I have yet another tale. Like my previous business story, I don’t know if this really happened. It is, however, an interesting story that I think businesses can learn from.
Everyone knows about Restaurant X. They are the only obvious choice for all the people that work on Corporate Lane. Once it is lunch hour, everyone rushes there to get a hot meal. Their meals are delicious, but the long queue to get a meal makes the experience terrible for many. Some eventually end up buying snacks for lunch.
Jane has always loved cooking. She imagined owning a restaurant from the first time she cooked her first dish and was complimented on its unique taste. She visited a friend who worked on Corporate Lane and just before rush hour, her friend hurried her up to ensure they got to the restaurant before the queue started. Jane was surprised at the large queue and learned from her friend that the size of the queue would increase as more people came to patronize the only restaurant around. Jane didn’t need to hear more. She had to get a bit of the action.
Within the next month, Jane hired an agent and was able to rent a beautiful space for her restaurant – Jane’s Kitchen. She got right to work. Beautiful decor, warm and spacious. Her branding was beautiful, definitely better than the old and decaying signage of Restaurant X. Before long, she was ready for business.
As expected, customers started filling the tables and before long, word spread of the new restaurant with very delicious meals. The owners of Restaurant X noticed and decided they needed to do something.
The next Monday, regular customers got to Restaurant X and saw a notice that they had closed for maintenance and that they would remain closed for a while. They had all heard of Jane’s Kitchen and so everyone moved quickly to avoid the queues that would definitely now be increasing.
Jane noticed the larger than normal crowd. The first day was a beautiful day. The next day, not so much. The crowd had started growing and soon, she could not handle the crowd. People started complaining about the wait time, bad quality of food, terrible customer service… If you listened close enough, you could hear the grumbles. Jane soon realized that she could not cope with the demand and decided to close the shop.
A week after Jane’s Kitchen closed, Restaurant X, re-opened for business. As expected, customers started queuing up for their meal of the day.
Restaurant X had a strategy and it seemed it worked. Could Jane have prevented things from playing out the way they did? Here are some lessons I learned from this story.
1. Learn from your competition
There is a popular saying that experience is the best teacher. I agree. However, you don’t have to learn from your own experiences. One of the beauties of entering into a business that has active players is that you can learn from their mistakes. While your competitor won’t give you their playbook, you can do some research. This is really important before you jump fully into a business. What challenges did they face when starting? Is there any weakness of the model they have chosen to serve their clients? What are the complaints of their users? You can also patronize your competitor to learn what they do well and what they don’t do so well.
One of the obvious issues with Restaurant X was their inability to serve a large number of customers. Managing customers can be a serious headache for any business. This is one of the things that Jane should have considered when building her business. How would she deal with that issue when she opens shop? Probably if she had thought of that, she may still be in business.
2. Plan for growth
If you ask any business person what they want, they would probably tell you they want more customers. More customers equals more money. But ask yourself this. Can you manage more customers?
Business is a lot easier when you have few customers. Have a couple more and it gets complicated. The processes would have to change. You need more staff to manage the growing number. You need to train quickly, create new processes, have quality checks, probably need more space… Things can get very complicated, very quickly.
This is a lesson Jane learned the hard way. She could not cope with the large number of requests and her service quality tanked. She got what every business person wants, but she was not ready for it.
3. Be flexible
No matter how much you plan, something always comes up. Your ability to solve these unexpected problems determines how well your business will weather the storm. Jane was faced with an increasing number of customers within a short time, but she wasn’t able to think of unique solutions to help manage the situation.
She could have done any of the following:
- Get customers to order ahead of time and then deliver their orders to their office.
- Set up an outdoor eating area that can take additional customers.
- Get customers who are queuing to write down their orders, pay and then leave. Their food would be delivered to them or they could come to pick up at a scheduled period.
- Offer snacks and pastries for those who cannot wait for the meals to be cooked and ready.
- Based on the large number of requests she got from the first day, the food should be prepared long before rush hour and kept warm and ready.
These ideas may not have solved all the problems but could have helped her manage the large crowd better while managing expectations as well.
Some opportunities seem too good to be true. Before jumping right in, make sure you understand the challenges you are about to face and be prepared. Businesses face so many challenges each day, but your preparedness and ability to navigate them would determine how long you would last. Goodluck!
Did you learn more than I shared? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and don’t forget to share.