The New York Times article and the ‘magic formula’

Many of you have read Frank Bruni’s wonderful article in this week’s New York Times regarding the current state of restaurant business in NYC.  Besides wondering how they got the big three to pose for the photo, I was wondering what stones have been left unturned in the quest for customers at restaurants.  My thought is: somebody is doing it right, and maybe that somebody is you.  Maybe you have the magic formula that is keeping people coming back.  And what is that magic formula?

The magic formula is not price — plenty of non-cheap restaurants are drawing the crowds.  People still want to have the experience, but maybe just once a month instead of once a week.

The magic formula is not location — on a vacation to Portland last month I went to a restaurant where the view out the window included a homeless guy fertilizing a tree, among other colorful moments.  The place was packed and it was a Sunday night (the restaurant was Clyde Common, and it was wonderful).

The magic formula is not specials and happy hours, though those don’t hurt for certain time blocks or days.

The magic formula is not necessarily to be hip, new, hot, the new kid on the block.

The magic formula is this: consistently overdeliver for the price, and (this is the critical part) make damn sure to tell everybody you know that you’re pulling out all the stops to overdeliver for the price. If you make it excessively clear to every customer, vendor, and critic that you’re serious about overdelivering for the price, the message will spread.  If you lay it out clearly, people are more apt to pass it along.

This is NOT the time to cut quality and raise prices.  Quite the opposite.  Keep the prices and overdeliver on quality.

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