Nobody likes it when someone moves our cheese but everyone loves it when a change really enhances our experience. And that's the catch that most businesses — including those in the foodservice industry — face today. How can a company evolve to remain relevant and efficient without alienating its current customer base? It's as tricky as it sounds but when done thoughtfully and with vision, the results can be spectacular.
For example, last month we had the opportunity to have lunch at Allium, the new restaurant concept in the Chicago Four Seasons Hotel. Seasons Restaurant, Allium's predecessor, had a rock-solid reputation in Chicago's fine dining scene. But Chef Kevin Hickey and the hotel realized despite their continued flawless execution, the times were changing. So the Four Seasons Team developed Allium, enrolling the menu in the burgeoning farm-to-table movement, creating an atmosphere that while more comfortable still holds true to the hotel's roots in service excellence and finding new use for some space the restaurant no longer uses. The net result of this has been critical acclaim, including one stellar review from the Chicago Tribune, and strong customer support.
Why is the Four Seasons' move paying off? Simple: the new Allium provides value on the customers' terms. Such is the case with Morgan Tucker, FE&S' DSR of the Year for 2012 (page 20). In four short years Tucker has taken her book of business from virtually zero dollars to in excess of $5 million. The secret to her success? Well, there is none, really. As you will find out by reading Amelia Levin's firsthand account of spending a couple of days with Tucker, our DSR of the Year continues to earn her customers' trust one transaction at a time. From sourcing unique tabletop items to finding much needed warehouse space at the drop of a hat, Tucker solves her customers' problems without becoming one herself by blowing deadlines or skimping on the details.
By providing an experience that is equal parts competent and comprehensive, Tucker allows her customers to focus on creating the best possible experiences for their customers. This approach will undoubtedly allow Tucker to remain relevant to and respected by her customers and supply chain partners for years to come.
The operator community is in the midst of a renovation revolution, as Dana Tanyeri points out in her article on page 32, as many chains look to refresh and revitalize their restaurants. For these renovations to have an impact over the long haul they must enhance the customers' experience.
The ugly, simple truth is that for many companies no shortage of competition exists. But what makes you unique and a desired trading partner or destination dining spot is the experience you provide your customers. So as you go to market be sure to accentuate those positives on the customer's terms.