Behind the kitchen door: the business of restaurants

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Anthony Lupo saw a niche in the Washington, D.C., restaurant scene for great food and equally great hospitality, and opened Southern Hospitality in the Adams Morgan neighborhood several years ago. “We wanted to really focus on the hospitality side,” he says. The restaurant has gained popularity as a neighborhood staple with great brunches, event space and renowned customer service. When he and business partner Brian Schram saw the opportunity for another restaurant in the vibrant Navy Yard area, they thought it was a “no brainer” to open Scarlet Oak next to the ballpark.

This week, Lupo and Schram join Retail Gets Real to share how their restaurant family has grown and adapted to changing food trends, technology and customer expectations.

For Lupo and Schram, the inconsistency of the business is what keeps them going, whether it’s working at all hours of the day or doing different jobs around the restaurant like bartending, waiting tables or helping in the kitchen. Their passion fuels the company culture where employees are encouraged and empowered and turnover is below average at both restaurants. “Lead by example with your staff in creating the atmosphere that you’d like,” Schram says.

Anthony Lupo (front left) and Brian Schram (back right) join Susan Reda (back left) and Bill Thorne (front right) in the podcast studio

Anthony Lupo (front left) and Brian Schram (back right) join Susan Reda (back left) and Bill Thorne (front right) in the podcast studio

Both restaurants enjoy a loyal customer base and the restaurateurs keep their focus on customer satisfaction and creating great experiences. Social media helps maintain that reputation — though, as Lupo says, review platforms like Open Table and Yelp are “a necessary evil.” Southern Hospitality serves close to 4,000 customers in a month “just on the weekends,” he says; after more than five years in business, he estimates that there are probably “500-600 [online] reviews.” Their lesson learned? “Take it with a grain of salt” — this type of social media is important to reach the modern customer who relies on online reviews.

Listen to this week’s episode to learn about how changing technology and customer preferences are shaping the restaurant industry, and catch up on our past episodes for more information about what’s really changing in retail.

Susan Reda is one of NRF’s co-hosts on Retail Gets Real. Meet all the co-hosts and learn more about the show.