Sometimes the most blazing insights into strategy come at the most unexpected times. Here’s one of them. Last year I was at a gathering outside of Copenhagen and was introduced to a restaurant manager who had just returned to the city after years of overseas assignments. We began chatting and he asked what I do; I said I was writing a book on strategy. His eyes lit up and he proceeded to tell me his own business story.
For most of his career he had served as the manager of various Ritz Carleton restaurants in exotic places around the globe. His wife got homesick and wanted to return to Denmark, so he was now managing a once-prominent restaurant some distance off Stroget, Copenhagen’s main pedestrian street lined with shops, bistros, and life around the clock. His restaurant had long been known for it’s sophisticated Italian food and had been quite successful for years, —until competing eateries successfully introduced a variety of savory new cuisines.
Various chefs had responded to the competitive challenge tactically, adding all manner of new dishes to the menu. The result by 2012 was that no one knew what the restaurant’s “secret sauce” was all about—literally and figuratively, and the business continued to drift while neighboring restaurants thrived. By the time my acquaintance was hired, there wasn’t much left to lose. Taking up the job in the fall,
with winter coming fast, he realized he had to think strategically. For him, the process began by asking the simple question: why would people walk two-and-half blocks to our restaurant?
Wow. That simple question embodies the essence of strategy, whether you’re selling upscale veal or downscale pizza. It cuts to the core issue of what your business stands for, and why it matters. More on that in future blog posts.
So what’s YOUR company’s stop-in-your-tracks question? Please leave a comment and give your voice to strategy.