Serving Restaurant Owners with Numbers, Systems, and Culture | Jim Laube (RestaurantOwner.com) | DH082

Serving restaurant owners interview with jim laube on the digital hospitality podcast

From Auditor to Editor, and many significant stops in-between, Jim Laube’s journey has focused on serving those who serve others: restaurant owners and operators.

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Some of the biggest successes in business come from unlikely career pivots. For Jim Laube, founder and president of RestaurantOwner.com, a winding road of working in restaurants and working with numbers took him from auditor to editor.

Looking back, Jim’s hospitality career journey began as a kid working at a corn dog stand. Later, while attending college at Michigan State University (Go Green!), the accounting student by day still made time to work as a bartender at night.

“You stayed out late and you partied after work.”

“You made good money and you had fun,” smiles RestaurantOwner.com Founder and CEO Jim Laube on the Digital Hospitality podcast.

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Learn more about Jim Laube and RestaurantOwner.com on this fun and informative episode of the Digital Hospitality podcast, a production of Cali BBQ Media.

Let us know how we can help you on your own Digital Hospitality journey by emailing podcast@calibbq.media or sliding into our DMs on social media @calibbqmedia @calibbq @shawnpwalchef. We want to hear from you because your opinions are vital to our evolution and growth. Your voices and opinions shape this podcast and our other digital content.

 


RESTAURANT OWNER ONLINE


 

Understanding Food Finances:

 

After getting his degree in East Lansing, Jim Laube journeyed down to Houston, Texas for accounting work in warmer weather. Even when working with numbers, he somehow found himself close to the heat of the kitchen.

His accounting acumen led Jim Laube to joining the audit team at Luther’s, a BBQ chain in need of help with their paperwork. Over the course of his time with Luther’s, Jim’s role ranged from CFO to creating concepts.

Soon enough, Jim’s appetite for assisting the restaurant only expanded. By diving into food finances first, his whole take on the industry he grew up in suddenly shifted.

“One thing I learned right out of the shoot is these guys don’t know anything about numbers,” laughs Jim on his early work with restaurateurs. “They know nothing about what their food cost should be, or their labor costs and they could be making so much more money.”

Rather than collect his check and keep it moving, Jim felt moved to help the restaurateurs he encountered. By blending his two types of work experience, his first pivot was in motion.

“I started becoming a consultant,” recalls Jim. “We had some pretty good systems with respect to inventory control, food costs, labor costs, and we were very numbers driven at the barbecue chain.”

 

Teaching Others Online:

 

As a consultant, Jim was crushing it and so was his restaurant.

So much so that he couldn’t keep it all to himself.

“I always wanted to teach,” admits Jim Laube on the Digital Hospitality podcast. “I started teaching and working with my clients. I saw the improvements that they had, and I did that for about eight years.”

Jim’s teaching led to speaking and seminar work. The money was good and so were his skills, but the travel was taking its toll as Jim and his wife began to start a family.

Soon enough, he was bit by the online bug. Publishing all his insights, learning and notes that he would share at his seminars, Jim’s journey now had him as a content creator on the very young world wide web.

“The internet was just in its infancy in ’96,” Jim looks back at the start of his website.

Clearly on to something, his food industry peers that were just discovering the internet were also discovering Jim’s new niche of work.

“An ex-executive at Frito Lay had told me that he always wanted to open a restaurant,” Jim recalls from a conversation from the mid ’90s. “He found my website — where I put a lot of articles, spreadsheets, forms and things up there — and I wasn’t charging any money. I just thought I’d put it up and wanted to see what happens. He said, ‘Jim, I printed out about 150 pages from your website. It’s really good stuff and you need to be charging for this.’”

Never too proud to listen, Jim took his friend’s advice and made his website motion more like a magazine. Soon, all his articles were available to members who paid to access his intel.

“The first month I had it open, I had 20 members,” recalls Jim Laube. “And made almost $2,000.”

Jackpot.

Soon, Jim’s new idea known as RestaurantOwner.com was a business beginning to boom. His pedigree for finances provided insight for those looking to take their dream to new heights, while also offering cautionary advice to those with their heads in the clouds.

“We would like to help people get into the industry,” said Jim Laube, “but we’d like to talk them out of it first.”

All jokes aside, Jim’s journey continued while helping and respectfully halting those looking to start their own odyssey. Despite having a degree in accounting, not journalism, Jim always had a knack for writing articles and his growing membership base proved this.

“I knew the power of stories,” notes Jim.

 

Following Tech Trends:

 

As the internet changed, so did RestaurantOwner.com. Even before the digital boom blossomed by way of the smartphone, Jim was forced to stay on top of tech trends to keep his business alive.

Restaurantowner. Com website home“My heart was on the website,” begins Jim Laube, “but I just couldn’t get it monetized to the point where that could be my sole source of income. In 2004, I switched to another website platform. It was actually a membership software package app and it took me about six months to make the conversion. After I switched to this new website platform, my business immediately doubled.”

As Jim’s online business doubled, the man who was well-versed in CPAs and BBQ had to learn a new three letter term: SEO.

Search engine optimization would be the calling card for Jim’s surging site, with articles and information ideated off what his readership would be looking for online.

This proved a smart move. Moving the way of the new Millenium, Jim and his articles were right where they needed to be. Going all in on SEO, Jim wrote articles focused on an array of search terms ranging from restaurant business plans to restaurant business to restaurant checklist. The proof was in the pudding as Jim would find his articles ranking in the top five search results for said stories. Suddenly, Jim’s acumen of the numbers that made restaurants work was awesomely aligned with the internet’s all important algorithms.

Heading into the 2010s, the surging search results were there but the pivots for Jim’s journey continued.

While numbers may be Jim’s calling card, the last decade has seen his focus shift from digits to dialogue, processing to people.

“We really focused on financial numbers and systems and processes early on,” says Jim. “But we have now moved more to culture and it is just absolutely huge. I really got excited about culture. About seven or eight years ago I started reading everything that I could read on it and I attended workshops. I went and visited Danny Meyer after reading his book and attended one of the workshops up there at Hospitality HQ.”

 

Culture is Important:

 

Even if his interest in culture came to be eight years ago, it’s still a sticking point for Jim today.

“When I first started this journey, I really didn’t understand what culture was,” admits Jim. “But once I got it, we started doing culture workshops and we did five or six or seven of them back in 2016 and they were great. We only invited 30 people to each one and it was a two-and-a-half-day program. It was just absolutely delightful. We’d be doing them today except for where we’re at right now.”

In 2021, the workshops may be on pause, but once the pandemic passes not only will culture building activities return to stride, so will the restaurants that have suffered in sales due to COVID-19.

“I really believe that if people can make it through this tough winter there’s going to be a lot of pent up demand out there,” points out Jim Laube.

For Jim, knowing numbers has allowed him to map his course and serve those in the restaurant industry that serve us. While COVID-19 has attacked bottom lines and thrown a torpedo at trends, Jim continues to pivot, learn and educate his readership the best he can.

After all, the journey was never predictable, but the road hasn’t led him astray yet.

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– Feature Article by Cali BBQ Media Content Producer Ian Stonebrook. Connect with Ian by emailing ian.stonebrook@gmail.com or slide into his DMs on social media @ianstonebrook.

 


 

RESTAURANT OWNER LINKS


 

About Jim Laube:

Jim Laube works with independent restaurant operators who want practical advice to improve their business management practices to build a more profitable restaurant and valuable business.

Jim began his restaurant career at the age of 15 working in a quick-service foodservice operation and earned his way through college as a server and bartender. After earning a degree in accounting, he worked for a regional restaurant chain and an independent fine dining restaurant. In these organizations he held positions in both the operational and financial areas as a restaurant manager, controller and CFO.

During the late 80’s and early 90’s Jim practiced as a CPA and advisor to independent restaurants throughout the U.S. regarding operational, financial, cost control and profitability issues.

As an author, he has been a contributor to Restaurant Startup and Growth, Restaurant Hospitality, Nations Restaurant News, Foodservice.com, Pizza Today,” the Society for Foodservice Management’s “SFM Source,” and the American Express “Briefing” newsletter. In 2012, Jim co-edited the latest edition of the National Restaurant Association’s Uniform System of Accounts for Restaurants.

Jim is also the founder and publisher of RestaurantOwner.com, an extensive resource specifically for independent restaurant operators. It features business management, marketing and operational materials in the form of streaming, multimedia training programs as well as articles, business tools, downloadable forms, report templates, checklists and a wide variety of restaurant operating system and procedures.

During the past 15 years, Jim has conducted over 700 presentations and training programs to thousands of restaurant and foodservice professionals in the U.S., Canada and Europe. His clients include Red Lobster, Papa John’s Pizza, KFC, Marriott, Hard Rock Café, SYSCO Corporation, U.S. Foodservice, Foodservices of America, the National Restaurant Association and many state restaurant associations.

– Jim Laube Bio from https://www.restaurantowner.com/public/90.cfm

 


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Digital Hospitality Online:

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