NM: Flying Star Cafe
Born to entrepreneur parents, Jean Bernstein grew up with a front-row seat to how companies are run. Blessed with innate business acumen and drive, she became a successful, self-described "serial entrepreneur" early on.
Still, Bernstein recalls that, even while making money, she and her husband Mark Bernstein hungered for more.
The missing ingredient turned out to be commercial foodservice.
"We've always loved 'real foods'," Bernstein says.
In 1987, the Bernsteins created what became the Flying Star Cafe in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now with six locations, the fast-casual bakery café serves fine cuisine in a comfy setting. Menu items, all scratch-made, include signature and regional dishes.
"We like all the Markon® produce and Shamrock Farms® dairy products."Jean Bernstein
While some menu items have been favorites since the beginning, the Bernsteins work at keeping the concept fresh.
"We visit and work in our cafes, travel when we can, read and eat!" Bernstein says.
Customer feedback also provides inspiration. "There are many touch points, including our website, social media and Yelp-type sites," she says. "We keep up with all of them almost daily. We respond to everyone; yet, we make all business and operational decisions based on a larger sampling of input."
What sets you apart from your competitors?
JB: We are driven foodies who pay attention to ingredients, flavors and presentations. We craft unique items that would be hard to find in the same combination elsewhere. Our comfy environments are multipurpose.
How do you mitigate rising labor costs?
JB: Reducing turnover is key. We're very conscious of the employee experience and hiring good "fits." We give staff the tools to succeed and are always improving benefits.
How do you try to combat delivery challenges?
JB: Upfront investment in a very competitive delivery provider with a reliable platform and much more favorable fees.
"Shamrock Foods has good people, good service and sources products that differentiate our menu."Jean Bernstein
Have you shifted strategies lately?
JB: Constantly, depending on public health orders. We've pivoted from online ordering/takeout/delivery to 50-percent seating capacity to outdoor-only seating over just a few months.
Staying true to our core menu, maintaining quality and expanding outdoor seating have sustained us. We keep building our online offerings. If seating capacity remains severely reduced, we can offer several of our café products online.
How do you ensure a high level of hospitality via takeout?
JB: Through training and motivating staff. We've provided more meals and perks to help employees through hard times and boost their morale. We also maintain very good communication with customers via our loyalty app, Facebook, Info@, etc.
What changes did you make to help with profitability?
JB: We focused on building back and maintaining traffic first, and then carefully managing our costs.
Have you changed your menu? If so, how?
JB: We made initial reductions, but kept the most popular items unchanged. We limited our bakery selections at first, but kept adding to them as traffic increased. We reinstated our popular seasonal specials and "deals." As much as possible, we give customers the great experience they've always enjoyed.
Which changes do you think will stick?
JB: We learned just how popular outdoor dining is, and that online is here to stay.
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