How to Let Your Restaurant Become Irrelevant

by garyasanchez

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Do you believe that as a chef or restaurant owner that you are in the business of feeding people? What's going to happen to your business when your customers are able to buy meals from their thousands of neighbors, from people they know, like and trust as a neighbor much more than they kow, like and trust you and your restaurant staff?  

The restaurant business is one of the more competitive businesses in America and the World, and if a website that was launched last year in the San Francisco Bay Area gets traction, that competition will only increase exponentially for restaurant operators across the Globe and locally in Albuqueerque and in Santa Fe.

Do You Have Enough Competition?

If you don’t have enough competition – whether it’s from the 324 other sit down restaurants found in and around Santa Fe, the 1,000+ restaurants in Albuquerque, or whether it’s the latest Fast Casual Chain that tested successfully in Denver last year and that’s making inroads among your regular crowd, then I can assure you the level of competition you have is only going to get more intense!

One of the scariest trends is to see that meals are now being crowd sourced via the sharing economy and it’s right around the corner!!

What is

By now, most of you have heard of “The Sharing Economy”.  If you haven’t it’s a reference to websites such as, and where people “rent” assets from other people rather than from established companies.  For instance, Uber doesn’t own the cars that carry passengers to and from locations, private citizens do.  Likewise, AirBNB doesn’t own the rooms people choose to stay in (as a hotel would) but rather private citizens do. describes itself as a place where “We want to help people feed each other better” but what it really is, is a website that brings the sharing economy into the restaurant business. website header is coming for your restaurant business







Just like Uber has disrupted the taxi cab industry and how AirBnB has disrupted the hotel industry, get ready for Josephine to disrupt the restaurant industry next.  As a restaurant owner or operator, if you thought competition was tough now, just wait until you get an additional 5,000 home cooks who are able to sell meals to their friends and neighbors (probably at your expense).

It's Time to Take Your Marketing to the Edges

How will you compete against 5,000 new food venues?  I’ll tell you how you compete. . . it’s called marketing!  What does it mean to take your marketing to the edges?   Edge-crafting is a concept where you take an idea and push it as far as you can while still keeping it intact.  As Seth Godin describes it with an example:  “Running a restaurant where the free prize is your slightly attractive waitstaff won’t work–they’ve got to be supermodels or weightlifters or identical twins.”  It’s Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail where he’s flipping bottles and catching them behind his back before anybody had ever seen such a show!  It’s The Hennessey Venom GT, which for a mere $1.2 million will buy you the fastest production car In The World to drive at 270.49 MPH   Edgecrafting is the Heart Attack Grill which offers the most unhealthy and gluttonous burgers in America (the single, double, triple or quadruple bypass burgers).   

I remember growing up as a kid, my parents would take us out for a steak dinner to a place called Pinnacle Peaks which advertised a “Cowboy Steak”.  How do you edgecraft a joint that caters to cowboys?  Why, you scare away the city slickers by establishing a policy of “No Ties Allowed” and if a city slicker tries to visit wearing a suit, then you cut the tie off with a pair of scissors.

Pinnacle Peak cuts off neck ties.

Don't wear a tie to Pinnacle Peak's.









In addition to striving to be the “–EST” (biggest, fastest, unhealthiest), you should also consider a couple other elements of what your brand stands for.  

  1. You need to stop thinking of yourself as just selling food.  Instead, you need to sell an experience or a movement or a cause or a lifestyle, or a set of values – YOU NEED TO CREATE A STORY;  Does Grant Achatz at Alinea sell food, or does he sell a molecular gastronomy laser fucking light show (excuse my language)?  Even if your menu is the antithesis of the food Alinea serves – maybe you really and truly embrace the slow food or farm to table movement just as much as Alice Waters did in 1971 as she was starting Chez Panisse, you need to tell your story in a way that those who value locally sourced food and better tasting meals can embrace and live the story within the four walls of your restaurant.   Heck, even Chipotle understands better than most the need to develop a story to impress its customers (at least before its most recent health concerns).  





    Most of our customers know how to cook,” said Wang.

    “And they want home-cooked food, restaurant food.”

    Heck, maybe you show a short video in a private room to every diner who enters your restaurant before you seat them at their tables?  It won’t be long before little old lady Mrs. Smith in Santa Fe is going to be selling hundreds of dishes a week when her story becomes “Her cooking reminds you of your mom’s cooking at home”

  2. Now, think about and answer this question:  Why do your regulars keep coming back to your restaurant?  Is it because they want to be seen by City politicians?  Are you the only place in town that puts up with them entering your restaurant in their pajamas?  Are they trying to impress their friends by telling them you wait on them hand and foot and you give them the same seat every time!  Are they trying to impress dates?   Do they have a craving for a particular dish that only you can make to their tastes?  How can you cater to the most loyal customers you already have?  They’ve already bought into a story they tell themselves about what it’s like to eat at your restaurant.  It’s up to you to learn what that story is and articulate it for the rest of the world to hear.  

Marketing is challenging.  All too often, business owners fall into the trap of focusing on marketing tactics –What should I do?  Should I blog, should I send emails, should I create video, should I tweet on twitter, should I buy Facebook ads, should I send out coupons…?  The possibilities are endless…  It’s a major reason lots of people get overwhelmed when they think about marketing.  

The best marketing, however, doesn’t happen at the tactical level – it happens at the strategic level.  What does your brand stand for and how is your brand positioned against your competition.  If you’re not thinking about your competition, you’re avoiding a harsh reality which is – your customers have a LOT of options and choices of where to buy their food and where to dine (assuming they even decide to dine out at all).  

How Do You Plan to Compete?

I'm just a consultant and observer.  You as chef and restaurant owner are in the trenches fighting it out. Seriously, what ideas do you have to be more than somebody who only feeds people?  Feeding people is soon to become a commodity.

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