Houston restaurateurs share business lessons learned

Restaurant Boot Camp

A panel of restaurateurs discussed business lessons learned at a panel event hosted by Briggs & Veselka. Eric Sandler/CultureMap

Storied Houston restaurateurs and business and media professionals gathered last week for Restaurant Boot Camp, an event that highlighted Houston's vibrant restaurant landscape. The corporate conference center of Briggs & Veselka was aptly decorated with checkerboard tablecloths and "menus" of the event agenda. Panelists addressed such diverse and timely topics as restaurant concepts and marketing, operations, fundraising and employee retention. Briggs & Veselka, one of the few accounting firms with a group dedicated to the restaurant and hospitality industry, sponsored the event, alongside partners ADP, Culturemap and NextSeed.

A panel discussion entitled "Lessons Learned" featured insights from some of Houston's top restaurateurs, including Tony Vallone (Tony's), Ben Berg (B&B Butcher), Lonnie Shiller (Shiller Del Grande Restaurant Group and Paul Miller (GR8 Plate Hospitality). Moderated by CultureMap and InnovationMap's parent company, Gow Media, CEO David Gow, the panel highlighted the rise of online marketing and social media. Berg pointed out that guests at his restaurant consistently take pictures of their food to post on social media, providing natural promotion of the restaurant. All cited how, in the past, they would have to wait weeks for a letter, but now get feedback from guests immediately by reading online reviews.

Vallone, whose iconic restaurant celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this month, cited the need to innovate.

"We must continue to evolve. We can't rest on our laurels," he says.

All businesses need to be well-funded. In a presentation called "Show Me the Money," Tae Mi Lee of NextSeed shares how restaurants can raise capital through crowdfunding. NextSeed provides the legal and fundraising infrastructure to raise either debt or equity in small increments from a large number of participants.

As a previous CultureMap article mentions, several Houston restaurants have raised funds through NextSeed, and two new Houston restaurant concepts currently have campaigns live on the site. Even in this discussion, marketing emerged as a key topic: the fundraising effort provides visibility for the restaurant, and investors inevitably become committed to its success, developing a potentially large and loyal following.

Another hot topic: finding, motivating and retaining good people. Thomas Nguyen, chief marketing officer and partner at Peli Peli, cited how his group invests more time up front in the hiring process.

"We try to ask deeper questions to learn more about whether the person will be a good fit."

Sam Herskovitz of ADP noted in his presentation, "Attracting and Retaining People," that good team leaders are those who engage and acknowledge all members of the team. There was universal acknowledgment that the quality of the team is a key driver to providing a consistently great experience for guests.

Another interesting discussion focused on new technologies. New tools such as point-of-sale and reporting technologies have been helpful to many, but several cited their concerns over food delivery apps such as DoorDash and Uber Eats. Though a great convenience to those who wish to eat at home, the consensus of the restaurateurs was negative. The issue: the restaurant loses some control over the dining experience.

Between serving delicious food with excellent service and using innovative marketing and technology strategies, Houston restaurateurs have a lot on their plates. Schiller summed it up best.

"Around the country, people talk about Houston food. Houston has no ocean or mountains," Schiller says. "We have to do something… we go out to eat."

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Houston tops list of most popular destinations for movers in U.S.

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Houston has moved up in Penske Truck Rental’s annual ranking of the country’s most popular moving destinations.

In 2021, Houston ranked first among the hottest U.S. moving destinations, Penske says. That’s up from the No. 6 position in 2020.

“It’s not hard to see why Houston is an attractive city for many people. A booming job market combined with low cost of living and sunny weather year-round make Houston a great choice for building a life and raising a family,” says Life Storage, an operator of self-storage facilities.

From 2020 to 2021, the Houston metro area gained 78,220 residents, putting it in third place for numeric population growth among U.S. metros (behind Dallas-Fort Worth and Phoenix, and just ahead of Austin).

Houston shares the Penske top 10 with three other places in Texas:

  • Sixth-ranked San Antonio, up from No. 9 the previous year.
  • Seventh-ranked Dallas, up from No. 8 the previous year.
  • Ninth-ranked Austin, down from No. 4 the previous year.

Penske compiles the annual list by analyzing one-way consumer truck rental reservations made over a 12-month span.

Houston and its big-city counterparts in Texas continue to see their populations swell for a number of reasons, including warm weather, no state income tax, relatively low housing costs, and plentiful job opportunities. From 2010 to 2020, Texas posted the third largest population increase (15.9 percent) among the states, with Utah ranked first and Idaho ranked second, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“There are lots of places in America with jobs and lower climate risks or jobs and racial diversity, but if you want all three, Texas will take care of you best,” The New York Times noted in 2021.

U-Haul, another provider of moving trucks, ranked Texas as the No. 1 destination for DIY movers in 2021.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Pearland to open innovation-focused hub to support local entrepreneurs

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Entrepreneurs in the Pearland area have a new resource to help them grow their businesses.

The Pearland Economic Development Corp. has launched the Pearland Innovation Hub, aimed at connecting small businesses with programs and services that are designed to contribute to their success.

The Pearland Innovation Hub is managed through a partnership between the Pearland Economic Development Corp. and The Cannon, a Houston-area business networking community for entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate innovators. For now, the hub does not officially have a physical space. The hub is welcoming the local community to their launch party Thursday, May 19, at BAKFISH Brewing.

The Cannon hired Brandy Guidry to run the Pearland hub. She has more than 17 years of experience in business operations; engineering; technical marketing; innovation; and strategic planning, project, and program management.

Among the hub’s offerings are business-plan competitions, business coaching, networking, and programs.

Guidry’s office is at the Pearland Chamber of Commerce. “We can have small gatherings here,” she says. “Our focus is to have as many events at local venues to help promote and patronize the local business owners.”

Pearland Mayor Kevin Cole says in a news release that the hub will “serve to establish Pearland as a community known for innovation and entrepreneurship and where emerging companies want to locate.”

“The Pearland Innovation Hub is a groundbreaking initiative to support existing and aspiring small business owners,” Guidry adds.

A launch party for the Pearland Innovation Hub is scheduled for 5 pm May 19 at Pearland’s Bakfish Brewing Co., 1231 Broadway St.

Pearland Prosperity’s Community Strategic Plan recommended establishment of a hub for entrepreneurship and small business assistance. In April 2021, the economic development corporation’s board set in motion the creation of the hub. Seven months later, the Pearland City Council approved a three-year, $927,000 contract with The Cannon to operate the hub.

Members of the hub’s advisory board are:

  • Matt Buchanan, president of the Pearland Economic Development Corp.
  • Mona Chavarria, owner of A&A Cleaning.
  • Bill Jackson, founder and CEO of Base Pair Biotechnologies.
  • Jim Johnson, president and CEO of the Pearland Chamber of Commerce.
  • Randeep Nambiar, a board member of the Pearland Economic Development Corp.
  • HR consultant Ann Strouhal.

During the hub’s first year or two, it’ll be run through the economic development corporation. But the plan is to eventually transition the hub to its own nonprofit organization that will enter a contractual relationship with the economic development corporation.

Other than the Pearland Economic Development Corp. and The Cannon, the hub’s partners include the City of Pearland, the Pearland Chamber of Commerce, and San Jacinto Community College’s Small Business Development Center.

Brandy Guidry is the Pearland Navigator with The Cannon. Photo via pearlandinnovationhub.com

Houston expert: How to avoid unintentional plagiarism in your research work

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Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s words, ideas, or visuals as if they were your original work. Unintentional plagiarism is plagiarism that results from the disregard for proper scholarly procedures. It’s much easier to commit than one would think, and it has toppled giants in the research enterprise.

From 2007-2020, the National Science Foundation made 200 research misconduct findings, of which 78 percent were related to plagiarism. Here are some do’s and don’ts that will help you avoid unintended plagiarism, a potentially career-killing misstep.

The dos and don'ts

Don’t paraphrase without citing

According to a study of 63,700 students, Rutgers University Business School found that 36% of undergraduates admit to “paraphrasing/copying few sentences from Internet source without footnoting it.”

Don’t forget to add the quotation marks

And don’t forget to properly cite your sources at the end of the paper even if you used any in-text or footnote citations to give proper credit to the primary author.

Don’t copy and paste placeholders

You mean to go back and rewrite it in your own words but are liable to forget or run out of time. (More on this later.) If you copy and paste from a previously published paper of your own, it’s not research misconduct, but it is considered bad practice if you don’t cite it. This is called self-plagiarism.

Do make sure your hypothesis or subject is your own

Plagiarism of ideas occurs when a researcher appropriates an idea, such as a theory or conclusion — whole or in part — without giving credit to its originator. Acknowledge all sources!

Peer review is supposed to be confidential, and colleagues put their trust in each other during this process, assuming there will be no theft of ideas. Once the paper is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it should be cited.

Do use direct quotes

But quoted material should not make up more than 10 percent of the entire article.

Failure to use your own “voice” or “tone” is also considered plagiarism, or could be construed as plagiarizing, depending on how unique the author’s voice is. When there is an excessively unique turn of phrase, use quotation marks and cite (if in doubt.)

When paraphrasing, the syntax should be different enough to be considered your own words. This is tricky because you need to understand the primary work in its original language in order to reword it without just moving words around. In other words, no shuffling words!

Do cite facts widely acknowledged to be true (just in case!)

If it’s something that is generally held within your discipline to be true, or it’s a fact that can be easily looked up – like the year a state passed a certain law – there’s no need to cite “Google” or any generic platform, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Someone reading your work might not have a background in your discipline.

Do run your paper through a plagiarism-detecting tool

Some options are www.turnitin.com or http://www.ithenticate.com.

Sanctions

There are consequences for plagiarizing another’s work. If you’re a faculty member, the sanctions could affect your career. For instance, according to retractionwatch.com, a prominent researcher and university leader was recently found to have engaged in misconduct. Terry Magnuson was accused, and later admitted to, plagiarizing unintentionally.

In an open letter to his university colleagues, Magnuson wrote a startlingly candid statement: “You cannot write a grant spending 30 minutes writing and then shifting to deal with the daily crises and responsibilities of a senior leadership position in the university, only to get back to the grant when you find another 30 minutes free.”

He goes on to say: “I made a mistake in the course of fleshing out some technical details of the proposed methodology. I used pieces of text from two equipment vendor websites and a publicly available online article. I inserted them into my document as placeholders with the intention of reworking the two areas where the techniques —which are routine work in our lab — were discussed. While switching between tasks and coming back to the proposal, I lost track of my editing and failed to rework the text or cite the sources.” Taking responsibility for this oversight, he resigned.

And that brings us to the Big Idea…

The Big Idea

The one thing that trips up even the most seasoned writers is having enough time to properly cite all one’s sources. Give yourself a few extra days (weeks?) to finish your paper and have a peer read it over with any questionable facts or quotes that might need to be cited more appropriately.

Funding agencies take plagiarism very seriously. For instance, the NSF provides prevention strategies by implementing a pre-submission process, and is also attempting to make plagiarism detection software available.

You also may want to take advantage of resources in your university’s library or writing center. There are also several tools to help you organize your citations; one called RefWorks will keep track of your sources as you write in-text citations or footnotes.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Sarah Hill, the author of this piece, is the communications manager for the UH Division of Research. It's based on a workshop given by Penny Maher and Laura Gutierrez at the University of Houston; Senior Research Compliance Specialists at the University of Houston.