What started life as a Georgian townhouse is now home to Liverpool’s best steakhouse, according to Tripadvisor and its abundance of regulars. We’re talking about Cowshed — meat lovers' dream destination and the place Andrew McHale calls home.
We caught up with Andrew to hear about his passion for steak and why the guest experience is just as important as the juiciest cut of meat.
“The most important thing is to make sure everyone who leaves had a nice time. That’s why you go out to eat, isn't it? To have great food and a lovely time. Especially in the current economic climate, having a great meal and good service are more important than ever.”
Liverpool is no stranger to restaurants. Andrew knows that all too well. “It's hard to come up with an original concept. It’s hard to find something people are interested in.
Plus, some people want to spend a hundred pounds a head, while others are struggling to eat at all. It’s about finding a balance. And finding a balance between something you (as the restaurateur) love and the people who work with you will buy into.
"Our job as restaurants is to wow the customer with the experience. And that’s the hardest thing.”
Understanding that the dining experience matters is key to Cowshed's continued success. That understanding isn’t just something they pay lip service to. It’s a real part of how they operate.
At Cowshed, the servers want to find out who the guest is. “Some new staff are quite taken aback at our approach. They’re like ‘Wait, I don’t know these people’. But that’s their chance to find out.
Some guests might find our approach a bit overly friendly. But we tell our staff to gauge it. That’s your job for the evening. Make sure that whoever sits at your five to six tables has a nice time and that they feel at home.
And feel like they've had good value for money. You want them to leave and go, oh my God, wasn't that great.”
That all comes down to finding the right staff for the job. Which is getting harder and harder. “Since we've come back from the second lockdown, the turnover is so high and it’s hard to keep on top of it.” But Cowshed does keep on top of it by supporting their staff’s wellbeing and reassigning roles when necessary.
“If I've got no staff, I've got no business. I can't do everyone's job at once.”
With staffing shortages continuing, inflation rising and energy prices setting new records, making smart business decisions is more crucial than ever. That’s what brought Cowshed to Superb.
While cost was a major player in the decision, it also came down to the way Andrew and Cowshed feel treated at Superb. “(With our previous provider), we felt like a cash cow. We paid so much money and they offered very little. They didn't care, and we felt that. They just wanted money every month”
That’s what makes Superb so different.
We know restaurants focus on the guest experience… Why should we be any different? “(At Superb), you thank us for our feedback and you pass it to the developers. And you keep us updated on the progress. Not only are you keeping us up to date, but you're saying that you haven't forgotten us. And that you’re going to try and work towards something that works for our restaurant.”
“I love Superb, my staff loves Superb. It's such a great system. And the willingness to listen to feedback and adapt is the best thing about you guys.
The system itself is like playing Tetris. You see gaps in the reservations, you move the tables. It's so different from our previous software, but it's so much better.
And when management asks about functionality that’s missing, we tell Superb. And they help.
That’s how we discovered the Quick Book feature. We needed to see what tables were available instantly. Quick Book made it possible, and now we can seat walk-ins quickly.
Superb make everyone's experience as seamless, easy and pleasant as possible. And if you can do that, you're already off to a good start.”
Cowshed uses Superb for more than just reservations management. From gift cards to no-show protection, they’re constantly exploring the benefits of GXM Lite.
“We used only to offer physical vouchers. But it would be down to the post office and their delivery times. We could only guarantee so far. Before Superb, it was costing us around £1 per exchange per transaction.
When Superb introduced us to online vouchers, my instant reaction was ‘sign me up’.”
The benefits that keep Cowshed working with Superb reach the back office, too. “When a customer says, ‘I didn't change my reservation, I booked for 5:00 pm, not 4’, you can look at the log in the back office and see every footprint the customer made for that reservation. And you see when it's their mistake and when it’s yours.
Combine that with the confirmation email and it's so much easier to sell and be confident. That wasn't something we had with the old system.”
With GXM Lite, Cowshed has the power to take credit card guarantees, prepayments and deposits as a way to stop no-shows. They’ve used that but made it work for them.
“We try not to charge people for a no-show. We use the no-show feature to send a signal. And if someone walks in two minutes later and takes that table, then we won't charge the no-show fee because we’ve used that table.
But we know we’re lucky and are busy with people coming in. Basically, if we reuse the table, we don’t charge for a no-show.”
“The Liverpool dining scene is a curious one. Our city is a melting pot. It’s vibrant. You walk down the street and see so many people from so many backgrounds and it's wonderful.
There are so many new restaurants opening all the time, and I wouldn't just open something for the sake of opening it.
“You’ve got to love the food, and you’ve got to love the final product.”
The most important thing is to make sure everyone who leaves had a nice time. Remember that that is why you go out to eat — to enjoy great food and have a memorable experience.”
At Superb, we couldn’t agree more.
We’re excited to be a part of Cowshed’s story and to help them focus on creating magical guest experiences for Liverpool.
Want to see the difference Superb can make for your restaurant and team? Click here to talk with a product expert.