PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi: 5 powerful career habits that drove her success

“PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi steps down today after a 24-year career with the company. Born in India, the 62-year-old was one of a handful of people of color to run an S&P 500 company. During her 12-year tenure as chief executive, Nooyi transformed PepsiCo into one of the most successful food and beverage companies worldwide. Her push for healthier snack and beverage choices, along with an eye for product packaging, led to an 80 percent sales growth in the 12 years she was CEO.

As a child in India, Nooyi and her sister were asked to play an unusual game. Each night at dinner, their mother asked her daughters to imagine what they’d do if they were the prime minister, the president or some other world leader. By the end of the dinner, the girls presented a speech and their mother decided which speech won her vote.

Though her mother instilled many traditional values in her daughters, she also encouraged them to be whoever they wanted to be. “She gave us that confidence,” Nooyi said (…).”

View full article here.

Great News for Restaurants as IRS Reaffirms Deductions for Entertaining

“The Internal Revenue Service is giving businesses a tax break they thought they had lost in the tax overhaul last year — write-offs for wining and dining clients.

The agency said Wednesday companies can still deduct 50 percent of meals while entertaining clients and customers, clearing up confusion about whether tax law changes last year had completely eliminated that benefit.”

“Kathy Petronchak, the director of IRS practice and procedure at Alliant Group and the chair of the meals and entertainment task force at the CPA group, said that the guidance and examples “align with what we had hoped to see with the clear distinction between entertainment and allowable business expenses for meals.”

Read more here.

Three Fast Casual Must-Haves

During the past decade there has been a significant increase in the number of fast casual enterprises because of the changing habits of the consumer; this new generation of consumer values convenience above everything. The modern food consumer seeks out a smart balance of convenience, quality product, appealing aesthetics and of course, affordability. The guest wants an experience that is as close to a full-service experience as possibly, without the same price and time commitment. In order to distinctly differentiate themselves from their competition, fast casual enterprises need to offer 1) fresh ingredients, 2) five star customer service and 3) an inviting environment.

1. Fresh ingredients: The new generation of consumer values quality food, with a special emphasis on the choice of ingredients and how fresh they are. Consumers are also more aware about the cooking techniques and menu variety.

2. First-Rate Customer Service: Counter service should be available so that the guest can place an order quickly, and enjoy the experience longer. The consumer looks for an experience that is as close to full-service as possible, so the staff needs to meet this demand in as friendly of a manner as possible.

3. Inviting Atmosphere: Aside from looking aesthetically pleasing and modern, the staff needs to be as high-energy and outgoing with the guest as possible while still maintaining accuracy and speed.

To read more about the evolving nature of fast casual enterprises and how to keep up with the new consumer demands as well as some predictions for the future of fast casual, click here

Creating a Culture of Hospitality

This past weekend as part of the 25th anniversary of the American Express Trade Program at the Aspen Food & Wine classic, industry experts discussed a very important topic: customer loyalty. Chef Tom Colicchio (Craft, Colicchio & Sons), Sean Brock (Husk, Charleston), Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat, Chicago) and Mitzi Gaskins (Marriott) led a seminar discussion on how chefs and operators can create a culture of hospitality and loyalty.

Colicchio stated that it all comes down to the servers; they have two main jobs: 1) make the customers happy, and 2) create regulars. The goal for the servers is to really become friends with the diners and get to know them so that it really becomes a personal experience. It is important to have the servers make those little extra steps that go beyond the eat-then-pay transaction. The chefs mentioned that they use computer programs (such as OpenTable) to track their guest information. Servers can make notes of the guests’ personal preferences (sparkling water vs regular, etc.) and input it into the computer at the end of service. They then analyze this collection of data to connect more with the customer. Recognition is absolutely key in fostering customer loyalty; as a diner it is the best feeling to enter an establishment and have the staff remember your name and dining preferences.

Gaskins also stressed upon the importance of attracting the right talent. The recruiting process should never be taken lightly. It is important that the staff you keep truly fits the profile created by your brand. It is then equally important have appropriate training systems and provide the staff with the tools necessary to make the guests happy. Colicchio makes an excellent point which is that in order to create brand loyalty among your customers, your staff has to be loyal to your brand; it all begins in-house. Both Colicchio and Gaskins spoke about how a little positive reinforcement can go a long way, and how stories of hospitality successes will spread amongst the staff.

Social media is also a relatively new and important way to connect with fans and customers. Operators should research what works for them and what doesn’t. It is important to keep the customer engaged and incentivize them to come back to your restaurant without flooding their twitter feed or email inboxes. For instance, Izard mentions that perhaps it is smart to run quarterly specials vs running specials every few days. Izard also spoke of the importance of building relationships with customers in the community. She recommends engaging with the community through charitable events and choosing organizations that you are proud to be a part of.

To watch the seminar on the evolution of customer loyalty click here


Customer Service is of Utmost Importance

Customer service should always be a top priority for any business, but especially for the service industry. It is simply bad business not to ensure that you have efficient customer service systems in place. You want to be that business that is known for setting high customer service standards. Put simply, a lack of strong client services will lead to a lack of business. Here are a few suggestions to strengthen your customer relations:


  • Make the business able to be easily located and accessed online
  • Build a professional website
  • Index the website on the most popular web search engines
  • Make the website easy to navigate from desktops, tablets and smart phones
  • List your business on popular directories such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc.
  • Establish your business through social platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook


  • Make sure customers rarely get a busy signal when trying to reach your business by phone
  • If you can’t hire a full time receptionist, consider hiring an answering service
  • Install a hosted phone system such as VirtualPBX or Grasshopper so you can receive alerts when a call is received
  • Have a system in place to record when calls are received (a simple Excel spreadsheet would work just fine)
  • Always return phone calls

The most important aspect is to always be available and accessible. Keeping in touch with your past customers will most likely lead to continued service and loyalty. This will make your customers want to write good reviews online, refer you to a friend, and generally create a positive buzz about your services.

To read more about the importance of smart customer service, click here

Building a Strong Team Beyond the Holidays

Jason Hamilton of FastCasual recently shared his insights on employee appreciation during the holidays. Most quick-service and fast-casual restaurants remain open during the holidays, leaving little to no opportunity for employees to take time off and celebrate with family. It’s also during this time that foot traffic and product demand is higher than usual.

COO and CFO of Heartland Restaurant Group LLC (doing business as Dunkin Donuts), Anthony Braun, sent a personalized letter to his team acknowledging their “amazing, spirit, unwavering commitment and incredible work ethic,” and reminded them to take the time to stop and enjoy time with loved one during the holiday season. Braun’s acknowledgment goes beyond writing; he makes it a point to visit Dunkin Donuts locations that are open during the holidays. Braun also shows employees his appreciation through gift cards and thanking them for sacrificing time they could otherwise be spending with family.

Braun advocates for demonstrating employee appreciation year-round, not just during the holidays, although during the holidays it’s especially important. “The difference between a decent place to work and the best place to work is not what you’re given but how you are treated,” claims Braun. An enterprise’s culture is directly related to building a strong team that is dedicated to maintaining the values of the brand and providing quality customer service.

When management sets a precedent of humility and genuine care towards employees, these qualities become contagious and employees demonstrate them towards customers, and reciprocate them towards management. This synergy results in outstanding customer service.

Recognizing employees during the holiday season does not necessarily have to be in a monetary form, such as bonuses and gifts.  A handwritten note can show the same sentiments.

Fast Casual Restaurants Face Pressure Post-Recession

The fast casual industry is one of the most successful sectors in the entire restaurant industry, however it’s facing subtle pressure as the economy has bounced back from the recession. Now that consumers have more disposable income, their options have broadened, bringing more appeal to the regular outing at casual and fine dining restaurants. The majority of consumers are “smart spenders” and will continue to apply their savvy spending and saving skills they picked up during the economic downturn. High quality service and value will be the main attractors to maintaining a loyal consumer base amongst fast casual restaurants and overcoming the post-recession pressure.