QuickBizBreak by david weaver

Take a quick break from your biz to ponder new ideas and strategies that will turbocharge your business.

Your Signature Dish

Posted by QuickBizBreak on February 16, 2010

Perhaps it’s memories of my young adulthood that are haunting me, but does locating a business in a ‘strip retail center’ sound like most of the walk-by traffic will be happening after midnight?  Of course the terminology has been around for ages, filling those strips of roadside land with retail leasing clients.

Some of those retail centers are looking quite ‘bare’ in the North Atlanta area and I’m sure all over the country.  Driving past one such retail strip on the way to my son’s school confirmed another dark storefront where once stood another quick-serve sandwich and pizza shop.  My wife mentioned she’d never eaten there, was never attracted to it and never heard anything about it from friends.

As obvious as it appears that there was a lack of marketing, that wasn’t all that was lacking.  The place was actually recommended to me by a food distributor friend so I stopped by for lunch a few months back.

The interior was plain, at best; nothing memorable.  I was hoping for a better experience with the food.  Although the quality of the meats was top-notch, there was nothing really outstanding about the way the food was prepared or served.  A young girl stood at the register, obviously filling a part-time position.  The owner didn’t appear to be around nor a manager nor anyone who wanted to engage me in conversation.  “How is your meal?”  “Is this your first time here?”  “How did you hear about us?”  “Can I tell you about the weekly specialties we run?”  “We’re really well-known for our special <home-made whatever> recipe…people love it!”

Nope, none of that.  And the food alone was, well, just average.  The more I thought about it, the places our family likes to visit for meals are the ones with:

  • A great atmosphere – not stuffy, but clean and friendly, a place you’d actually like to sit down and spend some time with friends
  • Great food – give me some signature dishes that make the meal special!
  • Friendly staff – our regular hangouts know us and we know them, we ask about each other’s kids and discuss sports teams, we feel like family
  • Value pricing – a place I’m comfortable eating at regularly without breaking the bank

Value means different things to different people, of course.  I may want a high-end meal to celebrate a special occasion.  But even there, present a signature dish or special paring that makes the evening special.

Another friend of mine is a local sub shop franchisee (Bruce at Lenny’s Subs).  His franchises have the potential of being average if he approached business like most other sub shop owners.  But he doesn’t.  While the food is definitely fresh and presents good value, I don’t believe that is what is driving his growth.

Bruce’s signature dish isn’t really about the food, good as it is.  It’s Bruce and his team networking throughout the community that really has driven his business – that is his ‘signature dish’ (OK the “Best of” awards don’t hurt).  It’s reaching out through community, business and sporting events, providing great food at great value, regardless of where the customer may be.  Bruce has gone well beyond the four bullet points listed above.

And what is your ‘signature dish’?  Is it a great company culture that ensures the customer is always taken care of, regardless of the situation?  Is it finding a new way to serve a market that makes you stand out as unique?  Is it providing a level expertise that is unsurpassed at no extra charge?

If you were to present a menu to every person who walked through your door (even if you are not a restaurant), what would you feature as your signature dish?  What would you want people to expect – not just expect but look forward to – from you and your business?

Answer that and we might just keep more businesses thriving and in the process, keep those strip centers from becoming bare…


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