Fresh or Frozen

Learning from this experience will perhaps help us all become better marketers. Here's the story:

Went to lunch today to a spot visited perhaps twice a year. My friend and I walked in the door and almost simultaneously started searching for the menu. Nothing. Where the 'specials board' once sat was nothing but an empty floor. Then, we spotted the whiteboard - on the opposite wall. Finally, we found menus at the end of the counter. After about 5 minutes, I realized the name of the joint had changed. Hmmm. What's up with that?

We both placed our orders and I thought mine was a really, really simple one: the All-American cheeseburger. After a few minutes chit-chatting with my friend at our booth, we were interrupted by a guy who turns out to be the restaurant owner. He asked me what seemed like 20 questions about how I wanted my burger. My initial thoughts were "Didn't I already tell the girl who took my order?" Not long after that, our food arrived. It was OK. Nothing special and nothing to tell anyone else about - - at least that's what I thought.

Minding our own business and chomping down our lunch, we were once again interrupted by Mr. Restaurant Owner. This time, he was in a full-throttle sales mode. Without hardly taking a breath, he proceeded to tell us why we should order lunches for our businesses through him and why his food was so good because it is fresh daily, etc. OK, I understand. A fairly new business and he's a bit excited to tell us about his business. But what was wrong with this tactic?

1 - He interrupted us without permission assuming we wanted to hear his sales pitch while we were attempting to eat our lunch

2 - He constantly repeated himself and over-emphasized what may otherwise have been decent selling points

3 - He contradicted himself - - in one breath he told us the food was prepared fresh daily and in the next breath promoted his pastries which he receives frozen, then pops them in the oven!

4 - He broke a major sales law by explaining that his prices were going up due to someone else's problem (the gas prices)

Numbers 3 and 4 are worth exploring a bit. I can't think of a worse example than for a restaurant owner to brag about fresh food and in the next sentence tell me some of it is frozen and simply 'heated up' in the oven. What's your answer, sir? Do you offer fresh or frozen food? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the conflict.

In number 4, he was attempting to point out menu items (again, while we were trying to eat) that he thought would interest us, but then said a new menu was coming out within a week. Keep in mind, this place just opened less than 2 months ago. Here's the kicker: he said their prices were going to be higher because of "you know, gas and other stuff like that". Ouch.

Lessons learned:

Create a brand that means something. I left that place with more brand conflict than anything else. What about an outstanding lunch experience that I would want to tell all my friends about? How about emphasizing true freshness in all menu items? Our brand experience was negative. The restaurant brand doesn't exist - in name, atmosphere or experience (well, it does in a negative way).

Ask permission to interrupt patrons or customers. That's a fundamental law of marketing. We're all interrupted dozens of times a day with commercials, emails, etc. Be strategic and tactful when you want to express a message. How about offering an incentive to come back to this restaurant as first time diners? How about coupons to pass along to our friends and colleagues? The list goes on.

Seth Godin says to create 'remarkable' experiences. He's right. Delight the customer instead of irritating him. Be known for something great, unique, special, beneficial, outstanding, etc. Eliminate contradictions in your business. Be consistent and let your brand grow your business.

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