Business and Operations
From the Editor’s desk: April May 2013
Will they remember me?
By Laura Aiken
A pizzeria cannot rest on the laurels of its high-quality food.
Unfortunately, great food on its own will not make your restaurant
memorable enough to trounce your competition.
A pizzeria cannot rest on the laurels of its high-quality food. Unfortunately, great food on its own will not make your restaurant memorable enough to trounce your competition. The ugly truth is that there is a lot of great-tasting pizza out there, and although pizza makers take biggest pride in their own pies, I say put on the critic’s cap and take a hard look at what else you’re offering.
These thoughts were sparked by two experiences: first, I heard a lecture by the always-excellent Joel Cohen at Pizza Expo on word-of-mouth marketing that was chock full of ideas to create experiences for your guests and get them spreading good gospel. Shortly thereafter, I was refuelling at a place in Las Vegas called China Poblano. It’s Chinese and Mexican, more side by side than fusion, and like nothing I’d ever encountered. Twenty-vegetable fried rice alongside Barbacoa tacos washed down with a cold blend of green tea, beer and tequila was certainly unique.
Ironically, for a place that rides a reputation of causing an inability to recall nights prior, Las Vegas is champion of memorable experiences. Its combination of hardcore hospitality and adult amusement park is tough to beat. This year’s jaunt to Pizza Expo was my 10th touchdown in the entertainment capital, and despite the variety of eateries on offer, on each visit I find myself looking forward to returning to the same kitschy haunts time after time. This Chinese-Mexican non-fusion is just the type of place I return to.
It’s these kinds of things that stick with you long after the remnants of taste have been slayed by the toothpaste. So, I thought back to the most memorable restaurants I’d been to, and what it was that made them such cerebral chewing gum. Sometimes it was restaurants that offered an experience, such as La Cremerie in Paris where there was no menu to order from, about six tables and a chef who brought you what he had that day. It was confusing, but in a good way.
Or Diablo’s, a casual Mexican restaurant that has a bathroom attendant alongside a bevy of fresh-up toiletries and candies – the last thing you expect in an open-air happy hour joint.
Places with funky signs and paraphernalia also were easy to recall. I went to Frank & Teressa’s Anchor Bar, home of the original Buffalo chicken wing, about two years ago but I can still picture the interior of the joint, every inch plastered with a clipping, a sign or some other oddity to stare at.
Joel Cohen’s word-of-mouth seminar touched on these differentiation tactics and more. Here are some of my favourite ideas he put forth: tell a story no one else can in the form of an analogy (we sell enough wings in a year to fill a Boeing 747); personalize your front door sign with the chef’s name and add some humour; post “meet the staff” head shots along with their hobbies to show guests who’s looking after them; randomly give out lottery tickets; differentiate your delivery drivers by having them don suits and ties; and run a “did you know” marketing campaign focusing on your restaurant story and ingredients.
So, what makes you memorable? If your first reaction is to answer, “Why, my pizza of course!” I agree this is undoubtedly imperative, but what else? What do you offer that is unexpected? How do you surprise your guests? Let’s give them something to talk about.