I have a confession, I almost always go for the “off the beaten path” choice. Tried and true is typically trumped by “I’ve never had that before.” So, you can imagine my reaction when the waiter seated us and handed us the breakfast menu with the announcement: “The buffet is a much better value than a la carte.” But when he saw my nonplused reception he added, “…but none of the local flavors are on the buffet.”
So, what did his announcement really mean? He meant that great food could be found on their standard value-added buffet—eggs (any style), bacon, sausage, pancakes, toast, pastries, fruit, yogurt, and cereal—everything you would want for a completely forgettable breakfast. And, the local flavors? This restaurant was on South Miami Beach so it included Eggs Benedict Cubano, Caribbean French Toast and Grilled Churrasco with hearth-fried eggs. Not exactly your everyday items, but clearly value-unique.
Innovative service is unexpected, off the beaten path service. It delights because it is distinctive, not just excellent. It creates a story because it touches customers in ways “eggs and bacon” service can never do. But, just like “going with the local flavors” takes a willingness to be bold and daring, the return on investment can be well worth the road less taken. Customers today don’t talk or tweet about good service; only unique “you ain’t-gonna-believe-this” kind of service. Sometimes innovative service fails to please. And, there are customers who only want their service breakfast with “hash browns and toast.”
Walk a bit on the wild side with your customers. Instead of recommending the predictable service buffet, deliver an experience more like ice-cold carrot juice with fresh ginger root! Take your customer on a memorable adventure and they will return with their fidelity and funds. And, if you need a bit of inspiration to be great, I leave you with an encouraging line by the imaginary chef Auguste Gusteau in the amazing movie Ratatouille.
You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true – anyone can cook… but only the fearless can be great.