cities to view downtown re-vitalization thorough the prism of a businessperson. Accordingly, most cities view incentives as give-aways with no clear return on investment.

In addition, the political ramifications can be daunting. On the surface, incentives can easily be made to look like special interests and corporate payoffs by political opponents. It takes a strong politician, who is committed to re-development to stand up against those who would use those very incentives as a campaign issue. Even when a business has been “landed” and is doing well, it is extremely hard to show that the incentive was the difference maker. That is why so many towns “talk” re-vitalization, but don’t have the will power to move forward on a comprehensive re-vitalization plan.

Unfortunately, you will never get business participation with more regulations. Because of their very nature, business abhors regulations. Anything that slows them down and prevents them from running their business, will be viewed instinctively as an unnecessary hindrance.  That doesn’t mean cities should relinquish all regulations It simply means that they use them along with a robust incentive program.

In addition, it’s imperative that the city get the business community involved before exercising radical changes (e.g. polling existing proprietors about unsightly storefronts or dilapidated buildings). If the city makes the business community part of the solution, they will have a much greater chance of buy-in and success.

Cities must think like a business owner. Not an easy task for those who have been in the public sector most of their lives. “If I was a business owner, what would it take to get me involved?” That should be the first question a city should ask. “If I’m struggling to make ends meet, what could I, my co-owners and the city do that would provide me with the best return on my investment”.

The city must understand that since the city will still exist if an investment goes south but a business would quite possibly go out of business if that same plan fails, the level of scrutiny is much higher in the business world. When offering incentives, cities must not look at them as a city giveaway but instead should look at them as the business  owner. The question should be, what is the level of risk for me, the business owner, versus the level of return for me. If the risk level, relative to the return, is too great, the plan will never move forward. Ask yourself, if I lost my job because the program was a failure, would I be so quick to engage?

In most cases, businesses will have to see some level of success (or some type of guarantee) before they will commit. Creating incentive programs alone will not do the trick. The city must be engaged. It must not only be an active participant but, especially at the onset, be the driver, with business buy in and participation at every step, to make it happen.

In addition, the city must publicize the progress that has had a direct effect on the business owners bottom line (present or future), not just the city’s goals. No one wants to jump on board the titanic, even if it has the best deck lounge chairs. Everyone want’s to be part of a winner. Let all know, when you have a winner.

Unfortunately, that means that a city often has to initiate and fund the first moves, building a track record that can show quantifiable success. It doesn’t always have to be in the bottom line. New benches, event signs, tree lined streets, street banners, downtown events all show that the city is alive and moving forward. Renovation incentives, rent concessions to attract new businesses. Building facade incentives to “gussy up” existing businesses. All must be part of the mix.

Even the smallest success should be documented. Events, new facades, new business openings, new product mixes are newsworthy if presented in the proper vein. Get input from your local proprietors, talk to visitors and then send out a press release, using their quotes, to the local newspaper. Make sure your news articles are always written in the third person.

A discussion of why more business activity, equals more businesses, which in turn, equals more residents, that in the end, produces more papers sold, blogs read, etc. will help motivate your local newspaper, blogger, etc. to post all your press releases. The articles should speak about the success of the event (e.g. how many people attended, quotes from visitors and store owners, etc.). Your intent should be to create excitement. Show the success, through the eyes of  existing and potential business owners. Every one of those articles should be part of your press kit and new business package.

The next step is to build a coalition of business owners that will actively promote the town. Make sure you have doers not joiners at its head. In Forney, we created the Forney Downtown Business Association. Members are focused solely on downtown Forney. The camaraderie that has been established between the city, the EDC and the FDBA has resulted in fantastic changes in the downtown area. In its first year, the FDBA has successfully applied for and received hot funds to purchase street pole banners and event banners, purchased and installed building outline lighting for the entire downtown area (a project that required the use of city and FDBA membership funds), and is in the process of applying for TXDOT funds to line it’s streets with trees, bushes and planters (a project that the city is working closely with the FDBA to create a master going forward plan).

The success of the FDBA would not have come without the direct assistance and nurturing by the city and the EDC. The city removed all obstacles and assisted in funding on many of our projects.

Understanding that the funds spent today would nurture the new organization and in the end, help move towards its goal of creating a vibrant downtown, the funding is viewed as an investment, not an expense. The EDC provided the focus and wherewithal to get the organization off the ground, it rallied existing members to actively participate, and it funded the FDBA’s formation. All of this was necessary to assure the success of the effort.

The result, the downtown area now has several, very publicized, events, local residents and visitors alike, visit the downtown area at night to see the building lights, our street light banners and event signs are in the planning and design stage and we are now working on our master plan for our downtown planting.

That’s all great but the real “SO WHAT” is that we now have several new businesses opening, five existing businesses have used the facade incentive monies to red-do their buildings and signs, and the EDC is talking to an ever increasing number of potential new businesses who want to be “where the action is”. A great example of where this has led involves a new farmers market. Forney has been trying unsuccessfully for years to attract a farmers market to its historic downtown. It now is working with two that want to locate their businesses in the downtown area.

The bottom line here, is that the city must jump in with both feet (no toe dipping). It must show a commitment to spend the money, cut the regulations and lend a helping hand whenever and wherever it will make a difference. And, it must celebrate it’s victories by sharing them through a focused public relations program. Only then will you get full participation by the local business community. They may not wan’t to jump on the titanic, but they also don’t want to miss a boat that’s ready to sail into a successful and vibrant downtown.

 

J Stephen

How We Use Social Networks

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We’re always amazed at how businesses use social media. In most cases there seems to be two schools of thought. Either its a necessary evil that “I’ll put stuff on, so I can say I’m there” or what a great advertising vehicle, “I’ll advertise my ass off to generate business!” In both cases, the business owner is going to end up feeling that social media is much ado about nothing!”

In each case, the business owner has completely missed what social media is all about. The power of social media is hidden in broad daylight in its very name. “SOCIAL MEDIA” is all about a “media” for “social” interaction. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and to a lesser degree, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google + and the like, all provide platforms for users to interact, share and express common interests. 

A business owner who discourages or worse, prevents input or “posts” from users, is not using the power of the network and in many cases is telling users that the business is NOT socially connected or worse, adversarial to their networked users.

Owners who view their social network presence as a great place to advertise, are also missing the boat. Social interaction is all about providing users with something they want to read. Something they will find interesting. Something that they will want to share with others. Very few advertisements fall into this category.

Although we are not the most cutting edge company to use social networks, we are active and have found that they are a useful tool to keep in touch with our clientele, to get client feedback and yes… to generate business.

At Crumbzz, we use several social media outlets. Besides our web page and blog, you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google + and YouTube. Each provides a different outlet and allows us to generate a different message.

We look at our web site as a place where we build our brand and image and where clients can place orders. If a client wants to know about our products, get an overview on who we are or place an order, our web site is the place to go.

Our blog is designed to provide a drill down or “deep dive” into the heart and soul of our company. In-depth articles provide readers with an unusually thorough view of who we are and what we do. It is where we are truly able to build and present our brand. If a client wants to really get to know what makes us tick, they will will get it all on our blog.

On Facebook we provide a weekly “Note From The Chef” on food buying hints, recipe’s and cooking tips. We sprinkle in monthly specials and bistro party events. If you want to join in with your enthusiasts and actually have a real ongoing relationship, Facebook is where we make that happen.

If our blog is a “deep dive”, Twitter is for shallow waters. It’s for our short, off-the-cuff comments on things we think our followers will find interesting. Quick thoughts, witty musings, help us build our brand and reinforce our corporate personality.

One of the things we are intently focused on is our presentation. From cakes to bistro dishes, we are intent on providing our enthusiasts with a complete experience. What better place to do that then on Pinterest. We must confess that our bistro guests are the ones who got us on Pinterest by taking pictures of our dishes at our european bistro. We now make sure we have picts of every dish we create, every cake we offer, for all to view. For all those “visual” potential guests who need to see it first, Pinterest is where we give them a great look at our many creations.

We are always being interviewed by the media for our history, worldwide searches for the finest ingredients, environmental causes, historic downtown activities, etc.  YouTube is our favorite place to provide followers with access to all those video’s. We also like to use YouTube to play video’s that further causes we believe in, such as environmental, fair trade and natural ingredients. It doesn’t have to be about us to get on our YouTube site. YouTube is another outlet to build on our brand and let our followers and enthusiasts know what other people think of us and what we stand for.

You may have thought it odd that we also included Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google + to the list of social networks. You can add to that list Urban Spoon, Local Eats, Open Table and Food Spotting. Although we don’t post to these sites, per se, we do make sure we are listed, picts and all, for all to see. We know… we’ve heard from many restauranteurs that they have a love/hate affair with these types of services because, as one of my chef friends stated, “It’s only a matter of time before you piss someone off and they’re always the one’s that post. The one’s that love you never post.” That may be true in some cases, but we find that if you really take care of your guests they’ll take care of you and let the world know.

Yes we’ll get an occasional post (usually about why we don’t have cokes, sweet and low, etc. (because they are chemicals or have chemicals in them) or that we are not speedy like The Waffle House (because we make everything from scratch) but in most cases, we get wonderful reviews that assure us that we are taking care of our family of enthusiasts. If you want them to find you, you MUST be on these sites. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t meet and greet a new guest from one of these sites. If you’re comfortable enough with your offerings and service to let others speak about your offerings, these sites are the place to be.

You’ll notice, that we did not mention advertising on any of these sites. Yes our web site is created to sell cakes and bistro offerings but even there, we provide a place to make your order but never try to oversell the product. Instead we describe what and how we create and let the visitors imagination carry them to the ordering page.

Why no advertising? Because it is our belief that you should never blatantly advertise on social media sites. Yes, on Facebook, we talk about our cake of the month (we create an unusual flavor each month and make it available for only that month) and we do talk about upcoming events, but we do this in an informational format, NEVER as an advertisement. On YouTube we are content to let others talk about us.

We have found (and hundreds of studies have shown) that the quickest way to turn off (and quickly lose) a visitor, is to advertise to them.

So why be involved in social media if it doesn’t generate $$$$$? Simple. First of all, it does generate $$$$, just not in the traditional sense. As mentioned sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google +, Urban Spoon, Local Eats, Open Table and Food Spotting generate business for us every day.

Although we can’t always see it, people who read posts on Facebook, Twitter, see pictures on Pinterest and videos on YouTube, get to know us and reach a comfort level that allows them to try what we have to offer. Can we see it? Usually not directly, but we know it’s there. Why? Because we do no formal advertising. That’s right… NADA!! All our business is generated from word of mouth, a good part of which comes from social media. So don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not worth the time to join your clientele on the social networks, just do it the right way and you’ll be rewarded handsomely for the effort.

J Stephen 

Hello, Let Me Introduce Myself

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One of the key ingredients of our success has nothing to do with flour, sugar, butter or cinnamon.  Nor does it have anything to do with our beautiful packaging or our passionate approach to serving our clients and guests. It does however, have everything to do with marketing.

There are so many ways to get the word out, choosing what form of media to use often seems overwhelming. To add to the confusion, most entrepreneurs are understandably, so focused on the care and development of their product that marketing is usually a second thought. Since marketing is often out of their comfort zone it often ends up playing second fiddle to everything else.

In addition, most entrepreneurs mistake marketing for advertising. They don’t understand that telling the world about their product is just one aspect of marketing. Marketing does include advertising, but for a new business especially, it also includes positioning. An existing business that has established its position in the market, can focus primarily on advertising their product. A new business must first tell their target market who they are, what they stand for and most importantly, what their clients can expect of them. In short they must define their position in the world.

From the beginning, we knew we had the finest crumb cakes in the world and with the opening of our first European Bistro in 2012, the most delectable european breakfast/brunch dishes this side of the pond, but we also understood that no one else knew that.  We also knew, what we stood for, who we were, and to us, what we stood for was inescapably joined with our offerings.   

When it comes to marketing, most small businesses tend to think small. Advertising in the local newspaper, coffee table TV guide or door-to-door hand-outs are usually the norm. However, the “norm” is exactly what you don’t want to do if you want to be successful. If you want to grow big, you need to think big. 

We wanted our offerings to make a difference, not only for our clients and guests but also for those who work so hard on the farm, ranch and plantation. We wanted to have an effect on not only our own carbon footprint but also on how others affect the world we live in. If we were going to do our small part to change the world, we had to grow big enough to make a difference.

With that in mind, we took a different, non-traditional route. We chose to do NO advertising. Although, not the norm, we believe that it’s better to have a happy client/guest tell someone about us than to have us tell someone about us. Don’t get us wrong, we may not have advertised in the traditional sense, but we did get the word out. We just used another form to get to our target market and that form of advertising is called “pr”.

Pr is ideal for painting a picture about your company and it’s products. In most cases, if done properly, it has the credibility of having someone else talk about you. But, in order to have an effective pr program, you must have a story to tell. If your story is newsworthy, it will be picked up by the media and by grassroots organizations and individuals and be told over and over.

Most companies operate under the premise that a “better” product or “cheaper” price are the best motivators to get potential clients to follow them. We felt that, because it is used so frequently (doesn’t everyone say they have a “better” product), following this path results in a “so what” consumer reaction. 

Because we will never cheapen the quality of our offerings, to sell at a “cheaper” price than the competition, this strategy not an option for us.  In addition, pr on price or quality is old school and almost never newsworthy. It’s our belief that in order to create an effective pr program, you must have a story that the media wants to tell because the public will find it interesting enough to read.

There are stories in every company. You just need to know where to find them. We were fortunate to have the history of our four-hundred year old family crumb cake recipe as the foundation for the “Crumbzz Story”.  But we didn’t stop there. Because we travel across the world for the finest ingredients, we knew that would also make an interesting story. If you follow us, you know we are very green minded. Three percent of our profits go into our non-profit Crumbzz Green Foundation and we actively promote sustainable farming, fair trade and eco-friendly operations. All of those are story lines, in and of themselves. In addition, we continue to be interviewed on the opening of our first European Bistro. Why? Because in  choosing a small town with little or no discernible business activity, we helped bring life back to their historic downtown area. Even bringing dishes from across Europe back to our European Bistro continues to be newsworthy. 

We don’t just wait for the media to find us. We continually send out press releases on anything we think will be of interest to readers, including, new product offerings, patio openings, new restaurants and specialty stores that carry our cakes, to list just a few. We even made an event out of the addition of a giant rain barrel to water our plants,

Two caveats; ONE: We never try to sell anything in a pr piece. We do however, believe that everything, if positioned correctly, is newsworthy.  For it to be successful, it MUST be newsworthy. We look at every pr piece and ask ourselves, would someone find this interesting? Would they like to read this? TWO: Writers and reporters are human. Being human, they tend to like well written pieces that leave them with little or no editing to do. If they have to spend the time re-writing a piece, it better be one heck of a story or it will never see the light of day.  Short and to the point pieces are are the best, with a “hook” headline (a headline that will draw them to read further). 

For those of you with small businesses who are thinking of starting your own pr campaign, make sure that if you can’t write, you have someone who can, write your pr pieces. Oh, and don’t get upset if they make changes to your masterpiece. Their main goal is often different than yours and may not match up with your grand vision.

Who do we send our press releases to? Most people would think we send to media outlets that focus on food and dining. Not so. Yes we send to those organizations, but we also send to downtown development magazines, environmental media, travel sites and city life magazines, to name just a few.

Today, traditional media (magazines, TV, radio, etc.) is no longer the only way to reach potential clients and guests. In fact some of the newer forms of social media are as important or depending on your target market, in some cases, more important than traditional marketing mediums. Understanding our client base and targeted market led us directly to these forms of client interaction. Why? Because that is where our clients are.

J Stephen

Next Month – How We Use Social Networks

 

Crumbzz Proudly Announces the Certification of “Organic Fairtrade For Its Vanilla

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Crumbzz supplier of vanilla, Nielsen-Massey,has achieved Organic Fairtrade certification of it’s Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract. 

“We are excited to be able to offer a product that is both certified organic and Fairtrade,” said Craig Nielsen, CEO of Nielsen-Massey. “Although Fairtrade products are commonly known to be coffees, teas and cocoa, it is just as important for our vanillas to be Fairtrade certified to promote sustainability and help producers in the countries where our vanilla beans are grown.” 

Nielsen-Massey is the first vanilla manufacturer to offer a certified Organic Fairtrade Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla. 

This Fairtrade vanilla ensures that small-scale farmers in developing countries receive a fair price and use sustainable farming practices, stabilizing vanilla-producing communities and protecting the environment.

Nielsen-Massey’s Organic Fairtrade Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla is made with beans that are grown in the shade, integrated with other crops, which helps protect against erosion and deforestation. 

Recognized as the finest vanilla in the world, Crumbzz is proud to be partnering with Nielsen-Massey in using only the Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla in all its crumb cakes.

2013 Crumbzz/FAC Patio Party

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 Every year, Crumbzz celebrates the start of the spring-summer season with a patio party at our Forney Tasting Pavilion. It sounds pretty mundane and straight forward. Announce the party to your local clientele, put together a few fun things to do, pretty up the patio and zippo, your ready to go. NOT! I can tell you from our experience with each party, putting together a patio party is not close to simple.

Now I realize that part of the problem may be me. As a perfectionist, I have my hands in everything and what starts out as a simple project often balloons into a major event. Be that as it may, we thought you’d like to know just what goes into an event such as this.

PLANNING

We’ve been planning this event since February. In February, my team and I sit down and white board what we think should go into the event. What worked last year and what didn’t. What new things might work. What can we handle and what is over and above our capabilities.

We than meet with our partner, The Forney Art Council (FAC) to discuss event ideas, logistics and the division of responsibilities. From that point on, we meet weekly until the day of the event to update our progress, discuss challenges and fill any holes. This year, our contact at the FAC was Liz Lawless. Liz has experience in marketing, publishing, radio, as well as the art world and she proved to be invaluable in assisting us in creating a successful event. 

There were several givens; Live music, a new product release, art demonstrations, prizes and gifts, were among them. Other ideas (like the involvement of other town vendors, a before and after makeover, etc., came about through the creative process. In the end, we felt we had a pretty good package that would provide something for everyone.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Last years patio party proved to be an ideal vehicle to introduce a new flavor crumb cake, so it was a forgone conclusion that we would introduce a new flavor crumb cake. I wanted this years flavor to be something that would speak to summer. From concept to product development, to tastings and back again to development, time and time again, creating a new flavor is a timely process that can take several month’s.

This particular development curve took a little over four month’s. We tried a multitude of flavors on our more than willing local guests. Some were okay, others we just couldn’t get to where we wanted them to be, no matter how many attempts.  Finally after eliminating the also rans, we came down to five contenders; Bialys Irish Cream, Key Lime Pie, Red Velvet Cake, Strawberry Cheesecake and Strawberry Rhubarb. In the end, the Key Lime Pie Crumb Cake won the day. It definitely spoke to summer, and the tart lime complimented our sweet crumb cakes beautifully.  (Although the Key Lime Pie Crumb Cake was the winner, we liked the Strawberry Rhubarb so much that we introduced it in June for a short one month offering that turned out to be quite popular.)

Although our cake tastings took time, what we didn’t realize is that developing a new flavor cake would be the easiest part of the whole event! 

TOWN INVOLVEMENT

Since Forney’s Historic Downtown is starting to experience a re-birth, we thought it would be best to make this years party not only OUR patio party but to use it as a “meet and greet” event for all downtown vendors.

Putting together multiple vendors is a bit like herding cats. And our cat’s were everywhere. We wanted to have a steady flow of activities throughout the day. Music, art, fashion, were all part of the equation. Putting together all the different events and choreographing them to seamlessly work together was no simple task.

Last year the fashion show by Groovy’s, a local ladies boutique, was a big hit. And so, we asked Groovy’s to join us once again. Most small town vendors are not marketing savvy. Explaining the how, what and where can be a real challenge. Groovy’s is one of the few vendors who is extremely marketing savvy. They came up with a different twist using well known local woman as models.  We also included for the first time two other local ladies fashion boutique’s, Plush and Lauren’s Closet, to show off their stuff.

Not sure why but, getting local musicians to perform during the day proved to be much harder than imagined. The Forney Art Council (FAC), our partner in this event, handled the musicians. Thank God, because up to the day of the event, they were still scrambling to pin down acts.

We came up with what we thought was a catchy idea to have one of our local beauty salons (Touch Up Beauty)  choose a willing participant to subject themselves to a “Before” & “After” makeover, complete with photographs and all. That idea turned out to be a big hit.

Since the Forney Historical Society is building a beautiful museum in our downtown area, we got them to speak about Forney history and to show some never before seen photos of our town.

The FAC corralled two artists (Michael Gillespie & Kathy Mackey) to paint live in front of our Tasting Pavilion and a Spinner (Susan Holden) to provide an interesting historic spinner demonstration.

The FAC also agreed to hold their Festival Poster Design Contest during the patio party with local celebrity judges handling the gala event.

To wrap up the day, local horticulturist John Homesley of Homesley Landscaping & Gardening spoke about summer gardening tips on our patio.

GOODY BAG COUPONS/CERTIFICATES

Getting a multitude of participants was just one part of the party. We also asked every vendor in the downtown area to donate coupons/certificates, etc. We used these gifts to fill a goody bag, which we gave out to the first 50 guests. Getting coupons/certificates, etc. proved to be one of our biggest challenges. Although we ended up representing most of the local vendors, most had never printed a coupon/certificate, which forced us to improvise with business cards, promo’s we created, etc. 

The goody bag certificates and coupons turned out to be a great success but needed much more advance planning and time budgeted than we expected. 

DOOR PRIZES

To add to the excitement, we put together eleven special door prizes to be presented every half hour to a lucky guest. From dinner for two, wine glasses, plants, paintings, antiques, music and designer tote bags there was something for everyone. Since we didn’t want people sitting at a table all day waiting to see if they won a gift, we made it so entrants did not have to be there for their winnings. We had each entrant fill out a card with their name, email address, and phone number. Although we were tasked with having to contact every winner by email/phone, we felt this was a better method and would be welcomed by all participants. 

This program was actually easier than we thought, as most vendors had something that they could provide that would ideally represent their professions. The goody bag and the prizes were also a great way to introduce the town to everything our downtown vendors have to offer.

ADVERTISING

One of the biggest challenges was how to advertise our party. With no budget to speak of, a newspaper advertisement was not an option. The FAC did manage to get our event in a couple of magazine “calendar of events” sections. 

Crumbzz and the FAC also email blasted a promo to all our clients and members. (BTW, we use MailChimp to create and distribute all our email blasts. They work great for us and best of all, are free). 

We also used social media, posting to our Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Finally, we asked our participating vendors to let their customers know about the event.

MEASURING SUCCESS

Our formula for rating the success of our patio party consisted of four elements.

  1. Did it bring people downtown?… Check
  2. Did it introduce people to the many vendors we have in our growing downtown?…. Check
  3. Did it generate business and exposure for Crumbzz & the FAC?… Check
  4. Did it generate business for our partnering vendors?… We hope so, but only time will tell

NEXT YEAR???

With all the work and time it took to pull off our party, with all the people involved in the project (my staff, the FAC and the participating vendors), would we do it again?……

We’ll let you know next year when the pain of putting it all together has faded from memory and only memories of the fun we had remains!

J Stephen

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