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Made to Order Chapter Seven: Calling for a Consult

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With customer survey results revealed last month, Longitude LLC is ready to bring in outside help to give Springfield Diner owner Omer Onder consulting advice.

Around a week after reviewing survey responses with Onder on May 17, the branding agency suggested a couple of restaurant consultants for the first-time business owner. Onder is still reviewing his options.

Longitude has two restaurant consultants at the ready to advise Onder: Omar Kasim in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Alan Someck in Long Island, New York. Longitude also is looking locally to help Onder.

“There’s just a lot of things to consider,” Longitude CEO Dustin Myers said of upcoming changes at Springfield Diner.

The branding agency doesn’t bring on consultants for a lot of restaurant projects – only about a quarter of the time. But when significant menu changes are on the docket, like Onder’s plan to add several Mediterranean dishes to the four currently in the mix, he said it can be beneficial.

“This is such a shift in his concept,” Myers said. “When you’re making shifts at that level, I think it’s helpful to get an expert on kitchen logistics.”

But it’ll come at a cost. Coming from the Northeast, Someck’s fee is $2,500 for a day of work with Onder in Springfield; he’s an instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. Kasim is offering a discounted fee of $750 for 20 hours of on-site consultation; he’s an entrepreneurial restaurateur.

Myers and Jeremy Wells, the agency’s chief marketing officer, said based on the survey results, several aspects of the restaurant could be revamped. Branding and strategy makes up part of the puzzle, but operational changes also are necessary for a successful reboot, Wells said.

“Especially in Omer’s case, menu things changing and the way his kitchen is laid out might need to change,” he said. “He might need new equipment. The layout of his interior and seating obviously will probably need to change.”

In the survey, which had largely positive comments from customers, there were criticisms of uncomfortable seating and poor service. Onder has previously said both critiques were valid, adding he wishes to replace the restaurant’s booths.

Wells said consultants are usually brought in to help with day-to-day operations. Considerations can include choosing menu items, restaurant supplies and inspection of the kitchen layout and the general operation of the front and back of house.

“We consult a lot on branding and strategy,” he said. “But we like to bring in people who have more of a deeper knowledge and may have even experienced running a restaurant or operated a restaurant that can offer guidance for those other decisions.”

Young advice
One of the consultants tabbed is a 25-year-old who’s worked four years in the restaurant industry.

Arkansas resident Kasim said he graduated from the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business in 2015 and quickly opened international fusion taco restaurant Con Quesos LLC. He later added Juice Palm, a cold-pressed juice bar, which is set to open its third bar in northwest Arkansas at the end of the month. Kasim consults for restaurants on the side.

Myers said Kasim’s experience with ethnic food could be a valuable tool for Onder, who is also a young business owner with little prior restaurant work before running Springfield Diner.

“I’m a real foodie. Food is so much a part of the culture, it’s a centerpiece,” Kasim said, noting he grew up with a variety of ethnic foods in this household.

Kasim’s mother is from Korea and his father is from Pakistan.

Cleanliness, customer service and consistency – dubbed “the three C’s” by Kasim – are what he credits as the most important aspects of a restaurant.

“If you work in a mess, you’ll make a mess as well,” he said, adding his establishments stress exceptional customer service and an experience for the customer that is similar, if not the same, every time they visit.

Fayetteville-based Big Box Karaoke and Bentonville-based The Buttered Biscuit are among businesses for which Kasim said he’s provided consulting services in the past 18 months. He said consulting advice goes beyond the menu, which he added is the easiest part of the restaurant world.

“It’s not difficult to make really good food. The challenge is doing everything to get to that part,” Kasim said.

That includes filing as a limited liability company, obtaining a building permit, filling out tax documents, bidding out building projects and maintaining a budget. Branding, design and the menu should all be in harmony, he said.

“It doesn’t matter what the concept is, it matters that everything is defined,” Kasim said. “In the restaurant world, you’re telling a story. All that matters is that we make that story make sense.”

Workshop wait
Longitude plans to hold a branding workshop for Onder later in June, although no date has been set. Part of the scheduling uncertainty is because Onder said he plans to be out of town for a portion of the month. In addition, the workshop has to accommodate his work schedule, which Myers said only leaves late afternoons open.

Still, Myers and Wells are hopeful the workshop will be fruitful for the diner, regardless if Onder and a consultant are unable to connect prior.

A consultant isn’t a necessary part of the branding process, Myers said, just a recommended one.

“That’s not to say someone can’t do all this stuff on their own,” he said. “It’s just going to give them a lot less headache, a lot less wasted money along the way. It’s better to make some of these investments early on to set you up for an easier ride.”

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