Just before the New Year, I was having lunch with my good friend, a restaurateur; I'll call him Chef M. We were eating at one of Chef M's two highly regarded, very successful neighborhood bistros in Portland, OR. My rockfish was a gorgeous plate of buttery, flaky goodness. Across the table, his duck confit looked scary delicious.
We were meeting to discuss some Web site/blog/social media ideas for his soon-to-be-launched third restaurant, scheduled to open this spring. (Yes, notwithstanding the end of capitalism as we know it, he is opening a third restaurant.)
The food was delicious, but the lessons were even better. The choreography of the dining room staff—all alert anticipation—coupled with Chef M's insights into how successful restaurants work, provided invaluable lessons that I thought were applicable elsewhere. The whole vibe was thought-provoking and terrific.
If the walls could talk, they would have said, "We like what we're doing here, we do it well and we like sharing it with our customers."
As I listened to Chef M talk, I became convinced that the fragile nature of the restaurant business has more than a few things in common with the fragile nature of doing business on the Web.
What Is the Menu Telling You?
A restaurant is either clean and bright... or it's not, yes? It is either tastefully laid out, welcoming and warm, or is too slick and clever for its own good or perhaps it's dumpy and stuck in a time warp. It serves fresh food or not. Maybe it serves processed, poorly prepared dreck. Through menu, wine list, service, décor, and value, a restaurant reflects a keen understanding (and respect) of its core customers. Or, it does not.
I'm sure that each of us, from personal experience, can point to any number of examples all along the good-experience/bad-experience continuum in dining. What comes to mind for me is a long-ago disaster in Albuquerque that involved an uncooked cheeseburger. If only I could forget.