Every restaurant loves their “regulars”, and building customer loyalty is where restaurants really find success. But, how do you make your restaurant stand out in the sea of others? These global destination eateries have hit their sweet spots by offering a unique value proposition.
These 6 top restaurateurs share how they maintain their point of difference and stay true to their vision.
Vikram Vij: Chef-Owner - Vij’s
For more than 20 years, chef and restaurateur Vikram Vij has been serving Canadians elegant and inventive Indian cuisine. Vij’s consistently receives praise from top reviewers and is awarded accolades, including Vancouver Magazine’s Chef of the Year in 2015. But what made this chef-owner rise to acclaim is not just what lies with him and his talent.
“It’s the staff and the people I have around me,” says Vij. Many team members have been by his side since day one, and "...their investment in our restaurants and their passion for what we do, can be tasted in every bite of food,” he says. Though Vij’s restaurants have been riding high, he is never complacent. “We stay relevant by constantly moving forward. New recipes, ideas for features in our new restaurants, different business streams — driven by our team, and by the world around us.”
Drew Nieporent: Owner - Myriad Restaurant Group
Its unlikely diners would’ve flocked to the TriBeCa neighbourhood in New York had it not been for pioneering restaurateur Drew Nieporent. In 1985 Nieporent opened Montrachet, tapping a young David Bouley as head chef, and earning an extraordinary 3-star review from the New York Times. The fine dining establishment ricocheted into a restaurant empire—Tribeca Grill, Nobu, and Bâtard—with star-studded clientele, and investors and partners such as Robert DeNiro. After launching close to 40 restaurants over a 30-year span, Nieporent points to a few critical factors that keep his restaurants relevant. The most important? Always set the bar high.
“It’s a good formula to sell great food at the lowest possible price,” says Nieporent. It may be the name recognition that drives awareness, but it’s the individualized treatment of the clients that has them returning over and over. “For us it’s constant vigilance, staying on top of things and knowing who our customers are,” says Nieporent. “They aren’t strangers to us and we try to receive them in a manner in which we know what they want so that we insure they keep coming back.”
Michael Webster: Barman/Co-Owner - Bar Raval
Bar Raval, the convivial, standing room only, Spanish-style tapas bar making headlines in Toronto, credits their success to attention to detail and a firm grip on three factors: consistency, willingess to grow and striving to improve. “It is vital for everyone working on our team to learn from everything they experience here,” explains Michael Webster, barman and co-owner, “Whether the feedback is positive or negative,” he adds. Webster believes Bar Raval’s true point of difference is their strong team and open dialogue with their staff. “Everyone who works with us has a general passion for their respected positions, but they also believe in, and nurture, our vision with love and attention.”
Ken Oringer: Chef/Co-Owner - Toro, Coppa, Uni, Earth
At 32 years of age, chef Ken Oringer rocked Boston’s restaurant landscape with his fine dining establishment Clio which operated for 19 years and was awarded America’s Best New Restaurant by Esquire and Best Restaurant in Boston by Food & Wine. During the last 20 years Oringer’s accolades piled up, as did his Boston restaurant kingdom. Along with his dedicated team, Oringer is committed to putting his customers first, honing in on two key aspects: kindness and creating really unique food with high quality ingredients. Oringer says, “[We stay true to our vision by having] constant communication with our whole management team, always pushing, and including everyone in decision-making.”
Virgilio Martinez: Chef - Central
Last year, Lima's Central took the coveted fourth spot on the San Pellegrino’s list of “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants”. (They also nabbed the top spot on Latin America’s “50 Best Restaurants” list in 2014). The recognition of this Peruvian dining destination is no doubt a testament to chef Virgilio Martinez’s extreme passion. “Our success is from the love for what we do every single day, care for every single detail and authenticity when we show who we are and why are we doing things,” says Martinez. Their truly unique value proposition, however, is their incredible location. “Our geography and biodiversity talks to who we are and what we are doing.”
Daniel Holzman: Chef/Co-Owner - The Meatball Shop
What started out as one location, has grown into a six spot mini meatball empire. The Meat Ball Shop is a must-visit in the competitive New York City restaurant market and chef and co-owner Daniel Holzman has stayed committed to the original vision to keep it quick, quality and cool. "It started with a concept anyone could relate to. Everyone loves meatballs, it's a nostalgic food dish that has a place in most cultures," says Holzman. But what sets him apart from the other Big Apple eateries? "We are different because we don't fit perfectly into any one model," says Holzman. "We are a sit down restaurant but our food comes out fast. We have indulgent food, but we also have a ton of 'healthy options.' We are great for take-out & delivery but also perfect for a night out... We serve brunch and we're open late. This balance we've found helps us meet almost every dining occasion our guests may have, a key to our success."