- By: Lorraine Salazar, Owner of Sal’s Mexican Restaurant Group
Last month I flew to Washington DC to speak with legislators on behalf of the California Restaurant Association. The following day I observed Fresno County officials and business leaders lobbying Congress to provide relief from the California drought.
As a business owner I have the same issues and concerns other Chamber members have. Increasing costs for wages, insurance, goods and services. Burdensome regulatory requirements and policies which take up our time and money and from which we derive little benefit from these.
But the 4-year-and-counting drought is probably the most difficult challenge we all—business, government and our community—now face. None of the remedies we may implement—water served only on request in our restaurants, brown lawns, and on a grander scale, new dams and less water diverted for Delta smelt and spawning salmon—will provide short term relief from the effects of the drought.
Many Chamber members’ businesses will experience declines in revenue and customer counts. Retail businesses and the vendors who support our businesses will be most immediately and drastically impacted. A typical response to declines in revenue calls for deep cuts in staff hours and substituting less expensive ingredients for what you’d normally use.
Consider carefully the effects of doing so. Sal’s Mexican Restaurant group, like most other restaurants, experienced a significant decline in revenues and profits during the “Great Recession” of 2008-2012. Many restaurants repeatedly made deep cuts in service and ingredients which alienated their guests.
We chose instead to increase staff hours relative to revenues. We maintained the same quality standards for our food. By doing so, our great hospitality, food quality and portion size won over a number of customers who’d previously dined elsewhere. The contrast between us and competitors grew more and more evident and in our favor.
We also listened closely to guests and employees about what’s most important to them. We recognized we couldn’t offer everything we may have in “the good times.” Retaining the good will of our best customers and employees was most important in both the short and, we believe, the long run.
We didn’t execute everything perfectly. We’ve a lot to learn and improve on. But maintaining our high standards and listening carefully to our guests and employees meant we didn’t have to rebuild our staff, clientele or reputation—the things most critical to our success. That’s also true for your business.
Your Chamber of Commerce will continue to lobby on your behalf for relief from the drought as well as onerous regulations. Your Chamber’s effectiveness depends upon your support and success.