The Different Styles of Learning:

Seven Different Types of Learning Styles

And How To Teach To Them All

1.) Visual Learners. Students who are natural visual learners will be better taught with as many pictures and imagery for explanation of concepts. If you are teaching them geography, be sure to include plenty of maps. The same approach is true for history teachers. There are so many artistic depictions of all eras in human history, you shouldn’t have a problem adding some visual elements to any kind of lecture or presentation.

Plus, about every type of learner or listener enjoys having a visual aid when listening to a presentation meant to teach or inform – or even entertain. You can also show clips of movies, or if you are teaching a writing class, show how a film adapts from the literature it was based on.

Since you can’t always plug pictures and images into every type of classroom experience, you can use a whiteboard or chalkboard (if your class still has one) to jot notes or key points. This will give them visual cues they might otherwise gloss over, or lump into other information that might not be as key to the point of the lesson.

The way you speak to different types of learners in the classroom will also come into play, if you make a conscious effort.

Visual learners also respond to words that include cues that incite the parts of their brain that get their wheels turning. For example, if you are instructing a student to take initiative and work through a process or concept you have presented, you could say “Let’s see how you would solve this problem. Feel free to use additional paper to map out what you’re thinking, if needed.” You can see how this might free their mind to utilize its natural want to visualize what its thinking.

2.) Aural Learners. Learners who respond primarily to sound can be challenging for teachers who aren’t teaching a lesson about music. But there are techniques you can use to stimulate students who respond to sound, if you do your homework.

These students are ones who know how to sing, play in the school band, or have their own musical hobbies. Music is also known to illicit strong emotional feelings and responses from these types of students. Music they associate with events and times of their lives can sweep them back into their minds, where they will almost re-live the times and places they relate to the sounds they are hearing.

So, how do you stimulate these kinds of students…

Without singing a song about algebra, or earth science – or whatever subject you are teaching them? It doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may seem. This article from mathinsider.com, gives several tips for helping auditory learners pick up on key mathematical concepts. A lot of math teachers may scratch their heads at how to make numbers an aural experience for students.

But think about it:

Isn’t your own voice a tool for aural learning? Isn’t that what you use to teach every day as your main tool for communication? And don’t your students have their own voice they can use as a tool as well? If so, then you have all you need to get started with a few basics.

First, encourage them to use their own voice, and share with them some knowledge about what you know about different types of learners in the classroom. Students are trained to primarily listen, and only speak with they have a question for the teacher, or while working in group assignments with other students.

How often do we really tell them to use their own voice? That’s why experts recommend encouraging your aural responsive students to write down their notes and read them back to themselves aloud.

They can also opt for audio books, when they are available as an alternative to text editions of required reading. You can let them record the lesson, so they can play it back. Even students who may be naturally inclined to other types of learning may benefit from the convenience of auditory learning tools. Playing back your lecture while running on the treadmill or driving home from school can be a good way to let the information sink in a little further. The authors of the article referenced above also give some great tips for visual and tactile learners as well.

3.) Verbal Learners. When you first hear ‘verbal learner’ as a teacher, you might think this is the easy one, compared to the other different types of learning styles.

After all, you talk, they listen, they learn, right?

Not so simple, but this is a pretty conducive student in relation to many types of curriculum. Verbal instruction, as well as writing activities inspire these students to absorb information most effectively. Students with strong verbal learning skills often become journalists, other types of writers, public speakers, and teachers themselves.

That’s why activities where these students get a chance to speak or present can be effective in bringing out their natural ability to verbalize information and give them confidence. Experts recommend many types of techniques for these students, that even include others who may not be as verbally inclined.

Here are some ways you can be sure to integrate verbal learning techniques into your classroom experience:

  • Attach acronyms or mnemonic devices to lessons, which can help them remember more effectively.
  • Create activities where these students get to role-play, read aloud or get dramatic. This will make your lessons more fun for everyone, and may even help students who are more hands-on, physical learners to thrive in the experience as well. For instance, let’s say you are teaching a business class. You can create an exercise that goes along with a lesson about making sales pitches and what to focus on to get customers on board with your products. You can have students act out a situation where they are selling a product to another student. Or you can have students pretend they are conducting a television or radio program where there is audience participation. This will give students who respond to verbal learning techniques

4.) Physical Learners. Have you ever noticed people, or your students, who use their hands more than usual when they speak? They seem like they’re always in motion, and always have some form of physical movement like a conductor with their words.

These individuals are physical learners, and they express themselves in the same way. These types of learners respond to words that incite feeling and physical activity. They want to understand what it feels like to go through the motions of what they are learning.

There are many ways you can create physical exercises to help these types of students learn. Not only can you create activities where they are physically moving. But, you can use objects, like puzzles or other small objects to get them engaged with their learning.

Another tactic is one many teachers don’t think of. You can give them pen and paper and have them map out their own thoughts and problem-solve by hand. After all, the act of writing is a mental and physical exercise. As you can see, these different types of learning styles vary greatly!

5.) Logical Learners.  These learners are the ones who are always making lists, getting organized, and trying to find the link between one piece of the puzzle and another. Logical learners are a natural fit for mathematics, science, and other logic based subjects in school.

When you are teaching these learners, they can be great leaders or naturally take on a project manager type role in lab assignments, thanks to their want to put things in a neat, orderly way. These students can also be challenged to think from different points of view. They are naturals at seeking facts, and can often be found winning matches in chess club or outperforming their opponents in debate or math tournaments. They also pursue such careers as engineers, teachers of math and sciences, and other related occupations.

To create work that helps these students with different types of learning styles learn, challenge them to solve problems, and unlock the mystery of their education on their own. They need to be mentally challenged, and thrive off solving critical thinking issues. That is why it is also beneficial for these learners to step outside their comfort zone. Challenge them to use the creative side of their brains as well, to understand that sometimes there isn’t always a right and a wrong. Sometimes there are only opinions.

6.) Social Learners. Social learners are natural group workers, and are the kinds of students who seem to be everywhere in school – at all the extracurricular activities, sports, band, debate, and socializing with teachers and students throughout the day. Maybe that’s a bit of a full plate for one student, but you get the point.

These learners will respond to teachers who are inquisitive and ask what they are thinking and feeling about key topics and concepts. The more you verbally engage these students one-on-one and among their peers, the more they will thrive in your classroom. Even simple acts like reading literature out loud or acting out scenes of plays, or having students present on topics can be great ways to engage these learners.

7.) Solitary Learners. Some people think that solitary learners are shy or sometimes rude because they often keep to themselves. They may come across as introverted, compared to the other different types of learners in the classroom.

Solitary learners are more comfortable sorting out problems on their own, and their independence should be celebrated and fostered in healthy ways. As a teacher, you can engage your solitary learners by having them tap into activities and lessons that allow them to sink into their skin. If you give them a place to feel comfortable for at least part of their day, they will have an easier time coming out of their shell in group assignments or during presentations.

Solitary learners are not always shy. If a solitary learner is mum during a lecture or discussion, they may be lost in their mind, trying to figure things out as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist. That’s when you can ask questions to draw out what they are thinking and feeling.

These learners are also very concerned with goals and outcomes in curriculum. So be ready to explain exactly what they can expect to achieve in your class.

The Conclusion

Many decades ago, my grandparents took a gamble and opened a small chicken restaurant on a corner of Bourj Hamoud in Beirut, Lebanon. They didn’t realize it then, but it would go on to open many branches thousands of miles away, and provide jobs for scores of people for many decades to come. They got the recipe right from the beginning. They unknowingly followed most of the advice contained in this book.

They gave it a great name-Zankou Chicken, which helped establish it as a legacy brand. They opened in a great location, a corner they knew many Armenians and Arabs would love to purchase delicious food. They made it fresh to order. They took good care of customers. They made new friends and met great people. They motivated employees by being good to them.

I remember both my father and my father teaching me the importance of being a good person. They often talked about integrity, trust, and generosity. They spoke of working hard to make lots of money, but never allowing the power of money or greed to rule over your life. They spoke of reciprocity- giving back to the community. My father used to say to us- “It is better to die than to be a type of person that hurts other people. You should be a contributing member to society. Always give back. Be generous.”

My mom always taught us to be polite, to speak nicely to people and about people, and to always strive to be exceptional. My parents and grandparents didn’t have POS systems back then. There was no social media. And you know what, it didn’t matter, because the principles we are talking about here and most of the things we went over in the book are eternal principles. They transcend time and space and culture.

One theme throughout the book was teamwork. This is very important, that you start with the right team and attract the right kind of people to work in your organization. Along with that, you need the right location, the right food experts working with your, and a great understanding of this business. You have to know operations and marketing well. You have to teach yourself to become a better negotiator.

What would you say were the top take-aways from this book? One point I want you to take home is that even if you apply and do everything in this book, it would still not work unless you did it the right way, with the right team, and in the right place and time. We discussed the importance of continuous self-improvement, continuous learning and growth for people inside the organization. The real “secret of the sauce” is that we must apply all of these principles in unison. Just like a fine-tuned orchestra, every instrument is required; but it is also necessary that the right person plays it at the right time.

I hope you learned a lot in this book. I’ve always believed there are many ways to learn, but teamwork is the best way. I’ve integrated this into my course, because I believe the very best way to master a subject is what I call Inspired Learning Through Cohesive Education™. We learn by listenings, doing, teaching, and most of all be hearing our partners and friends out when they have advice to give us on how to solve our most vexing problems.

You won’t become an expert just by reading. You will become an expert by doing; and this requires making mistakes. No one ever became a Restaurant Marketing Expert™ by reading a book and putting it away. Besides, people learn in different ways. For some attending seminars and hearing the message is profound, for others they like to watch the videos at home and learn at their own pace. But no one learns and grows without taking chances and making mistakes. Everyone dreams of providing a better future for their family, and opening a successful restaurant is a great way to make that happen. Hey, it worked for us, and many others. It can also work for you.

I hope to meet you all at my next seminar or class. Thank you for buying my book. I hope you have found it resourceful, and if you have please thank me by leaving me a rating. God bless you, and I hope to meet you soon! I will leave you with one last verse.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

PR Web Release and 2017 Update

Hi to the few readers I do have on here.

 

2017 has been very busy already, and I plan to journal, pray, and work hard throughout the year because I really want 2017 to be my Breakout year.

 

The book is complete and currently undergoing the last editorial treatment. At about 450 pages, it promises to be a thorough affair in all things Restaurant marketing and Management.

For this year, I have a detailed editorial schedule. I plan to market my course every Monday morning. EVERY Monday morning. This has forced me to learn new ways to market my course, stretch my dollars to work for me, and also broaden the horizons about what possible ways there are to market yourself in person and online.

 

Since the book has gone through so many revisions, I have actually added to the many methods and ways I teach things in the book. For example, originally one of my chapters was 30 ways to increase restaurant sales. After much research, it grew to 52 ways. I have to now check and re-write many of my own marketing material to better describe the book and future seminar. So this list below is a work in progress. I will add to it because this was based on my lecture videos, which were completed before my book was completed.

Somehow, eventually, all of this should match perfectly.

 

Thanks for reading and God bless. For now, here is my recent PR Web release.

 

Mr. Dikran Iskenderian has a Bachelor of Science degree and an honorary Master of Arts in Leadership from Burbank’s Woodbury University. He is the author of 2 books: Restaurant Marketing: The Secret is in the Sauce™ which is coming out this Christmas, and also Success Today, which he co-authored with bestselling author Brian Tracy.

He co-owns Zankou Chicken with his family in Los Angeles, CA. They have 8 locations and continue to grow. Mr. Iskenderian has now made available, for the first time, an online education program that encompasses everything he has learned from practicing marketing and management mastery on the executive restaurant level for over 25 years.

The link to his Udemy course is here

https://www.udemy.com/restaurant-marketing-the-secret-is-in-the-saucetm/learn/v4/t/lecture/5790286

Topics include How to Learn 12 ways to INCREASE Customer Satisfaction!

How to Determine your price strategy!

Know the 12 Characteristics of GREAT Managers so you will know who to hire.

Learn about the 12 Styles of Leadership that will serve you both inside and outside the industry.

The #1 Secret to Exponential Growth (it’s not what you think)

Learn all about the Power of Reciprocity and how to use it daily in order to have a more positive outlook on life, better results, and make more (and better) friends.

Should you franchise or not?

Learn about the 21 Pillars of Negotiation. These will serve you in almost every transaction in life: from negotiating your pay in the restaurant industry, to when you’re checking out of a hotel, to making deals with family members.

Learn how to use effective Strategic Marketing analysis for your restaurant.

Should you offer delivery? This is not without its pitfalls. We discuss that topic here.

Learn how to use effective Customer Relationship Marketing

Learn how to INCREASE your RATINGS on Yelp. There are many things you can do WITHOUT violating Yelp’s guidelines. Yelp does not teach you these things because it wants restaurants to just advertise with them. What most people don’t realize is they can use YELP effectively for free.

How to advertise EFFECTIVELY on yelp without spending tons of money.

Make more money if you are an existing restaurant by using these 52 Sales Strategies

Know the difference between starting a restaurant solely for profit (sure to fail) and starting a restaurant to serve a greater purpose.

To quote Mr Iskenderian, “I try to provide my students with the very best atmosphere that encourages ‘Inspired Learning Through Cohesive Education'”

My course on Udemy is now LIVE

https://www.udemy.com/restaurant-marketing-the-secret-is-in-the-saucetm/learn/v4/overview

As requested by many students and followers of this blog here is the Udemy course I teach.

 

Not sure if that link is the best option for linking to the course, but enrollment is now open!

 

If you do take my course please let me know what you think and how I can make it better!

 

Constant improvement is my goal.

 

Cheers

ADA Guidlines

Signs

  • At every primary public entrance and at every major junction along or leading to an accessible route of travel, there shall be a sign displaying the International Symbol of Accessibility for the handicapped.
  • These signs shall indicate the direction to accessible building entrances and facilities.

 

Curb Ramps

  • The slope of curb ramps shall not exceed 1 unit vertical to 12 units horizontal (8.33% slope).
  • Transitions from ramps to walks, gutters or streets shall be flush and free of abrupt changes, except that curb ramps shall have a detectable warning that extends the full width and depth of the curb ramp inside the grooved border, when the ramp slope is less than 1 unit vertical to 15 units horizontal (6.7% slope). Further, detectable warnings shall consist of raised truncated domes with a diameter of nominal 0.9-inch (22.9 mm) at the base, tapering to 0.45-inch (11.4mm) at the top, a height of nominal 0.2 (5.1mm) and a center-to-center spacing of nominal 2.35 inches (59.7mm). The detectable warning shall contrast visually with adjoining surfaces, either light on dark or dark-on-light. The material used to provide contrast shall be an integral part of the walking surface. The domes may be constructed in a variety of methods, including cast in place or stamped, or may be part of a prefabricated surface treatment.
  • Curb ramps shall be located or protected to prevent their obstruction by parked cars.
  • The slope of fanned or flared sides of curb ramps shall not exceed 1 unit vertical to 8 units horizontal (12.5% slope).
  • If a curb ramp is located where pedestrians must walk across the ramp, then it shall have flared sides, the maximum slope of the flare being 1 unit vertical to 10 units horizontal (10% slope).
  • Curb ramps shall be located or protected to prevent their obstruction by parked cars.
  • Built-up curb ramps shall be located so that they do not project into vehicular traffic lanes.

 

Accessible Parking

  • Accessible parking spaces shall be located on the shortest possible accessible route to an accessible building entrance.
  • In facilities with multiple accessible building entrances with adjacent parking, accessible parking spaces shall be dispersed and located near the accessible entrances.

 

Parking Space Size

  • Parking spaces for disabled persons shall be 14 feet (4267mm) wide and outlined to provide a 9-foot (2743mm) parking area and a 5-foot (1524-mm) loading and unloading access aisle on the passenger side of the vehicle.
  • When more than one space is provided in lieu of providing a 14-foot wide (4267mm) space for each parking space, two spaces can be provided with a 23-foot-wide (7010mm) area lined to provide a 9-foot (2743mm) parking area on each side of a 5-foot (1524mm) loading and unloading access aisle in the center.
  • The minimum length of each parking space shall be 18 feet (5486mm).

 

Van Space(s)

  • One in every eight accessible spaces, but not less than one, shall be served by an access aisle 96 inches (2438mm) wide minimum and shall be designated van accessible.

 

Slope of Parking Spaces

  • Surface slopes of accessible parking spaces shall be the minimum possible and shall not exceed ¼-inch (6.4mm) per foot (2.083% gradient) in any direction.

 

Signs

  • Every parking space required under ADA shall be identified by a sign, centered between 36 inches and 60 inches (914mm and 1524mm) above the parking surface, as the head of the parking space.
  • This sign shall include the International Symbol of Accessibility and state “RESERVED” or equivalent language.

 

Arrangement of Parking Spaces

  • In each parking area, a bumper or curb shall be provided and located to prevent encroachment of cars over the required width of walkways.
  • The space shall be so located that persons with disabilities are not compelled to wheel or walk behind parked cars other than their own.
  • Pedestrian ways, which are accessible to people with disabilities, shall be provided from each such parking space to related facilities, including curb cuts or ramps as needed.
  • Ramps shall not encroach into any parking space.

 

Facility Accessibility: Water Closets

 

  • Water closets in bathrooms required to be accessible shall conform to the provisions of the California Plumbing Code—CPC—1502.0.
  • The water closet shall be located in a space minimum of 36 inches (914mm) in clear width, with 48 inches (1219mm) minimum clear space provided in front of the water closet.
  • This space may include maneuverable space under a lavatory, if provided, arranged so as not to impede access.
  • Lavatories adjacent to a wall shall be mounted with a minimum distance of 18 inches (457mm) to the center line of the fixture.
  • All accessible lavatories shall be mounted with the rim or counter surface no higher than 34 inches (864mm) above the finish floor and with a clearance of at least 29 inches (737mm) from the floor to the bottom of the apron with knee clearance under the front lip extending a minimum of 30 inches (762mm) in width, with 8 inches (203mm) minimum depth at the top.
  • The clearance shall be the same width and shall be a minimum of 9 inches (229mm) high from the floor and a minimum of 17 inches (432mm) deep from the front of the lavatory.
  • Hot water and drainpipes accessible under lavatories shall be insulated or otherwise covered.
  • There shall be no sharp or abrasive surfaces under the lavatories.
  • Faucet controls and operating mechanisms shall be operable with one hand and shall not require tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist.
  • The force required to activate controls shall be no greater than 5 pounds (22.2 N).
  • Lever-operated, push-type and electronically controlled mechanisms are examples of acceptable designs.
  • Self-closing valves are allowed if the faucet remains open for at least 10 seconds.
  • The minimum height of water closet seats shall be 15 inches (381mm) above the floor.
  • The height of accessible water closets shall be a minimum of 17 inches (432mm) and a maximum of 19 inches (483mm) measured to the top of a maximum 2-inch (51mm) high toilet seat, except that 3-inch (76mm) seats shall be permitted only in alterations where the existing fixture is less than 15 inches (381mm) high.
  • Controls shall be operable with one hand, and shall not require tight grasping, pinching or twisting.
  • Controls for the flush valves shall be mounted on the wide side of toilet areas, no more than 44 inches (1118mm) above the floor.
  • The force required to activate controls shall be no greater than 5 pounds.

 

Facility Accessibility: Bathing and Toilet Facilities 

 

  • Bathroom entrance doorways shall have an 18-inch (457mm) clear space to the side of the strike edge of the door, on the swing side of the door.
  • Sufficient maneuvering space shall be provided for a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid to enter and close the door, use the fixtures, reopen the door and exit.
  • Doors may swing into the clear space at any fixture if the maneuvering space is provided.
  • Maneuvering spaces may include any knee space or toe space available below bathroom fixtures.
  • Where the door swings into the bathroom, there shall be a clear space (approximately 30 inches by 48 inches/762mm by 1219mm) within the room to position a wheelchair or other mobility aid clear of the path of the door as it is closed and to permit use of fixtures.

 

Doors

 

  • Regardless of the occupant load served, exit doors shall be capable of opening from the inside without the use of a key or any special knowledge or effort.
  • Every required exit doorway shall be of a size as to permit the installation of a door not less than 36 inches (914mm) in width and not less than 80 inches (2032mm) in height.
  • When installed in exit doorways, exit doors shall be capable of opening at least 90 degrees and shall be so mounted that the clear width of the exit way is not less than 32 inches (813mm).
  • For hinged doors, the opening width shall be measured with the door positioned at an angle of 90 degrees from its closed position.
  • Where a pair of doors is utilized, at least one of the doors shall provide a clear, unobstructed opening width of 32 inches (813mm), with the leaf positioned at an angle of 90 degrees from its closed position.
  • When an automatic door operator is utilized to operate a pair of doors, at least one of the doors shall provide a clear, unobstructed opening width of 32 inches (813mm), with the door positioned at an angle of 90 degrees from its closed position.

 

Effort to Operate Doors

 

  • The maximum effort to operate doors shall not exceed 8-1/2 pounds (38 N) for exterior doors and 5 pounds (22 N) for interior doors, such pull or push effort being applied at right angles to hinged doors and at the center plane of sliding or folding doors.
  • Compensating devices or automatic door operators may be utilized to meet the above standards.
  • Where fire doors are required, the maximum effort to operate the door may be increased to the minimum allowable by the appropriate administrative authority, not to exceed 15 pounds (66.72 N).
  • Hand-activated door opening hardware shall be centered between 30 inches (762mm) and 44 inches (1118mm) above the floor.
  • Latching and locking doors that are hand-activated and which are in a path of travel shall be operable with a single effort by lever-type hardware, panic bars, push-pull activating bars, or other hardware designed to provide passage without requiring the ability to grasp the opening hardware.
  • Locked exit doors shall operate as above in egress direction.
  • The bottom 10 inches (254mm) of all doors, except automatic and sliding doors, shall have a smooth, uninterrupted surface to allow the door to be opened by a wheelchair footrest without creating a trap or hazardous condition.
  • When narrow frame doors are used, a 10-inch-high (254mm) smooth panel shall be installed on the push side of the door, which will allow the door to be opened by a wheelchair footrest without creating a trap or hazardous condition.

 

The best advice we can give restaurant and bar owners is to be very careful. If you are are about to open a new restaurant, it really pays to check what your contractor knows. Ask him or her about these requirements and how up-to-date they are on how the build-out should be. If they build it wrong, it is you who is liable as the business owner, not them. The onus is on us to make sure we do the build-out correctly from the beginning. So make it a point to personally measure the access points and door pressure, and find out how many handicap spots are required in your city if you are building the entire lot. You may also need to create empty space in the parking lot in and around the handicap spaces in addition to the city’s minimum handicap allotment. Measure your doors by purchasing a door pressure gauge from Amazon. They aren’t cheap, but they are cheaper than a potential lawsuit from these bloodsucking, money-hungry lawyers and their blackmailing clients.

 

KFC Secret Recipe for Fried Chicken

I have to set some time aside to try this one day.

 

The NY Times reported this is the leaked secret recipe.

 

11 spices — mix with 2 cups white flour

2/3 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon thyme

1/2 tablespoon basil

1/3 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon celery salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon dried mustard

4 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons garlic salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

3 tablespoons white pepper

 

Benjamin Franklin’s 5 hour rule

The five-hour rule
Throughout Ben’s adult life, he consistently invested roughly an hour a day in deliberate learning. I call this Franklin’s five-hour rule: one hour a day on every weekday.

Franklin’s learning time consisted of

1) Waking up early to read and write

2) Setting personal-growth goals (i.e., virtues list) and tracking the results

3) Creating a club for “like-minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community”

4) Turning his ideas into experiments

5) Having morning and evening reflection questions

Every time that Franklin took time out of his busy day to follow his five-hour rule and spend at least an hour learning, he accomplished less on that day. However, in the long run, it was arguably the best investment of his time he could have made.

Franklin’s five-hour rule reflects the very simple idea that, over time, the smartest and most successful people are the ones who are constant and deliberate learners.

So what would it look like to make the five-hour rule part of our lifestyle?

 

source: Inc.com

Interview with Yelp

 

 

I was finishing up my book when I got a call in a cold night in December about meeting up with a couple of the marketing guys from Yelp. Yelp corporate was trying to get a hold of me for a few months now, since we used to be a decent sized advertiser of theirs, having spent upwards of $2,500 per month on Yelp advertising for all 8 locations in the Los Angeles area. Suffice it to say that when I had called to cancel our advertising campaign, they were not too happy. The return on investment (ROI) was just not there for us. Now you could say I did not read enough books on Yelp, did not take advantage of all Yelp had to offer, and was not responding to every bad customer review, and thus I was the cause of not having stretched our advertising dollars to the maximum, and you would be right.

 

According to a Nielsen survey commissioned by Yelp, four out of five Yelp users visit Yelp.com before spending money, and 93 percent say that visiting Yelp leads to a local purchase. 82 percent of the participants said they visit Yelp because they intend to buy a product or service.

 

Of the participants identified as Yelp users, 89 percent said they typically make a purchase within a week from the businesses they find on Yelp. The 93 percent who said Yelp leads to a local purchase included participants who responded always, frequently, or occasionally.

 

According to a study by Merchant Warehouse, as much as 87 percent of small businesses (SMBs) still don’t actively use the site – and they still aren’t actively doing online review management or monitoring their business’ online reputation, which could seriously undermine their bottom line. Moreover, 22 percent of SMB owners who have active Yelp listings have never actually looked at their profiles at all. 93% of people that visit Yelp, end up making purchases.

 

Merchant Warehouse was quick to note, though, that attitudes towards Yelp are at least starting to change: 77 percent of SMB owners say that the site has changed the way they respond to customer issues and complaints.

 

The study also revealed that consumer trust in online reviews is increasingly making an impact on the business bottom line. 90 percent of Yelp users say that positive online reviews influence their company buying choices. But all of these statistics mean little to a small business that can barely afford to make marketing purchases for their small restaurant. The most important thing a small restaurateur can do is to make wise business decisions that multiply their revenue. Many Yelp ad reps are quick to point out the benefits of using Yelp, and most do not know the little tricks we can do as business owners to increase conversion.

 

But these guys seemed cool. They had a laid back attitude that made me reconsider advertising with Yelp. After all, Yelp is the #1 web site that sends us leads and the #1 most visited web site for restaurant-based information in the world, so it is pretty important. We had already finished most of the chapters of this book, including the Yelp chapters, but the one missing piece of the puzzle was that although we had done extensive research and analysis on what Yelp was and how to be market yourself on Yelp, we had never actually spoken to official Yelp associates to give us the no-holds back, 100% No-BS lowdown on how to most effective market your restaurant brand on Yelp.

 

 

 

I met with Chase Raskowsky and Jordan Smith as they were leaving Los Angeles and on their way to LAX. Their flight was only in a few hours, but they had enough time to meet with me at our west LA Zankou on the corner of Sepulveda and Santa Monica boulevards. What we covered pretty much was the perfect bookend to everything one would need to know about Yelp. During the conversation Chase provided most of the answers with a lot of help and detail coming from Jordan.

 

 

 

Dikran: What’s the best way to get ROI on Yelp? It’s easy to just set up an ad campaign and keep that going, but that may not be the best solution for many small restaurants. People want to know how to get the best “bang for the buck”

 

Chase: Well, it goes into a lot of things, but what it essentially boils down to is being able to captivate the consumer that is looking at the Yelp listing. Imagine you have 5 different people looking at your Yelp listing; each of them may say something different because different things appeal to different people; there are different tools you can utilize on Yelp that cater to different people.

 

The example I always use is my girlfriend. I look at reviews and star ratings, so that is what’s important to me. But she could care less about how many reviews a business has; she looks at all the pictures since she is solely a visual learner. She bases her decisions on what she sees, because for her it is more visual. Now there are other people who look for discounts, deals, or offers, and that’s fine because everyone is looking for something different. For those people we have check-in offers, deals, and gift certificates. We try to aesthetically please all viewers and bring them in one way or another.

 

Jordan: The main thing is lead conversion. Most of your work should be dedicated to converting. For any quality business half their ROI should be focused on converting leads from web site visitors to paying customers. 20-40% of all their calls, clicks, or leads should be turned into [paying customers.] That’s the goal we see for their business. You should be converting web site clicks to actual visiting customers.

 

Dikran: At Zankou Chicken we have a long history of advertising with Yelp.  I noticed that Yelp would show me my advertising dollars as a sort of sales chart and show projection of increased sales based on increased traffic to our Yelp page from unique visitors. How accurate is this automated system of converting clicks into actual, projected sales? How do they calculate that how can Yelp prove that your advertising dollars are being turned into additional sales?

 

Chase: First off the revenue number that you see in the business owners account where it says “Yelp brought in $10,000 this month” is a new feature we are continuing to grow. (Dikran I added some screenshots for you that better explain how it is calculated) The consumer is allowed to enter the average revenue per customer, how often they expect them to use their service over a month/years time, and lead conversion from total leads (we as well supply industry estimates)

 

 

 

Sometimes it’s not the most accurate number but it’s a good picture of all the leads you are generating what revenue could follow. From the ten people that look on your website from Yelp, which ones come in and which ones don’t that is hard to estimate? So we allow you to put in general conversion percentages.

 

 

 

 

Dikran: So should people use Google Analytics to help keep up with all this?

 

Jordan: We track how many clicks go through Yelp to your web site.

 

Chase: There may be some disparity between the actual revenue generated immediately and the click through rate, but you have to look at it as opportunity revenue. You should think of people’s lifetime value after they become a customer from Yelp. Just to give you some perspective consider this story:

 

I found a restaurant on Yelp called Espetus in the heart of San Fransisco. I found it on Yelp a month after moving there, I took my girlfriend there, I took 20 people I know there, I took all my friends there. I probably have taken about 200 people there within the last year.

 

 

 

Dikran:That’s a lot.

 

 

 

Chase: So you have to think about the possibility that a new customer brings in many other new people to your restaurant. This is a great example of what can happen from one person finding your business on Yelp.

 

 

 

Dikran: So what do you think of the importance of the photo slides? Is it important to have the photo slide? Is it important to have nice looking shots? There is this assumption among many circles that the customer shots, while some may be amateurish, make people hungrier because they resemble true-life more than professional shots. The only problem is some of these shots people post look terrible and sloppy, which is not the best representation of our food so on the advertised locations I like to push those shots down on the list. Personally, I like to post professionally taken shots. What are your thoughts on that?

 

Chase: I would say the photo slide show is one of the most important things for a business, especially in your industry.  It is of a major importance to restaurants. When a consumer is looking at your listing, they are usually ready to eat. So if they see sloppy or bad shots, they have to convince themselves now either from the reviews or whatever else they are seeing to in turn eat at your restaurant.

 

This is extremely important for consumers because #1) they want to know what is available on the menu and #2) does it look appealing? If the first thing I see is an empty plate or a plate that doesn’t look good I may get turned off. If I can’t find good shots I may not be inclined to take the next steps, but if I do I very well could be ordering that dish I see within the hour.

 

If I have a couple of good shots of what the restaurant looks like and a few good shots of the plates, I would be willing to take the next steps. It’s good to have control over the photo gallery so you can push the sloppy looking photos down. We just talked to someone with a “please wait to be seated” sign as their first shot, so it’s important to be on top of that. You should want your page to look as professional as possible.

 

Jordan: I think the photo slide show is the most important thing about your listing. That’s what I look at and I use Yelp every single day. You can feature the consumer shots to make them feel special if it looks good. It’s not good if people are looking at your photo slide and there are no shots of good food even after the 4th shot.

 

 

 

Dikran: What’s the best and most ethical way to fight negative reviews?

 

 

 

Yelp: It depends on the nature of the business. If you own a business that has 5 or 10 reviews across the majority of the industry you are not going to be reviewed a lot. If you’re a lawyer for example you won’t have thousands of reviews, or nearly as many reviews as a restaurant per say. For example there are at least 20 people in here right now. We always recommend responding and being engaged. For restaurant owners this is harder, as you serve 100’s of people daily, where a home service business may help 1-2. Regardless it is good to be engaged with consumers on Yelp.

 

It’s good when the owner reaches out to a customer if they had a bad experience. I would say it helps bring them back; it helps them give you another shot. Commenting privately or publicly can do this.

 

Obviously not every situation can be amended but you should try commenting to them and helping them. Some businesses do the mistake of lashing out publicly at these negative reviewers. But you’re not thinking about the 1,000 other people that are going to be looking at that. Commenting public ally is good as well. Keep it as professional as possible. Think of the thousand other people that will read your response.

 

If I see a negative review and I see you tried to make up for it, it looks professional. If what you wrote is heartfelt, and not trying to bash the person, it will be authentic.

 

Jordan: Try to keep it brief. Private message them and see if you can make up for it.

 

I care that the business at least tried to make it better. If there is a discrepancy like false information about a business the business owner has the option to flag the review.

 

 

 

Dikran: What is the best combination to approach Yelp in terms of advertising with Yelp? Do you recommend doing Yelp deals or check-in offers?

 

 

 

Chase: At Yelp we have a very strong mobile platform. We are integrated into iPhone and most other smartphones nowadays. The majority of people are already on their phones.

 

What we highly recommend are check-in offers. The majority of the time people are checking out businesses on Yelp right now it’s on their phones. We recommend doing check-in offers. And you can rate and review businesses on your phone as well. Check-in offers for restaurants are the most important. If you check in it asks questions about the restaurant, allows you to share with all their personal social media platforms, and even prompts the user to leave a review right on your phone.

 

For example a common check in on yelp for restaurants is “check in and get a free drink”. I take out my phone, I can see the check-in offer, and I can also share that on other social platforms like Facebook telling my friends where I am eating. This is just added benefit and added exposure for you. From the business owner side of it, you will attract more business, plus it’s much easier to track, so for example if 39 people did check in it means they were physically inside your store.

 

 

 

Dikran: What are some inside marketing tips you can give to the readers of this book? How is it best to use this platform?

 

Jordan: Sign up for the business owner app on the phone. This will make it more real because you can track things in real time. Take advantage the free tools we offer. There are many things you can do to help your customers and monitor your business that are completely free.

 

 

 

Chase: Many people that own businesses don’t even log in. It’s completely OK if you don’t want to advertise, but we have many free tools they can use. You can always buy a photo slide show for just $25 per month. That’s not going to break the bank and thousands of people will see a much nicer representation of your business.

 

The consumers will see something that looks much better, much more aesthetically pleasing. The people that are finding you, will have a better representation of your business, and with the slide show you don’t have to commit to anything.

 

 

 

Dikran: Is there anything new going on that we should know about at Yelp within the last year?

 

Chase: We have a new feature on iOS. You can find new places and activities in your area. Left swipe from your home screen and find new restaurants and bars in your area.

 

Dikran: What about Seatme and Eat 24?   [Seatme is Yelp’s reservation platform and Eat24 is their delivery platform]

 

Chase: We are now offering $99 as a flat rate for Seatme and it’s working great. We give you an iPad to control your reservations as well. What is nice is the program has a monthly flat rate and doesn’t charge per reservation like Opentable. Eat 24 our delivery platform is doing really well also.

 

Jordan: We are now almost completely transitioning to using cost per click in terms of advertising. Customers love it because it’s performance-based advertising. It’s a great option for businesses that want to maximize ROI. We are seeing great results with that especially for customers that want great ROI.

 

Dikran: Thanks a lot for agreeing to do this interview. Many people have a lot of these questions and it’s not easy for them to talk to an insider, so I am sure all of this will be very useful.

 

I hope you don’t miss your flight.

 

What are the few top mistakes you see restaurants doing and what are the most important things they should be doing?

 

Chase: I would say the top mistake I see businesses do is lashing out at Yelp and becoming disengaged due to a bad review. Something turns them off from their consumers and they stop becoming engaged, they stop caring, and they just stop logging on. But Yelp doesn’t stop just because you are not logging in or checking on your customers, and many people are still viewing your listing monthly. In the restaurant industry it’s hard to ignore Yelp.

 

They need to realize it is part of the business. It’s not good to turn away from Yelp in this industry solely due to how many people discover your restaurant because of Yelp.

 

This goes back to logging in the business owner’s account and make sure you keep up with what’s going on. Make sure you download the app and log on as the business owner.

 

Jordan: Since I use Yelp every day I realize how important this is. Not every business owner recognizes this importance. They don’t appreciate Yelp’s many options that are available. Some of the best sales and conversations I have had with customers came from bad reviews. Sometimes there’s a generational shift and some people don’t understand this.

 

 

 

Chase: We are growing. We’re releasing new things and coming up with better tactics. A lot has changed since 2013. We now have updated versions of everything. We want to help business owners to understand Yelp in a good way and see what is on there. Many people don’t know how to upload the pictures and set up the business listing so we are here to help. We can help show you how to monitor your leads and update your listing as well.

 

 

 

Jordan: Have a conversation with someone from Yelp, set up a check in offer, don’t hide the fact that you’re on Yelp, encourage people to check out your Yelp listing, but don’t ask people to rate you on Yelp. You can say “Check us out on Yelp” and in this way they feel no pressure.

 

Chase: If you ask people to rate them they may feel pressured. They may not say or show that they are pressured but that’s how they may feel. But a check in offer and stuff like that is strategic without being pushy. A poster that says “Check us out on Yelp” has much less pressure.

 

Jordan: For business owners asking for reviews is lazy. You worked hard and you’re an entrepreneur so you have to learn to be strategic. Put a sign up that says “Check us out on Yelp” and be subtle. Let everything you worked to create work for you, asking for reviews basically negates all the hard work you put in.

 

Dikran. Thanks again for all this great info. Also, today you guys checked out Zankou Chicken for the first time, so what do you think?

 

Chase: (laughs)…5 Stars! The rice is beautiful; awesome food.

 

Jordan: The rotisserie chicken was great. I loved that it was awesome. 5 stars!

 

 

 

 

 

Questions for editors

hi my name is Dikran Iskenderian. For the last 2 years I have been busy writing a book about restaurant marketing, which along the way transitioned into a book that is also about restaurant management (and also leadership, how to open and run a restaurant, etc). I have been working in my family business for over 25 years. We run Zankou Chicken, a small chain of restaurants in Los Angeles and Orange County here in sunny southern California. It’s been in business for over 50 years, and in the United States since 1984 (in Hollywood).

I am in the process of transitioning from just owning/ operating restaurants into public speaking, teaching, and networking primarily in the business and marketing world. The reason for this is simple. I love having a book written ( I can’t say I love writing because that’s like saying I love going to the dentist). Although the process has been difficult my hope is that the results will be rewarding. With myself and my coauthor we researched all of the things a prospective restaurateur would like to know and wrote papers on it week after week (for 18 months straight).  This included everything from leases to where to open, how to hire and fire the right people, food prep, kitchen maintenance, and restaurant industry protocol. Basically I wrote about everything I’ve learned (the best of it at least) for the last 25 years.

What I did not know, I went out and sought. I interviewed my family members and business associates. For example my cousin Jack Nasher in Germany wrote a best-selling book on negotiation so I interviewed him on how restaurant owners should negotiate with vendors. I interviewed a professional lease preparer who calls himself the Lease Doctor. I interviewed my mom and brothers on the best that they have learned. I interviewed the best catering business in LA, a 5 star chef, etc

So I am not sure how to put this book together. Primarily it will be used as my own teaching material for a future class and/or seminars I wish to conduct. But I also want it to be easy to read and fun. I want it to be as entertaining as it is educational.

I wondered about structuring the interviews into one narrative, but I don’t think that would be right because these people would lose their own voice. So I think the best solution is to possibly split the work in two, the narratives coming first followed by the interviews in the 2nd half of the book.

Then again that’s just my opinion. I want a professional, third party to take all of this and make it flow in a beautiful, cohesive book (or 2 books).

I also want help in determining how I should do all of this. Most of the people I spoke with have told me to simply cut the fat and put it into one book, even if that means it’s a 600 page book. I am OK with this because I would feel much more comfortable asking students to buy one book versus two books. It’s also a better long term strategy because one book would garner a greater number of reviews (hopefully positive reviews) on Amazon then if I split it into two.

My latest idea is to make it all one book, and make the stuff that is boring (like the health grades chapter and the chapter on ADA, into a free PDF I can pass out. In other words I would keep the top 70-80% of the book, cut the fat and make it better, and make the remaining 20-30% that is boring available for free.

We can talk more later about what is best to do obviously. But I am really curious as to who is the best person to help me do all of this. I came up with the following questions to help me determine that. Please answer them if you want to help me with this project:

1) How much time and money do you estimate a 200,000-word manuscript to be? Can you edit a sample chapter or at least 3-5 pages so I can see the quality of your work?

2) Why are you the best person qualified to help me edit this material? Blaise Pascal sad “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Are you confident that you can scale down a 200,000+ word book into one with about 175,000 words or less that is to the point?

3) Are you open to telephone AND email communication throughout the process?

4) Can you send me any references of your published work and any third party recommendations?

5) Will you be using anyone else to edit my material or outsourcing any of your work ? If so can you please list their education, past history of edited works, and recommendations from others about them here.

6) Can you help re-write some of the material such that the chapters flow better ? Specifically can you help in the process of ordering the chapters into a better sequence so it’s easier for the reader to breeze through the material?

7) Since I have so much material I am considering putting some of it aside for a second book or at the minimum a free download “report” on the industry I can give away as a promotion. Can you help me choose which material is best for publication and which I should give away?

8) If the material is divided in two books (one on restaurant management and the other on restaurant marketing…) would you be able to help with that? One would be a Restaurant Management book and one would be a Restaurant Marketing book. Do you have any experience splitting works into two separate books?

9) Do you have any experience editing text books? This book will be used for my future classes/ seminars I will conduct on this subject and any academic background or professional published materials can be mentioned here. Please list any works you have edited that have been used on the college and/or university level.

10) Finally, your expertise is in editing and not writing and I appreciate that. However, in this case, I may need someone to help write a little bit just to help link the chapters and make the book flow smoothly. Are you able to do that?

Thanks

Interview w Rita Iskenderian

Rita Iskenderian, president of Zankou Chicken, knew next to nothing about the ins and outs of her family business empire when her husband Maridos suddenly died in 2003. With four sons who were too young to shoulder the responsibilities that their highly creative and entrepreneurial father had almost single-handedly shouldered, Rita found herself thrust in the day-to-day affairs of her small but vibrant chain of restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Overnight, Rita went from never having worked a single day in her life to slogging 14 hours every day of the week. How she managed is an inspiring story of mind over matter—of persistence over frailty—together with the realization that struggles and sacrifices have always been the bedrock of her family business.

Dikran: You’re a mother and the president of Zankou Chicken—what do you like most about being a leader?

Rita: I usually ask wise people around me for advice. I don’t like making decisions by myself. I would say that I am a democratic type of leader. I don’t enjoy making all the rules. It’s all about teamwork.

 

Dikran: But what do you like most about that position?

Rita: As I said, what I like is … . To tell you the truth, I wish your father were here to be the leader. That would have made me more comfortable. I always depended on him to make the right decisions. All of a sudden I was left with a lot of decisions to make, a lot of load to take. It’s not easy at all.

Dikran: You are loved by our employees. They approach you and love to see you. What is it about you that makes employees love you so much? What’s the secret to having that kind of relationship with employees?

Rita: I think the employees have such a relationship with me because I love them and I respect them. A lot. That’s why they love me and respect me. They are the reason I am here. They are the reason to make this business grow. I always respect what they do. I want to help each one of them. I want to be there for them and do whatever I can to make them more comfortable—to give them health insurance and other facilities. I love my employees. Without them, the business will not grow. It will not be there.

Dikran: A lot of people are interested to know about the origin of Zankou. We came here from Lebanon. What was it that helped us succeed? A lot of immigrant families fail. They try to open a business but it doesn’t work.

Rita: It’s the persistence to keep working hard. Sometimes you don’t make any profits. Instead, you have to invest your own money into the business. We struggled when we came here. For the first three or four years we didn’t make any money.

In fact, on the first day in our first store in Lebanon, we sold only one chicken. The second day we sold two. But we persisted. On our first day in Hollywood, your dad was so busy that his feet got swollen from standing up. At the end of the day, he had to walk with the help of two people. But it was one the happiest days of his life.

Dikran: You didn’t make any money, and everyone kept putting money in so that the business would survive?

Rita: Yes.

Dikran: People don’t know that. They think we succeeded right away. When the Hollywood Zankou opened in 1984, it was very busy.

Rita: Yes. It was very busy but then slowly it [the number of customers] went down. We had to struggle to make things better.

Dikran: That’s very interesting. People don’t know that.

Rita: Yes. I struggle at the house, but your father and your grandparents struggled a lot. They were stressed a lot. They weren’t making any profits. At one point, your father had to let employees go.

Dikran: So dad was making the food instead of them. I remember that.

Rita: Yes. He was the cashier, the cook—he was the one carving the meats.

Dikran: He said he didn’t have time for a bathroom break.

Rita: Yes. So, to go back to your question, when people keep losing profits it’s very hard to keep going. They close the business. But we believed in what we were doing so we kept struggling and slowly—very slowly—the business caught up. We put different items on the menu. Seven years after our first store in Hollywood, we opened in Glendale in 1992.

Dikran: You have a great palette. You know a lot about food. You cook a variety of dishes. How does one build on that tradition and make it succeed on the restaurant level?

Rita: I was not the one who put all the ingredients together. That was your father. He had a better taste in his mouth than me. He was very good at that. He changed the menu all the time. He changed the ingredients.

Dikran: He kept changing the ingredients until they got to what they are today.

Rita: Yes. I’m not the one who put those ingredients together. I added the tabouleh to the menu—it was my idea. I added the ingredients. I also added the rice and the ingredients to the kebabs. The rest was all your father’s doing.

Dikran: So dad was constantly making the dishes better.

Rita: Yes. But to make things better and better you have to use the best ingredients.

Dikran: High-quality ingredients.

Rita: Yes. For example, you can’t use “Chinese” garlic—low-quality garlic—in our menu. You have to use the highest quality garlic and the finest meats. We get our garlic fresh from Gilroy every day.

Customers are not stupid. They are not fooled by cheap ingredients. They will taste the food and go somewhere else. To keep customers, you have to use the best ingredients and be consistent in the way you prepare your food.

A stingy person can’t be a restaurant owner; you have to be generous. If a dish goes bad, you throw the whole thing out and start afresh. If you suspect that the meat or chicken tastes just a little different than what it should be, you have to throw out everything. You may have a lower profit margin of course, but it’s worth it because if your food is fresh and has high-quality ingredients and you will sell more of it. The profit will come from the volume of sales. That’s our secret—our profit margins are small, but we sell a lot.

Dikran: A lot of times when people look at our dad and at what happened to him and our family, they tend to judge him because they didn’t know him. You knew him very well. What part of our father do you want people to remember?

Rita: What happened [in our family] was because of his sickness. If he weren’t sick, nothing like that would have happened. He was a very generous, giving person. He had a heart of gold. He gave to Armenian schools and churches. And he gave without making his contributions public—he didn’t want people to know. If you compare his earnings to what he gave, nobody we know gave as much as he gave to the community. In fact, the more people came to know that he was a giving person, the more they came to ask him for money.

All the writers and singers—a lot of different kind of people. They came every day. And he just kept on giving more and more. At one point he said he couldn’t go to the store because people are coming and asking for money all the time. He said, It’s better for me to sit at the house because I can’t say no. He couldn’t say no to anybody. He gave everything he had. I never saw a more generous person in my life. That’s how I want people to remember him. He was very smart and very giving.

After we got married, the first Christmas that we were together, he didn’t want to go anywhere. He said to me, I’m going to take you places. We were in Lebanon back then. He took me house by house, knocked on the doors of people I didn’t know, and gave them money. That was our first Christmas as husband and wife. The whole evening we went from house to house, giving people money. He had a heart of gold—maybe diamond.

Even before he opened the Glendale store, we used to go downtown on Christmas and give money to the homeless. From the car, me and him. Our Christmas was like that. We did that two or three times. Then I got scared because the people hung onto the moving car and put their hands inside.

Dikran: You’re a very persevering person. How did you overcome a lot of difficult circumstances both in business and in life? Our house caught on fire, business went up and down—I can’t even name all the tough situations.

Rita: My husband taught me to be strong. Whatever happens in life, he said, you have to be strong. God forbid, even if you lose one of your sons, he would say to me, you still have to be strong. Because life is for strong people. You can’t be weak in life, otherwise …

Dikran: People will walk all over you.

Rita: Yes. That’s why I’m very strong in personality. Look at Armenian people in general. They survived the genocide. And look where they are now. We have that instinct to survive—and thrive—in our blood. Every Armenian likes to work.

Dikran: Armenia is famous for its mountains. An artist who once visited the country said that no other place has mountains of such striking colors and textures. And he compared Armenia’s mountains to its people: Armenians are as strong and hard as the mountains in their motherland. Do you agree?

Rita: Yes. But look at it this way. All over the world, when the parents pass away they leave their belongings to their children. Armenians were massacred so heavily during the genocide that they lost everything. Even those who survived couldn’t leave anything to their children. They had to work hard. They started from zero. So it was not that their strength came from hundreds of years [of history]. They had to persevere. And they had a dream of succeeding. That’s the difference between Armenians and people of other countries, as I see it.

Dikran: One other country that has been through a lot and whose people are famously tough are Koreans. And the two things that Armenians and Koreans seem to have in common are the emphasis on family and food. Food is a big part of Korean culture, as it is among Armenians. Where, in Armenian culture, despite all of Armenia’s historical crises, do you think that emphasis on food comes from?

Rita: The emphasis on family, I think, comes from the fact that Armenians were separated from each other over much of recent history—in the 1800s, and then again in 1915 [the year of the Armenian Genocide]. So the family was an institution that was almost worshiped, and it became a source of strength because Armenians wanted to keep their families together. The brutality of the genocide prompted Armenians to develop stronger bonds with each other on the level of the family.

My husband’s grandmother, for example, survived the genocide and was living with us. She lost her younger brother in the genocide and she never stopped dreaming about him. She believed he was in another country. She never saw him again, but her bond with him and other members of her immediate family was very strong. When my second son was born, she implored me to name him after her brother—Stephan.

Dikran: Do family and food also have a bond in Armenian culture?

Rita: Yes. When family members get together, what else are they going to do? They’re going to eat! Just the other day, for example, I wanted to see the mother of my “bride” [Dikran’s wife, expectant at the time with their first child] so I decided to cook. Food brings people together.

Dikran: What kind of food did you grow up eating?

Rita: Armenian food, Middle Eastern food.

Dikran: Name a few dishes.

Rita: Sarma—or dolma—grape leaves. There are also some traditional foods that Armenians brought with them. Each village in Armenia had its own food—or a typical dish. For example, your father was from Hajian, which had its own speciality food, such as jidabour. Hajian is in Turkey now—it was one of the villages that Turkey took from the Armenians. My family was from Aintab, which also had its own dishes. For example, we made an eggplant dolma. Other villages had a cous-cous dish cooked with tomato and lemon, without meat.

So when Armenians went to other countries, such as Lebanon and Syria, they took with them their culinary traditions. And there, they began making dishes from other villages as well because they were next to each other.

So Armenians began cooking tabouleh, which is a Lebanese dish. Or shawerma, which is an Arabic dish. But nobody would cook a dish better than the people to whom it was native. People from Aintab, for example, cooked the best dolma. And nobody could cook jidabour better than the people from Hajian. It’s a meat-and-grain dish that has to be cooked for hours.

Dikran: Was your mother a good cook?

Rita: Yes—but my mother-in-law was a better cook. They had different ways of cooking. When I got married, I didn’t know anything about cooking. Afterward, I learned everything about cooking from my mother and my mother-in-law. I mixed their methods and came up with my own!

Dikran: What’s it like to preside over a family business—what are the ups and downs of the process?

Rita: I highly value my family business because I witnessed all the struggles that went it making it a success. My husband struggled at the business, and I struggled at home, where I was alone all the time, seven days a week. I didn’t drive at the time. I didn’t see my husband day and night. We didn’t go out, we didn’t do anything [together] for years.

Dikran: Which business owners do you admire?

Rita: The restaurant business is a very difficult business. I admire all the people who, without franchising, have made it to the top. I can name a couple, such as In & Out Burger and Panda Express. Panda Express started at the same time as us, in 1984. They have something like 1,500 restaurants and are in a better position today than we are. I want to be like them one day. But without franchise—I don’t like franchises.

Do you sometimes think the owners of Panda Express have a level of stress 10 or 50 times more than yours?

No, I don’t think so. I think they are in a position now where they can relax and where their business manages itself. But our business is different. The food is different. It’s not like In & Out, where you serve hamburgers and French fries. It doesn’t take much to make hamburgers and French fries.

Dikran: Panda Express can train a cook in two weeks. At Zankou, a cook needs to be talented as well as a master of technique.

Rita: Yes. Our food, on the other hand, takes time to cook. It has many ingredients, multiple spices. It’s marinated. To cut the food, put it together, make the sauces, it’s a lot of work. That’s why it’s not easy for us to that way [like Panda Express or In & Out Burger]. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to grow. My dream is that one day we have 1,000 locations—without franchising—preserving the same quality of food. Day and night I think about it, I dream about it. I saw my husband and mother-in-law and father-in-law struggle a lot. And I want to grow my business to such a point that when I meet them one day I can tell them, Look what I did with your business.

Dikran: When you took charge of Zankou Chicken after dad passed away, what did you find in the first few days or weeks?

Rita: All of a sudden, when you and your brothers came to me and said, Mom, you have to work, my reaction was, Oh, wow, until now I didn’t have to work, and now that I lost my husband I have to work! I felt bad about that.

Fortunately, my sister was there to help out. She worked as the manager for our Pasadena and Van Nuys restaurants. I watched what she was doing. For two or three months I watched while helping her. At that time, in 2003, we didn’t have credit cards—the business was all cash. I used to count the money with my sister, and it was a lot of money. When we made a mistake we had to count the whole lot of money again.

And all the while, when I started working, I couldn’t look at the employees’ faces! Gradually, I got to know them one by one, and I was there for them. Some of them needed financial assistance, so I would give them cash and they would return it little by little. I helped them every way that I could. I became friendly with them. Little by little I opened up to them and they opened up to me. And that’s how the bond started between me and our employees.

With time, and with the advice and help of my sons, I changed the management system and made it more efficient so I didn’t have to go from store to store every day. But for 10 years I didn’t go for even a one-week vacation. My sons were free but I was not free. The first time I left was when my brother got sick in Germany. He had cancer, so I had to go and see him. And the second time I left was when he died. I went to his funeral.

Dikran: Would you have preferred to continue living the way you always had—not involved in the business at all?

Rita: No. Your dad gave me a very different view of life. I was a mom, I was cooking all the time. I didn’t get involved with the business and didn’t have a business-oriented mind. I wasn’t meeting people.

Dikran: Suddenly your life opened up to the rest of the world.

Rita: Yes. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t change the system so I would still be going from store to store.

Dikran: Who did you turn to for advice?

Rita: I asked my sons. I didn’t do anything without their approval or opinion. I didn’t act alone at all. But then again, the business teaches you things that you don’t know. When you are there every single day, you think of ways to do things better. And because you are there every day you notice things nobody else notices. You also learn that where there is a will there is a way.

Dikran: What advice would you give to someone—another businesswoman, say—who is compelled to follow the same path that you did?

Rita: Value your business. You have to really love what you’re doing—don’t go into a business if you don’t want it and don’t love it. Be persistent and give the best to your customers. If you give good value to your customers and value your business, your struggles will be rewarded one day.

Dikran: Our family business is now in its third generation and doing quite well. What advice would you give to the fourth generation?

Rita: Do what you love to do. Value the business you are in—don’t take it for granted. And if you’re still in the family business, remember that your grandfathers and grandmothers struggled to make it work.

Dikran: What are your top three words of advice for people reading this book?

Be strong. Eat healthy. Love people.