The Story Of My Life So Far
July 1989, armed only with a sense of humour and an ability to adapt, I wandered into Tijuana 220. I was seated in front of the commanding figure of Ben Filmalter, managing director of Linger Longer Restaurants.
After 5 years in the insurance industry I had taken a very strange step in a very strange direction. I had decided at the age of 28 to learn to waiter for the first time in my life. Not an easy decision when your friends are doctors, lawyers and accountants.
Fortunately its never too late to pay your school fees, and I soon realised that I had found my direction at last. After five crazy months of waitering at Tijuana 220, party, work, dance, sing, six hours sleep and start all over, I knew it was time for a change. A few hundred meters away my training in management was to begin. Under the watchful eye of Joel Katz, Saul Mervis and Alan Pick my training as an assistant manager began. Long hours, late nights, hot grills and hours in the walk-in fridge have chased off many an assistant manager, but thanks to some kind words and two books that were to change the way I viewed the industry, the public and myself, I stuck it out. (The books in question: McDonalds Behind the Arches and How to Swim with the Sharks by Harvey McKay, should be compulsory reading for all assistant managers)
By the way, you Johannesburg-based food lovers, the above mentioned trio now run two of the finest restaurants in Jhb. Visit Saul & Joel at “The Grillhouse” in Rosebank and Alan at “The Butcher’s Shop” in Village Walk. Tell them I sent you. It won’t help you get a table but they will wonder what’s WRONG with you!
Towards the end of my first year in the industry, Tijuana was to call again. Perhaps I knew I would always return to a restaurant that I considered my own. I was offered the job of manager and jumped at the chance. The next few years working with Ben and John were to be the most frustrating, rewarding, satisfying and informative years of my life. It was only after I decided to leave them and move down to George to open my own restaurant that I would realise the wisdom and value of the lessons I was learning.
After eight years in the industry I finally decide to take the “Giant Leap” from the relative comfort of manager to the excitement and stress of the “Owner Operator”. Bidding farewell to friends and family I headed South in search of fame and fortune and an opportunity to put to use all I had learned from some of the finest restaurant operators and innovators one can hope to meet.
First it was off to auction after auction to acquire the equipment I needed to begin my new venture on a shoestring budget. Luck intervened and I was able to pick up some amazing bargains and the journey had now begun. I purchased a 40-foot container loaded it up with all my equipment and headed off. NOW THE FUN BEGINS!
“I’ve opened many a restaurant” I have often heard managers boast, BUT may I suggest that until you’ve tried it with your own money, don’t shout it too loud. All the lessons, the arguments, the discussions and the debates I had had with previous employers came flooding back to me. The value of the years watching Ben operate and were now beginning to pay dividends.
The concept I have chosen is one I believe I am familiar with. Based on a small Southern American street scene in 1929, I have opened Reel ‘n Rustic restaurant extra-ordinaire. The menu items are distinctly Southern, with favourites such as Blackened Fish and Clam Chowder. The décor is unique, featuring a 16m mural adapted from photographs of the late Walker Evans, who traveled America in the 20’s and 30’s snapping up shots of everyday life in small towns across the continent.
The transformation of the premises was remarkable; days of sheer frustration were followed by days of pure joy, as nine years of dreams seem to unfold before me. Although not for the faint hearted and certainly only for those with experience in the industry, I recommend it to all who have the opportunity.
I am often asked “Why George?” Well I believe to be competitive in a market such as Cape Town or Johannesburg it would take greater funds than I had available, so it was off to the peace and calm and magnificent settings of the Outeniqua Mountains.
The opening came and went in a flurry, and now two years later I begin the next chapter with the opening of Reel ‘n Rustic’s Wilderness Grillroom.
Below is a list clients that I have done work with in various capacities . From speaking engagements, web development, marketing & branding strategies to business & restaurant consulting. I would love you to join my ever expanding list of clients and would welcome an opportunity to sit down with you and see how I can partner together to grow you company or your business.
I have included a few references below from satisfied customers and delegates at many of the conferences or events where I have spoken.
As we have mentioned before, “I do not work for our clients, I work with our clients” and for those who wonder whether making an investment in the upliftment and training of your staff is worth the risk given that so many leave, consider the following. “What if you decide not to train them and they decide to stay!?!”
I look forward to hearing from you shortly. Contact me today…
I often refer to himself as “Just a Waiter Who Got Lucky!” After 27 years in the hospitality industry including 3 years as the marketing manager of one of SA’s leading brands (The Mugg & Bean), I bring my own brand of humour and understanding to the weird and wonderful world of marketing.
Starting off as a waiter back in 1988, my experience in customer service and marketing has included owning my own Top 100 Restaurants and working with some of the great innovators and trend setters in the hospitality industry. In 2003, I was instrumental in winning “The Brand Builder Of The Year” at the FASA awards.
Today, my company MikeSaidWhat? works with companies and individuals from all industry segments, advising them on branding strategy, market development and customer service. MikeSaidWhat? specialises in the development and implementation of social media strategy for all business. My ability to impart his knowledge in a humorous and down to earth manor has made me a sought after speaker at corporate functions and conferences.
“If you want to be in someone’s memory tomorrow, you had better be in their life today!”
All work and no play would make Mike a dull boy. Fortunately I am surrounded by people I love, people I like and hopefully they like and love me too. Leader of the pack is my teenage daughter, Sasha (aka bubster or Sashki Lashki) who keeps me young and teaches me something new every day.
I am a bit of an adrenaline junky, so armed with my action cameras, a drone and fair dose of “Moxie” I head out whenever I can to slide down a wire, jump off a cliff or out of a perfectly good airplane.
I am a big fan of historical and political documentaries, true detective shows and of course Californication.
Marketer, Public Speaker, Committed Dad
& Part Time Adrenaline Junky
Whether you would prefer it online, through Zoom or in person (I will spot you to a milkshake, my treat) I am certain we can find a moment to connect and explore some opportunities together.
Or call or message me directly +27 81 398 2190
Bidvest Prestige Services
Bowrng Levin Dance School
Bugatti Taste Café
By Brenda Events
Cost OF Sale Tracker
CQS Performance Solutions
Devorah Kurr Wellness
Dreirs Original Hardware
Flavours Of Life
Franchise Association Of South Africa
Ghekko Staffing Solutions
Hatzolah Medical Rescue
Kings Consolidated Foods
Kwota (PTY) Ltd
Let’s Bid Auction
Mossel Bay Zip Line
Mugg & Bean
N1 Media Solutions
National Restaurant Association USA
ORT South Africa
Pizza On The Fly
Presents With Presence
Quay 4 Consulting
Restaurant Association South Africa
SA Reds Data Management
SME Survey South Africa
Soft Coffee Holdings
SoReal Auto Parts
Super White Maize Meal
The 5 Peas
The Daily Coffee Cafe
The Far Canal
The Grand Café Cape Town
The Grillhouse Rosebank
The Grillhouse Sandton
The Local Grill
The Restaurant Code
Unilever Food Solutions
Upstairs At The Grillhouse
mike [at] mikesaidwhat.co.za
+27 81 398 2190
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