Creating Jobs: Zane Tankel Is Taking Matters Into His Own Hands

Zane Tankel is not waiting on any government job programs to help his business. The Applebee's franchisee is taking matters into his own hands at his 34 restaurants in the New York City area.

His plan is to continue to move ahead creating jobs and incentives for those he would potentially hire as part of his growth for 2012.  That's not surprising, Tankel thinks big. He has expanded his Apple-Metro company by 10 restaurants since the recession began in 2008.


What is the secret to Tankel's success in uncertain times and what tips can he offer other business owners as they head into the New Year in uncertain economic times? He has boiled down his best thinking into the following areas:

1. Maximize Guest Experience To Ensure Brand Loyalty
Now more than ever, when consumers are counting pennies and gravitating towards value spending - it is essential for every business to deliver on the promise of brand potential. Whether its an apparel boutique, a store, or a - consumers will make their purchasing decision based on perceived value of the goods and overall experience with the venue. In my business, something as simple as incremental refits and simple spruce ups can go far to improve guest perceptions of the overall Applebee's experience.  For example, a new coat of paint, clean/sharp looking uniforms, ensuring individual service staff appearance is the best it can be, or changing up the Improving the overall ambiance of the restaurant space can enhance a customers experience in the restaurant and, coupled with superb customer service, can ensure that the client comes back and ultimately selects us as their family dining venue.

2. Close Monitoring of Portion Control To Prevent Waste and Profit Loss
These are not economic times for waste.  This is a business climate for maximizing resources and precision in the operation of our businesses. In the that means that the tightest scrutiny must be placed on accurate portion control in the meals we serve.  This is particularly true in a high volume environment.  There is so much potential for lax portion quality control and waste of our that it is critical to ensure that your process and procedure is firmly in place and adherence is tight. The slightest deviation from planned portion control can add up quickly and result in waste and decreased profit.

3. Never Compromise On Quality: Pleasantly Surprise Your Customers When You Can
Customers come to expect a "norm" when it comes to the brands they choose on a daily basis for themselves and their families. Your odds for generating repeat business are good if you deliver quality each and every day.  But to increase your odds of keeping your customer base loyal and even bringing in new clients, you may need to upgrade and offer an improved experience in what you produce each day. For example, at my Applebee's restaurants by upgrading our offerings to feature Häagen-Dazs premium ice increased the overall perception of the experience in our restaurants for and pleasantly surprised our customers. Even small gestures in this economic climate can improve the quality of your offering and give you an edge in an extremely competitive marketplace.

4. Hire With Precision - and Art
Our employees have to know the menu and be able to deliver dependable, friendly service without exception. We also try to suss out the likelihood that job candidates will be a good fit in our overall organization. It is academic how competent people are if they can't get along with their peers, direct reports, or supervisors.

Résumés are standard, but given the cottage industry of professional résumé writers, that document has become less reliable. Interviews are more critical. Management-level candidates must survive an extra level of scrutiny. Batrus Hollweg, an international testing organization, offers ways to measure aptitude and to model potential success in our specific environment. There is an added expense to this testing but it is well worth the investment.

5. Leverage Real Estate Opportunity
In troubled times, revisit your lease and renegotiate. You should look for deals that may not have been priced appropriately the first time around.  Also, look for new deals at more competitive rates.  At Apple-Metro we believe in always pushing forward as an everyday key practice, not just a practice during hard times.  At the moment we have 6 deals on the table for development and are continuing to look for more.

6. Long Term Approach to the Marketplace
As you battle through the hard times of the economy, look beyond the clouds and into the horizon.  Analyze your product and the value of it to invest in the future.  At Apple-Metro, we know people love to go out to eat in a comfortable, friendly environment that can provide a great product as well as service at a certain price point.  With longer-term goals in mind, we look to refit our restaurants where appropriate so we maintain a comfortable setting with the product our customers rely on from Applebee's. Its an investment that solidifies our customer base and sustains us regardless of the economic climate.

7. Strong Retention Practices
Businesses are only as strong as the executives who run them and the support staff who keep them moving.  It is important to create a stable, healthy environment that characterizes your business.  For example, Apple-Metro is always quick to award hard working and dedicated employees with incentives such as: cruises to Bermuda with their spouse and an automobile lease program for managers. This is important to keep enthusiasm and dedication to the company high while reducing turnover rates.

Next issue Tankel will unveil 7 more tips for growing a business during uncertain times.

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