This post starts like a joke, but it’s actually a true story.
Next to our Virtual Lab Automation start-up (notice the subtle SEO promotion 🙂 ) there is a corner restaurant spot.
In the last two years it occupied a Greek restaurant, A Mexican eatery and A Sicilian place. A new venue is being built as we speak.
Located just across the street is one of Tel Aviv’s most successful and long running restaurants – The Coffee-Bar.
Why does one restaurant work so well and why do others fail one after the other ?
It can’t be just the location, since it is crime infested in both sides of the street.
While I don’t pretend to know a lot about running such establishments , I was able, together with my esteemed colleagues, to detect some generic management failures that can shed light on this huge gap.
Design – The Sicilian restaurant had pretty good food. Their Sweet Potato Ravioli was excellent and so was the antipasti. However, the place had no warm feeling of a restaurant. It actually didn’t have any feeling at all. It had too few tables, lost in a big space. The main design element was a red children scooter. From the street it was next to impossible to get a feel of the restaurant.
Marketing – The second problem was that it always had too few people inside. So even if someone walked in he would generally walk right out , because it is a bad sign to when a restaurant is .We were so worried about them shutting down we offered to help them out, but nobody took us on our offer 🙂 .
If they would have attracted enough people for the first time, many would have come back, since the food was good and service was reasonable.
Pricing -the business lunch was a great deal. For the price of the main course you would get drinks, antipasti, focaccia, green salad and a first course in a bundle.
But at the evening their prices nearly doubled , positioning them with the top gourmet restaurants in Tel Aviv, which didn’t really align with the design and ambiance.
Design – they were able to take the depressing design of the Sicilian and make it even worse. When we first entered the restaurant we thought they have not finished the remodeling. The floor was fully covered with wet paint drops. the kind you have when you decide to paint the walls on your own and then spend lots of time removing it with turpentine.
Service – in most of the times we dropped by, the cook was speaking in his cell phone behind the bar and the owner was smoking next to him. The waitress that had a lot of good will, but would bring the courses in the wrong order. One time she cleared the dirty dishes from another table , came to us to take our order and placed the filthy plates just on our clean tidy map.
Positioning – on one of our visits, when it just opened up, the owner asked us for feedback. Ori , being an open and honest person volunteered to say we enjoyed the food, but the meat was pretty dry. The owner explained that in Greece the meat is cooked with a nice dairy yogurt that keeps it from drying. However, since her restaurant is Kosher she can’t do that. Well, if you can’t serve good Kosher Greek food, why would should we eat it ?
Furthermore, there are two good, reasonably priced Kosher restaurants 10 meters away (Libyan and Israeli ) , so the category is quite crowded. Greek food is not amazing , but if you take away its uniqueness , there is not a lot left to desire for.
Oh, and they served free Ouzo for lunch. We program in Python for god sake. There is no compiler to save the day!
The Coffee Bar
Consistency – they always serve great food. The food quality is amazingly consistent, and in the rare cases they have a mistake , they would make up for it and apologize.
Service – the waiters are highly educated students, with a good combination of intelligence, professionalism and a slightly cheeky attitude. Despite the fact that most work there for many years, we can see them being briefed twice a day for over 30 minutes.
Pricing – business lunch is a bit more than expensive than the other options, but given the great quality the ROI is quite good. The dinner menu is 30% higher, which is reasonable. Since the place is always packed they don’t really have a reason for a change.
Lesson of the day
It is not easy to be the best in your business, but it seems some guidelines are always true. Day to day professionalism, consistent service, listening to customer feedback and the right positioning are the key. It is easy to spot quality when you see it, but not always easy to copy.
I’ll update on the new restaurant status once they the remodeling is over …