Restaurant Smart versus Corporate Smart: Lessons from Unreasonable Hospitality
February 5, 2024
Jeffrey Meese
I love to eat and drink well. Anything from a stupendous $3 chicken rice or char siew pork rice to a classically prepared squab (yeah, it’s a pigeon, but squab just sounds better).

I love to eat and drink well. Anything from a stupendous $3 chicken rice or char siew pork rice to a classically prepared squab (yeah, it’s a pigeon, but squab just sounds better).

My wife Erin and I dine out often and enthusiastically. We’ve visited countless restaurants throughout the course of our lives together (and separately) and from time to time you fall in love with a place only to have it shut down, sometimes unexpectedly. Sur - Nuevo Latino in Singapore was one of those places for us. They brought pan-South American cuisine to Singapore when nobody talked about it. They did it with style, excellence in service, and at a price point that you could make it a regular stop in the dining rotation. From chicharrones to arepita, plantains and ceviche, it was ambitious but clearly driven by a team that had “been there”.

We dined there half a dozen times over the course of its ~18 months of operations, and I’ll never forget when we rocked up to the door to see a sign reading, “Closed forever due to fraud by the company’s director. Thank you for all the support”. Chef Vitelio Reyes, I’m sorry we didn’t get to enjoy the food longer, and I suspect I’m not alone in that sentiment.

The Chef - Business Partner relationship is a delicate balance that I think Will Guidara brilliantly articulated in his book Unreasonable Hospitality. First, let me start with a resounding recommendation to anyone in the food and beverage industry, or anywhere your customers are critical to your success(this should be all of you!) this is a great read filled with fun stories of the storied rise of one of the most globally recognizable restaurants that is filled with honest retrospectives, humility, and a load of inspiration.

Balance and harmony exist throughout every society in history and are constantly discussed in business. The restaurant industry is no different, and in Unreasonable Hospitality, Guidara sums up what his father taught him about two different approaches: “restaurant smart” and “corporate smart.” In his view, it comes down to where the decision-making authority rests, in the hands of the operators on the ground, usually the chef, or in the office, usually the back office team. Guidara had worked in “restaurant smart” establishments when he joined Danny Meyer’s organization, but his father encouraged him to branch out and experience the “corporate smart” as well.

The best at what they do learn from everyone they encounter and synthesize that information making it their own. Guidara learned both restaurant smart and corporate smart but built his own implementation that he called 95-5 and was inspired by the famous gelato spoon in the cart at the NY Museum of Modern Art. The grand idea was to be hyper conscious of how you're spending 95% of your money and allow yourself to be "foolish" with the last 5%. In this case, it was a fanciful and expensive spoon for the gelato. Their audience were visiting the MoMa, they had come to be delighted by design and find inspiration, and Guidara invested his 5% in finding a way to incorporate that into his concept.

Success can come from being “restaurant or corporate smart,” but the best establishments achieve a healthy balance. It may be that I’m not a chef, but I believe that providing systems and processes to make a “restaurant smart” operation more “corporate smart” feels much easier than vice versa. In fact, I’m dedicating my life’s work to doing precisely that. Foodrazor’s mission is just that, to make being “corporate good” a little easier by delivering structure that’s convenient, automation wherever possible, and serving up the analytics operators need to make informed decisions.

The greatest achievements come through collaboration because no matter how good we are, we can’t do it alone. Eleven Madison Park would never have reached #1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, received 4 stars in the NYTimes, or 3 stars in the Michelin Guide without the combination of Will Guidara and Daniel Humm’s collective efforts.

Every restaurant should strive for the perfect balance between “restaurant smart” and “corporate smart”, but let’s be honest, nobody gets into F&B because they love restaurant procurement software, accounts payable, or restaurant inventory management. Nevertheless, the best operators know that understanding your costs and maintaining good accounts is critical to success in any restaurant, so why not make it as easy as possible? We’re here to help. Foodrazor is a team of former hospitality workers who have walked in your shoes and aim to bring the same level of hospitality to technology as we did when we were walking the floors, pouring drinks, and washing dishes in restaurants like yours.

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