Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Aroha Restaurant: The Yelp Effect

Before I go into this blog, let me start by saying that these first three weeks at the restaurant have been great! Our numbers have been increasing, we already have a large sum of regulars, and at least 90-95% of our customers have been happy with the food and service; there will always be those couple individuals who don't understand our concept (casual fine dining) or enjoy the food, as is the same for any restaurant in this world.

Since we've been opened, we've had a handful of Yelp reviews. For the most part, we've had a lot of 5 star reviews, and all but two are from people we've never met before. The people we know who did leave reviews, didn't leave them because we asked them to. They left them because they genuinely liked the food and their experience. They have been full paying, repeat customers, who live in the area and deserve to voice their opinions like everyone else.

The most mind-boggling thing to me is why other people who didn't enjoy the food feel the need in their reviews to accuse the other reviewers of being fake. Is there no room for different opinions anymore in today's society? Does everyone have to announce that they know best? The truth is, when we receive a review from a customer outlining a negative experience they had or witnessed, we take it seriously. We want to deal with every problem head on and fix it. When a customer has an issue at the restaurant and tells us, we always do what we can to turn their experience into a positive one. Because we always make sure to take care of customer complaints, I find it incredibly upsetting to see a customer bash our restaurant on Yelp without letting us address the complaint while they're at the restaurant.

We're a new restaurant, and like every new business there are always going to be a few hiccups. Unlike a lot of other businesses though, we want to see the hiccups. We want to deal with the problems and make everything as perfect as possible. However, without constructive criticism, it's impossible to truly know what is an issue and what isn't.

For example, if someone complains in a review that everything they ate was bland and not seasoned to their liking, while more than 95% of our 930 customers are all satisfied, does that mean that this individual's food wasn't done right in the kitchen that night, or does it mean they just prefer spicy food and all purpose seasoning? The truth is, without being told the complaint at the restaurant, we have no way of deciphering the root of the problem. Had this complaint been heard, we would've comped the meal, returned it to the kitchen, and the kitchen would've checked the food to see if there was something they did wrong. If they did it wrong, they'd know for next time. On the other hand, if it tasted as it should, that may just mean our food isn't this customer's cup of tea. We would still comp them the meal. People aren't meant to like all of the same things. If everyone was supposed to like the same thing, then every restaurant's menu, according to my tastebuds, would only offer salmon and shrimp sushi, a half rack of ribs with french fries, duck, and gluten-free pineapple-coconut fried shrimp. For some odd reason, I've accepted the fact that, lets say, the Cheesecake Factory hasn't added these food items in replacement of their 20 page menu that I can't actually eat anything from.

Some complaints are easier to deal with then others. On one hand, certain complaints about portion size we want to deal with, to satisfy our customers. However, it can certainly be confusing when 60% of your clientele tells you they're happy to finally go to a restaurant and not get an oversized portion they can't finish, and the other 40% tells you they're still hungry and need more. We're working on finding that happy medium for these customers but I'm sure it will take a little time to figure out. Because these comments are constructive and customers have suggested different things they'd like from more vegetables to giving amuse bouches, etc., we're actually able to look into the issue and work on solving it. We're not just given a string of complaints with no solution. I really appreciate the customers who have taken the time to give us these constructive critiques and help us try to improve our business.

At the end of the day, I have to remember to just listen, breathe, and understand that not everything is for everyone. I'm not going to lie. At 23 years old, I may recognize that that's the way the world works but it's still definitely not easy to hear someone bash a business you've put your heart and soul into. It makes it hard to sleep at night and because of my health issues, it can also make it hard to eat somedays. It's a lesson that I'm still learning and something I have to come to terms with. In the end though, I appreciate every single customer whether they have loved our restaurant or they haven't and still have constructively told us what positive changes they'd like us to make.

To those who have dined at our restaurant already, thank you! We love seeing your smiling faces and it's a pleasure to serve you. And for those who haven't, we hope to see you there and hope to make your experience a positive one. Remember, if you do have a critique, let us know. We want to hear from you and we want to make your experience just as magical as we have for our other guests!

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30990 Russell Ranch Rd Unit C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
© 2014 Aroha Restaurant.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Aroha: An Incredible Week Thanks to an Incredible Team!

It's funny. Every day for the past 7 months, people I meet have been scaring me about the restaurant industry. I have literally had people tell me that once the restaurant began, my life would be over. As someone who hasn't been in the industry before, I couldn't just shake off these comments. Part of me, a large part of me, constantly believed them. I was having panic attacks day and night, trouble sleeping, and even trouble eating.

Well, we're one week into this crazy industry and there's one thing I now know.

Everybody was wrong. My life isn't over. As a matter of fact, it's just the opposite.

My life is only beginning.

While it's been a lot of hours and a lot of work, I look forward to going to the restaurant every single day. Honestly, I crave it. Every single day, I get to go to the restaurant and feel lucky enough to work with such an amazing team of people.

Someone once asked us why we started a restaurant. And before we could answer, he said it was to make money. The funny thing is, that answer has never sat well with me, because honestly, that's not the reason we started a restaurant. Sure, to be successful we have to make money. I get that. But do you want to know why I always wanted to start a business? To prove to the world that you can run a successful business just by treating your employees right.

Gwith and I have both had such awful work experiences over the past five years. These employers believed that disrespecting their employees and yelling at them was the only way to be respected as "the boss". Ever since we hired our staff, we have taken a very different approach. We've had both smiles and laughs as friends and nightly meetings as team members. And guess what: We've been open for four days and we haven't had a single customer complaint. Not one. Everyone has raved about the food and the service. Not a single item has been sent back to the kitchen. Not a single customer has complained about the waitstaff. I've never owned a restaurant before so I don't know if that's normal, but Gwith seems pleasantly surprised every single day. I'm assuming that he's never experienced that before in all of the restaurants he's helped open.

Grand Opening night on our patio!
Right now, no matter what ever happens, I just want to say THANK YOU. Thank you to our amazing team who has helped make our dreams come true and already, worked so hard to make Aroha a success. Your enthusiasm and hard work warms my heart every day. To be able to come to work every day and see friendly, happy faces, is everything I could've ever asked for. And THANK YOU to our guests who have come in these past few days and discovered our restaurant. It was our pleasure to serve each and every one of you. We are thrilled that you enjoyed your experience and that we could make your day/night a memorable one. I can't wait to see what the week ahead brings! Please join us this evening for dinner and tomorrow for our very first Sunday brunch starting at 10 am! We hope to see you there!

Relaxing After Hours with our late night team: (left to right) Lexi Medrano, Brian Smith, Gwithyen Thomas, Christian Stolp, Ben Schlesinger, and Justine Thomas

Reserve Now

30990 Russell Ranch Rd Unit C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
© 2014 Aroha Restaurant.