CNLP 464: Simon MacRae and Darcy MacDonell on Launching Two Successful In-Person Businesses in a Pandemic, and Bringing Top Level Dining to a Small Market That Usually Doesn’t Support It

COVID was brutal on restaurateurs, and many didn’t make it. Enter Simon MacRae and Darcy MacDonnell, who launched not one but two successful restaurants during lockdown. Not only did The Common Stove and Picnic thrive, but they launched them in a small town famous for not being able to sustain fine food ventures.

They explain how they not only kept afloat, but grew, and attracted a top-level staff in the service sector in the midst of The Great Resignation.

Welcome to Episode 464 of the podcast. Listen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

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The Common Stove | Picnic Tapas and Wine Bar

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Conversation Links

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

Le Bernardin

Crown Shy


Hawksmoor: Restaurants and Recipes

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef by David McMillan

CNLP 395: Seth Godin Shares His Secrets Behind Creative Work, Top Tips for Communicators and How He Learned to Think the Way He Thinks

CNLP 407: John Maxwell on How to Develop Next Generation Leaders, When to Step Back, and What You Can Learn About People from Playing Golf and Eating at Buffets

At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof

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Insights From Simon and Darcy

1. Know Your Values

As most companies do (or should) Simon and Darcy have a set of values that drives their restaurants and culture. They are:

  1. Profit first
  2. Vibe
  3. Taste taste taste
  4. Leadership
  5. Characters with character

Remembering their values allows them to make better business decisions, recruit the right staff and create an excellent customer experience. Do you know what your values are?

2. Recruit for Character

Part of creating a dynamic experience for your customers has to do with the kinds of people on your team. For Simon and Darcy, one of the strengths they look for in staff is character.

Simon explains that while hard skills can be taught, “What we can’t teach is someone to be a wonderful, empathetic character.” He explains that when they recruit someone who cares and sees the job as more than just work, they exemplify that in the service they provide to their customers.

3. Step back and see it from the customer’s point of view

It’s easy to get caught up in your work, that you often forget you likely see your business or products differently than your customers do. You may fully understand what you’re trying to offer, how your website navigation works, the value of your products and the intent of the customer experience. But, what are your customers really seeing?

Each night at his restaurant, Simon stand at the front door and takes note as what a first time guest might experience—looking across towards the wood fire grill, looking to the host stand. He asks, “Is everything perfect? Is everything clean? Is everything tidy? Is everything aligned? Is everyone standing in place? Is everyone walking with purpose? Is everyone doing what they’re supposed to do? Does everything look right? Is the lighting right? Is the music right? Is the temperature right?” Seeing the experience as a customer would allows them to create an excellent and pleasant environment.

Quotes from Episode 464

You are responsible for someone's experience in the time that they are with you. - Simon MacRae Click To Tweet People are hungrier for recognition than they are for food. - Peter Oliver Click To Tweet Once you find someone that has the right character, it makes the rest of the work after that a lot easier. - Darcy MacDonell Click To Tweet When you do things consistently, inconsistency creeps in. - Darcy MacDonell Click To Tweet Fresh eyes are the best eyes. Click To Tweet We want to divorce that idea that for something to be really good in a restaurant setting, it needs to be dressed up and fancy. - Simon MacRae Click To Tweet The restaurant industry is the most dynamic industry in the world. - Darcy MacDonell Click To Tweet Everything that is in the world of business, to some degree or another, falls under the umbrella of a restaurant. - Darcy MacDonell Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 464

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Next Episode: Tim Elmore

Is leadership actually harder than it used to be? Bestselling author, Tim Elmore, says yes. He explains why and shares how meeting the needs of the next generation in the workplace is going to require a more complex skill set. Tim also explores confidence and humility in leadership and what happens when leaders set standards that are too high or offer too much grace.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 465.

CNLP 464: Simon MacRae and Darcy MacDonell on Launching Two Successful In-Person Businesses in a Pandemic, and Bringing Top Level Dining to a Small Market That Usually Doesn’t Support It

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