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"The" Quintessential Restaurant Experience

I was born in San Francisco. My dad gripped cable cars when I was a kid. We lived on a very steep hill in China Town. I am San Francisco to the core, complete with a strong parochial view of anything San Franciscan. Just like Tony Bennett, my heart will always be there.

What sets it apart? San Francisco has things no other city can boast. Cable Cars. Golden Gate Bridge. Lombard Street. Sour dough bread. Alcatraz. It is "the" City by the Bay, not merely "a" city by the bay.

I had a chance recently to share a meal with fellow consultant Tom Pryor and a friend of his who were on assignment in San Francisco. I came to town for a client meeting and Tom invited me to join them at McCormick & Kuleto's on North Point in Ghirardelli Square.

The experience was everything I expected. The view was amazing - I could see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from my table. The service superb and the food delightful - just as it would have been in any one of the other great restaurants along the water and in other parts of The City.

And that raises a question:

If you are a top-flight restaurant in any city,
how do you differentiate yourself from
the other great restaurants in the same zip code?

You expect greatness in a world-class restaurant, regardless of the location. But McCormick & Kuleto's did something that set them apart from their elite crowd.

Tom had made reservations the day before our visit and had provided his telephone number when asked to do so. On the morning after our fantastic dining experience Tom received a phone call from the manager asking about his meal and thanking him for choosing McCormick & Kuleto's over all the other choices he had for the evening.

The folks at McCormick & Kuleto's recognize the commoditization of their industry, and they've taken a unique and very simple step to set themselves apart. They aren't satisfied with being "A" great dining experience. They want to be "THE" great dining experience that calls you the next day to thank you for choosing them.

  1. Get your leadership staff together and make a list of all the things you do well.
  2. Then make a list of all the things your competitors do well.
  3. Cross out anything on your list that shows up on their list.
  4. Now, look at the items still on your list and ask, "Could someone else do these if they tried?"
  5. Cross out the items that could be copied.
  6. Are you left with anything?
  7. Now, brainstorm ideas you could do that no one else does? Be careful. The temptation is to do more of the same only bigger, cheaper, louder, stronger, softer, tastier or with more variety.
Note - McCormick & Kuleto's didn't WOW us with their culinary skills or the size of the portions. They did something unexpected and unrelated to their core product.

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