Months ago I was listening to a prospective client of mine who owns a restaurant complain bitterly. You see, someone else was opening another restaurant that had the same type of food just a few blocks away. And this, in a small town where there aren’t a lot of customers already. “Why would they do this? They’ll never succeed.”
Well, they are succeeding admirably.
The individual complaining was doing so while considering hiring me to help them with their business marketing. I had already advised them to put their team members in uniform, fix the lighting in the restaurant, put on some music and simply smile when people came in. Just good free advice, frankly.
In fact, I simply told them to read this blog and they’d have tons of great, free tips for running their business. Of course, I’m biased as heck.
So why is the competing restaurant doing so well? It’s beautiful. The lights all work and they’re in attractive fixtures. The paint and decor is clean and in good repair. The team members are all in uniform and smile when you come in. And the kitchen is at capacity. While my prospective client’s restaurant had periods where there were no orders coming in, the new place is hopping with times where the wait for “the same thing” is often quite long.
It’s been open now long enough that it’s not just the curious people who always try new places. No, there are already a lot of good reviews on line from people who have gone more than once and had a consistent, good experience.
The point of this post is that people had been asking the existing business owner for years for certain items on their menu, but they never listened. All the items that people have been asking for are on the menu of the new place. The owner of that new business tells me these items are selling well. You know, the items the existing business said nobody wanted.
You could go into my prospective client’s place when it wasn’t busy, which was often, the employees would be sitting there on their phones in their slovenly outfits. Your order was perceived as an interruption to whatever they were doing. Clearly it wasn’t reading this blog.
Often times your customers are your greatest resource. They’ll tell you what they want. Perhaps it would be advisable to make a check list of these requests. If enough people ask for something, perhaps a trial of that item. Now if you’re a Mexican restaurant, perhaps hot dogs might not be a good menu item and we all know some customer requests can be quite ridiculous. But, within reason, customer requests can be valuable. There were some vegan items that customers asked for regularly and even talked about on line with the first restaurant. They never showed-up on the menu of the first place. They were on the menu at the new place.
However, when I had the vending machine business people would constantly request “healthy snacks.” I asked specifically what they wanted and nobody ever was specific so I found several healthy items that I thought were also tasty. Typical vending machine stuff.
They all rotted on the shelves. So, sometimes people make requests that don’t work. That’s why it’s good to have trial runs of customer requests. The customer isn’t always right. And nobody ever focused grouped Disneyland - there’s no substitution for a passionate owner with ideas that sometimes seem crazy.
It’s also never a bad idea to look at components of chain operations and see what makes them successful. Almost universally their operations are in good repair with consistent experiences. A McDonald’s hamburger is the same here as it is in Russia, China, or Germany. Like it or not, it is what it is and it’s always the same.
The whole reason the competing business found opportunity is that the business owner I had talked to had ignored the opportunity. There is no demand to create a competing business for several of the other restaurants in town simply because they do such a complete job serving their customers. But, in this case, the door was left open. Unfortunately, where I live these doors are left open quite frequently.
When opportunity knocked, someone else answered. And they are doing a booming business. Meanwhile the first business owner has since closed their doors. And nobody is surprised.
Are you leaving the door open to opportunity that someone else is likely to find the key to?