Focus More On People, Less On Transactions | Josh Kopel (Restaurateur) | DH048

Focus on People Not On Transactions Josh Kopel Digital Hospitality podcast interview

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Digital Hospitality featured Josh Kopel

 

Josh Kopel photo from website

 

Quotes from this Podcast:

 

Surround Yourself with the Right People:
[00:04:00] People that are going to listen to your show or to my show, they’re not people that follow the herd. They’re people that are trying to do something different, trying to do something unique and trying to do something memorable. And the only way to do that is to continue to surround ourselves with people that have done it before and people that are willing to be vulnerable.

A Great Realignment:
[00:09:49] Ultimately, at the end of the day, I would rather be seen as a mediocre restaurateur and a world-class father than be seen as a world-class restaurateur and a mediocre father. And so for me, there’s been this great realignment.

A Difference Between Busy and Profitable:
[00:29:19] When is this shit going to stop? When are people going to see the difference between busy and profitable? And understand that those are not the same thing. Those are the conversations we need to have. Instead of trying to figure out how to compete with Taco Tuesday, why don’t we say, ‘how do I establish enough value that I have a consistent customer base.’

Restaurant Industry is Optimistic:
[00:35:10] We are, as an industry, more optimistic than we are savvy. So we don’t negotiate aggressively because we know it’s going to be fucking great until we get it right. The nature of entrepreneurship is extreme optimism. The nature of becoming a restaurateur is the ability to be able to look into the abyss and say, ‘oh, it’s not that deep.’ And we’re very good at doing that.

Always Be Learning (ABL):
[00:44:29] I learned in my early 30s that my professional success was exclusively determined by the speed at which I was able to learn new things. Every year, without exception, I look back on the man I was and the things I thought, and I think to myself, man, what an idiot that guy was. And this year is no different. Look, I just read The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing and the 22 Immutable Laws of Branding over the weekend. Short books, really valuable information. And I turned to my wife yesterday and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I was wrong about everything.’

 

Digital Hospitality DH048 Josh Kopel

 

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Whoever tells you that working in the restaurant industry is easy is lying. Josh Kopel knows this better than all.

Josh Kopel Leadership Lessons Blog image Yelp

Born in Baton Rouge and relocating to LA to carve his lane in its innovative food scene, Joshua Kopel quickly found that his biggest innovation to the West Coast restaurant industry was honesty and vulnerability.

“So many people in this industry are completely full of shit,” laughs Josh Kopel on his episode of the Digital Hospitality podcast. “It’s true. Everybody’s having the best day, the best week, the best month in the history of their business up until the moment that they closed their doors for good.”

Preux and Proper restaurant photo black and whiteYup, the sad but true usually stems from the happy but untrue.

During the pandemic when all restaurant owners were hit with a pause, Josh took into account just how much time he and his peers put into their work. With that, he shifted his goals.

“I would rather be seen as a mediocre restaurateur and a world-class father than be seen as a world-class restaurateur and a mediocre father,” Josh Kopel states.

To be a world-class father, he had to adjust his work-life balance and his priorities in both spaces.

By reading books like Good to Great, Traction and Start Now, Joshua established a set of core values that his business and its employers were to adhere by. In holding his staff accountable to the core values, Josh was able to avoid burnout and also empower his team.

In addition, the timing of pandemic has allowed him to reassess an industry that was already in dire need of reform.

Digital Hospitality DH048 Josh Kopel 2“One thing you don’t hear on any podcast or in the media is a bunch of restaurateurs saying, ‘Hey, I can’t wait for things to go back to the way they were!’” notes Joshua Kopel to fellow podcast host Shawn Walchef on the Digital Hospitality show. “And the reason you don’t is because that was a shit life.”

Sad but true, many owners and operators in Josh’s industry are accustomed to hectic schedules and total lack of work-life balance.

For those ready to return to work, Josh Kopel has a few tips.

“My recommendation to everyone is to start by asking better questions,” starts Josh. “I spent 20 years of my career asking questions like, ‘How do I get busier on a Monday?’ Bad question…

Josh Kopel and Bartender“The better question is, ‘Should I be open on a Monday? Is that what my community wants from me?’ Because, if I’m having to discount shit and then pay to advertise those discounts to convince people to come in and dine with me at a loss, is it worth doing?”

Clearly not.

 

Work Smarter, Not Harder:

Working smarter, not harder is a lesson learned by Josh that he’s actively passing on to those around him.

With a renewed sense of honesty and vulnerability amongst his peers, Josh has realized that reinvention and a business-first approach are among the beginnings of rebuilding the restaurant industry.

“There are so many dynamics that are broken within the system that we all need to look at individually,” says Josh Kopel on Digital Hospitality. “We are, as an industry, more optimistic than we are savvy. So, we don’t negotiate aggressively because we know it’s going to be fucking great until it’s not. The nature of entrepreneurship is extreme optimism. The nature of becoming a restaurateur is the ability to be able to look into the abyss and say, ‘Oh, it’s not that deep.’”

Digital Hospitality DH048 Josh Kopel 3Essentially, the realist in Josh has him reevaluating the real estate aspect of restaurants in regard to both optics and contracts.

On the flip side, he feels restaurants need to hold stronger to what they truly believe is the value of their product.

“We’ve got to get away from this culture of who can sell the cheapest shit for the most hours in a day because we’re undercutting each other,” emphasizes Josh.

“We have, as an industry, taught people that they don’t need to pay full price. We have crafted this discount culture, and the only way to eliminate that is to say the price is the price. This is what it costs, and you can come in here or you cannot, and we will go out of business or we will be profitable. It’s one or the other. And there’s no problem with having that honest conversation.”

It’s a tough truth, but when considering the importance of a community and economy properly functioning, it’s essential that honesty, integrity and fair pricing are all part of the package.’

While Josh has hospitality in his heart, he’s adapted a growth mindset to understand more than just his field of focus.

“I learned in my early thirties that my professional success was exclusively determined by the speed at which I was able to learn new things every year,” reflects Josh Kopel. “There is as much to learn about the restaurant industry from the people outside of the restaurant industry as there is from the people within.”

Digital Hospitality DH048 Josh Kopel 1Stepping outside his industry has allowed him to question all he’s ever known, and he’s grown because of it just the same.

“Why haven’t we leapfrogged?” Josh Kopel asks of his industry. “It’s because there are no new ideas and there are no new ideas because we only talk to each other. So, in having a central focus on educating myself in mentorship from outside of the industry, I’ve been able to bring new ideas in.”

Those new ideas come in the form of FLO, Joshua’s service that helps restaurants optimize their time and his podcast, Full Comp.

By creating FLO, Josh Kopel can help other owners simplify their work life and have more of a home life just as he’s personally pursuing.

By hosting Full Comp — presented by Yelp — he’s able to engage in and create the honest dialogue his industry so badly needs.

Full Comp Podcast website“I wanted to get back to the purity of the industry, so I wanted to have that conversation,” Josh Kopel says of his Full Comp Podcast. “So, if you like the way things were before and you’re into 80 to 100-hour work weeks of working for free or better, I would strongly recommend not listening to the podcast. But if you want a better life, if you want a more sustainable life for yourself, that’s the conversation we’re having.”

Joshua is walking the walk and talking the talk. As the pandemic has placed more perspective on being a world-class father, he hopes the podcast will promote other restaurateurs to funnel their focus just the same.

Outside Preux and Proper restaurant“It’s about making you a better human and a better businessperson,” Joshua notes. “I want to be a better person. I want more work life balance.”

Seek and you shall find.

— Article by Cali BBQ Media Content Producer and Senior Writer Ian Stonebrook. Follow Ian on Instagram @ianstonebrook.

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