[tweetmeme source=”helpmerhonda11″ only_single=false]Tom Cuomo grew up working in his dad’s restaurant…but that’s not why he’s a successful entrepreneur. After 7 years in business, the owner of Grappolo Locanda share’s his ideas about building a successful business:
– Learn on someone else’s dime: Tom worked in a friend’s restaurant for 2 years, before beginning his own.
– Work hard, 7 days a week: There’s no substitute for hard work. That’s why the next point is so important….
– Do what you love: If you are working 24/7, you’d better love it. Sharing his passion for good food, being a great host, and joking around with the staff makes Tom’s long hours secondary. Don’t get upset over every broken glass…have some fun.
– Have a vision: At Grappolo Locanda, every detail is true to Tom’s vision: the warm Tuscan decor, the regional menu specials, an all Italian wine list, a setting for alfresco dining reminiscent of Italy. When his wine distributor suggested California wines, it was an easy decision…it simply doesn’t fit the brand.
– Create exceptional customer experiences: Tom’s customer’s have lots of dining choices. They choose to return to Grappolo because he has created a great customer experience. People appreciate great food, but the warm hospitality, and a personal connection with Tom inspires loyalty.
– Know your market: In the early years, Grappolo’s menu evolved as Tom learned what his customers preferred: a more familiar menu, not a trendy NYC dining experience. When the economy tanked, his (simpler, less expensive) bistro menu, already popular at lunch, became a hit at dinner.
Recently, Tom discontinued an email newsletter, and instead, started a Facebook page to connect with customers, with great success. Flexibility, and trying new ways to serve your customers is essential.
– Treat people right: Tom’s bedrock philosophy is to “treat people the way you would want to be treated”. His staff has been with him from day one, turnover has been low, and a philosophy of “enlightened hospitality” has served him very well. Reading the book Setting the Table, by restauranteur Danny Myers, confirmed Tom’s instincts. Every entrepreneur should read this book.
– Watch operating expenses: Tom installed compact fluorescents, runs fewer ovens and half a grill during slower times, and repairs his own equipment when possible. Operating efficiency enables Grappolo to hold prices, and maintain margin, in tough economic times.
– Community: Supporting the local community helps to build customer loyalty. Tom generously supports the organizations and causes that matter to his clients…it’s good business.
Lessons learned the hard way: Tom was candid about mistakes made over the past 7 years. Perhaps he should have trained longer before starting his own restaurant, spent less on certain items (like the expensive flatware), or been a more relaxed manager/chef instead of sweating every detail in those early days. Bottom line: no one gets everything right: you must be willing to embrace your mistakes. It’s how you learn what you know.
Tom Cuomo’s success boils down to these 9 core principals, which could easily apply to any business/industry. Thank you, Tom, for sharing your knowledge with other business owners.
Do you have knowledge to share with other business owners? Contact me, let’s talk shop!
PS Special bonus: for social media tips geared to restaurant owners, click here.
PPS Check out the classic You Tube Video about how Milwaukee restaurant AJ Bombers uses Twitter, with Chris Brogan, here.