Voice of the Restaurant Industry
Most of you don't know me, but I hope to get to know as many of you as I can. I'd like to introduce myself--my name is Richard Heaps. I've been President and Chief Operating Officer of FohBoh (officially) since February 1, 2010 and an adviser to Michael and the team since the founding of the company. And let me emphasize that we are a business--a business that is IN BUSINESS to help YOUR BUSINESS.
Please indulge me for a bit to give you a sense of why I'm part of FohBoh. My background is in technology--primarily enterprise software and telecommunications. I've been a member of the management team in both early stage and public companies. I've been a CFO/COO/CEO in a number of companies--but my best times have been when I've joined an organization that values integrity and teamwork. Marrying my own experience with the enthusiasm and energy of a larger group allows an early stage company to grow, establish core values and to serve its customers well. In FohBoh's case, our customers are our extended community and our forth coming products are designed and priced to serve what our community has told us that they need, want and where the value proposition is clear and not clouded in "technobabble".
So I'm not a foodservice/restaurant guy. But I'm learning. I'm spending time on the website, talking to people in the industry and looking at the restaurant industry in an entirely different light. It's fun: there are the long-time operators, and the innovators. There are the single family-owned restaurants and large multi-national enterprises. There are distinct sub-communities representing many different professions. This is a dynamic that I am not used to but that's precisely the fun of it, getting out of my comfort zone and learning something new.
Enough about me. Where is FohBoh going? FohBoh has become the first and only true community of professionals in the restaurant industry. We have an elite membership of nearly 15,000 representing decision makers in over 60,000 restaurants. With our unique partnership with the California Restaurant Association our reach is extended to over 100,000 restaurants, just about 10% of the total US restaurant industry. We have members from 185 countries. The community is active and vibrant and the catalyst for our business. And our business is to use our "smarts" to make our audience smarter.
At the Restaurant Leadership Conference (RLC) in Scottsdale last week we announced FohBuzz, a unique social media, monitoring and reputation management product delivered as Software as a Service (SAAS). This normally costs $249/month per restaurant, region or brand, but the show special of $99 for the first month is available on the fohbuzz.com website through May 7. This is the first in a series of products that are part of a platform we call the "Smarter Restaurant". These products will get to the essence of what marketing is in the restaurant business: a social business. People eat, people serve, people manage and people talk. This is why social media has been embraced as a key issue for restaurants all around the world, not just in the US. But this ongoing, real time conversation needs to be understood, managed, and engaged systematically to be used cost effectively. FohBuzz will be followed in the next two months by FohMail and FohTxt, enabling our customers to understand what drives their reputation, what actions to take and give them best-of-breed tools to take action and at a price point that we believe any restaurant can afford. No doubt, these are "Front of the House" products and services, the "Foh" in "FohBoh" and we will deliver and service them well before we extend our reach and our vision.
The "Buzz" around FohBuzz has been far greater than we expected. Interest in social media as a real media type is enormous in this industry. We met with representatives of all types of restaurants--single location, small chains and some of the largest restaurant properties around the country. We see this as a tool to monitor own store operations, competitive analysis, due diligence and we are sure our customers will find other applications. We welcome feedback from our customers--which can only make the product better. Our view is that the product must stand on its merits--it can be used for one month, a few months or literally as long as any customer wants and for any legitimate purpose. Combined with other social media products and service offerings still to be finalized present opportunities and challenges that FohBoh--the company--is ready to meet. We are excited--are you?
Will FohBoh becoming more "commercial" change our perspective on the value of the community? Yes. Will taking on investors and active customers somehow lose the relationship we have with our members and how they interact? Will the drive toward greater revenue and profitability somehow dilute the value of the FohBoh experience? Some change is obviously necessary if we are to continue and grow OUR business. But in return we expect to help and enhance the value of YOUR business.
P.S. In good fun, I will always leave you with a question: "What's wrong with this picture"?