18 October 2006

This week Dr David Solnet – with a select group of restaurant industry leaders, academics and government officials – celebrated an important achievement, the award of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from The University of Queensland.

This celebration was initiated and hosted by Matthew Hill-Smith, the owner of Pier Nine Restaurant in Brisbane.

Mr Hill-Smith, a long time associate of Dr Solnet, felt that such a milestone for the restaurant industry should be celebrated publicly.

After being sacked from his first job and told he was "not cut out for the hospitality industry," Dr Solnet spent the next 18 years proving his first boss wrong by working his way up the management ladder in restaurants, clubs and hotels.

Changing focus from operations to academe and the rigors of doing a PhD has been quite a challenge, however, David found himself in a unique position to compile a dissertation that would provide direct and relevant benefit to the restaurant industry.

Renowned for its high rates of business failure, David chose to concentrate his PhD on turnaround from declining performance in the hospitality industry, and the links between employee attitudes, customer outcomes and organizational performance.

According to the Australian Business Register, the last four years has seen a dramatic rise in the number of restaurants, cafes and caterers in Australia, from 28,900 to 37,700, representing an increase of some 2,200 per annum.

However of all these businesses, 7.6% of them go out of business each year giving a total churn of some 5000 businesses every year.

“There is a lot more to creating a successful restaurant than serving great food,” Dr Solnet said.

“The industry’s weak understanding of its Key Performance Indicators, some of which are not financial in nature, and the industries’ poor image as a long-term career path need to be addressed urgently.

“These issues are having a devastating impact on individual businesses and the industry as a whole.”

Alongside this new life as an academic, Dr Solnet created a small consulting business, providing advice and a range of other services to the restaurant and retail industries.

Drawn from the principles explored in his thesis and combined with his years of senior management experience, Dr Solnet has created a modified "balanced scorecard" type of measure specifically for the restaurant industry.

The program encapsulates the ideas of Robert Kaplan and David Norton (Harvard Business Review), and tracks a range of important factors that serve as drivers of performance and important financial outcomes.

Queensland restaurateur Brent Ogilvie has been using Dr Solnet’s consultancy system in some of his own business.

“We have been fortunate to have had David consulting to a number of our businesses over the past 2 years, and his contribution has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Mr Ogilvie said.

“He has introduced easy-to-understand, quantifiable measures of both customer satisfaction and employee attitudes and satisfaction.

“The result is then combined with financial performance and folded into an incentive programme that is perfectly understood and appreciated by owners, managers and staff alike.

“This has had a hugely positive impact on our businesses.”

With a new mission to help Australia’s restaurants achieve maximum success via his academic and researcher role at the University of Queensland, as well as his consultancy business, Dr Solnet is excited about his new challenge.
Media inquiries: Genevieve Taubman at GTLIFESYTLE (0414 472 665 or genevieve@gtlifestyle.com.au)

Consultancy inquiries: Dr David Solnet (0411 828 757 or david@davidsolnet.com)