Since opening his first Skinny J’s restaurant in Jonesboro 13 years ago, restaurateur James Best has added four more restaurants in four cities across Arkansas.
While Best’s background is in food service, he has found a recipe for success that can be replicated regardless of industry.
Along with growth has come hard-fought lessons learned, putting Best in position to better run his business and giving him plenty of wisdom to share with other entrepreneurs.
“People don’t realize how much work goes into owning a small business,” Best said. “It’s good to learn from your mistakes and learn from what others have done before you.”
Less Is More
According to the Global Brand Simplicity Index study, 61 percent of customers will recommend a brand because of its simplicity, and 62 percent of employees are brand champions for companies that lean into simplicity and efficiency, compared to 20 percent of those who work for more complex operations.
Best was reminded that less is more when cutting more than 100 items from the menu at Skinny J’s. A simpler menu decreased the amount of time it took to train employees, took pressure off of kitchen staff and made decisions easier for diners.
Ask for What You’re Worth
As Inc.com columnist Jason Aten writes, “It's Not Your Job to Save Your Customers Money.”
To put it another way: don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth. Whether you’re selling steaks or software, if you’re providing quality options to your customer base, they’ll be willing to pay a premium.
When supply chain issues led to a spike in beef prices, Skinny J’s increased steak prices nearly 55 percent. Despite the price hike Skinny J’s had its best year ever by leaning into experience and quality.
“Our customers will pay for quality because we make sure it’s worth it to them,” Best said.
Anything worth doing is worth doing right, right?
Consider the approach Best took to opening Eleanor's Pizzeria in 2017. Prior to opening, Best spent a year in the kitchen, fine-tuning his craft. He didn’t want to serve a single slice to the public until he’d perfected the recipe.
“It was me, an empty building and a pizza oven until I got it right,” Best said. “It’s better to wait until a product is right than rush it.”
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic as other restaurants pivoted to curbside pick-up, Skinny J’s elected to remain closed.
It was a difficult decision, but doable thanks to pandemic assistance programs suggested by Best’s banker. They called him with solutions before he knew what his next steps could be.
“A good banking partner will help you in a challenge,” Best said. “It’s important to have somebody who will look for solutions before you even know you need them.”