2 minutes with Misty Kunze
Occupation: Founder, Phone Bookings Service & Hospitality Consultant
Business: Phone Bookings Service / Misty Kunze Consulting
What was your first job in hospitality?
My first real hospitality job was at Lindenwarrah (a boutique 5-star hotel in Milawa, Victoria). I was 15 years old and a very passionate kitchen hand, fairly certain I attended my job interview in a suit! I took my job very seriously and enjoyed every minute of it. I loved the adrenaline, the perfection, the team spirit and passion. Over time I moved up the ranks until at age 18 I was a senior waiter and ready to move to the big smoke (Melbourne...). Before this, however, I was put to work in my Father's olive and olive oil business, working in his shop and market stalls. I have asked “would you like to try an olive” far too many times for one lifetime.
Fast forward to now, what made you start your own business?
Maybe because it's in my blood. My Opa owned a restaurant in St Kilda, before my time. My parents have owned an array of businesses, and of course, my father's olive business which I was involved in. Since I was a teenager I wanted to own a restaurant and worked towards this dream for over 10 years. Finally, when on the cusp of making this a reality, I released, I didn’t want to own a restaurant anymore. But the lust to have my own business was still burning strong. And then my business found me. I was contacted by a range of people, mainly chefs, asking for assistance. Which gave me the opportunity to turn a lot of ideas into reality. So I built a business from my laptop at the kitchen table, as cliche as that sounds! And I have been obsessively growing and developing my business and product offering ever since.
Tell us about your unique offering for clients, the Phone Bookings service?
We are a Melbourne based call answering service specialising in restaurant reservations. We have a sound understanding of the venue we represent, giving the guest the impression they are calling the head office. This service reduces administration labour costs, ensures every guest has the very best first impression and increases revenue by capturing every potential booking, maximising restaurant reservations by working very closely with the restaurant manager.
There are no setup costs or lock-in contracts and plenty of sought-after phone system features, like our “Service Mode”, with which, during service, the restaurant staff will only need to answer calls regarding that meal period. Aside from a small flat rate admin fee, the service is charged on an incoming call time basis, so the cost has a direct correlation to how busy the phone and restaurant is.
What challenges do you think small to mid-sized restaurants face in this fast-growing tech environment?
The biggest one is decision making, which company do we trust? What service do we need? What will save money and time in the long run? There are a huge amount of products and services forcing themselves onto restaurants. It can be overwhelming and frustrating. And this also puts a lot of pressure on owners/senior staff whose experience and expertise is in other areas, like cooking. They are now trying to also make decisions about products and services that are totally foreign.
Also, we become so reliant and comfortable with technology, restaurants don't necessarily have backup plans in place anymore. What happens when it stops working? Can the restaurant still operate without the guests being affected at all? I also believe venues need to make sure they have the math right. Does the expense of this technology pay for itself? Either in reduced costs or additional income?
Why should restaurants be sending a regular EDM out?
EDMs (or newsletters) are a fantastic way for restaurants to communicate to an already engaged, targeted audience. They are a cheap, easy and flexible medium to use. And they have fantastic insights, eg. know who is interested in an upcoming event (by their open/click rate) and target them further.
There are two main ways I believe EDMs should be used. To inform their subscriber list of something new or to communicate their brand. The latter should make up the majority of what is being sent; give your subscribers value, establish what/who your business is by the story you tell and keep your brand at the forefront of their minds.
All reservation staff these days should be asking for email addresses when bookings are made. This can be easily achieved by saying “Would you mind providing an email address for us to send the booking confirmation and updates too?” Just do it.
How do you offer innovation in the workplace for your employees?
The main thing for the people that work with me is flexibility. Depending on the task they are performing, they can work from home or complete the task at a time that suits them. To date, everyone who has worked with me has been a woman, in a situation that isn't necessarily congruent to a “normal” full-time job.
Scenarios like pregnancy, so, therefore, wanting less stressful work than a “full on” corporate job. And want to be able to be comfortable and enjoy the special time. This could mean doing afternoon stretches, having three lunch breaks, avoiding driving in peak hour traffic, flexibility to attend doctor's appointments etc.
And mums, mums make the best workers, so organised and efficient! For mums that have been out of the workforce for a number of years and still have one child at home or part-time child-caring responsibilities, support and flexibility in their work is crucial. All the systems I use are online and can be (securely) accessed from anywhere. Giving me the means to offer a supportive and flexible work environment.