Monday, July 2, 2012

Business Scene Investigation

The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the disappointed.

The facts:

It looked like the perfect evening:
  • A summertime shindig at a recently-opened lakeside bistro;
  • A world-class chef at the grill; 
  • A pre-holiday weekend;
  • A perfect weather forecast, and
  • A renowned local band providing entertainment.
With more than a month of preparation and provisioning invested in the event, expectations were high.  Instead of a perfect evening, it was a perfect set-up:  only 35 patrons showed. A crime for sure.

The loss the house took that night is still being counted, both financial and psychic.  Certainly, the crowd was far below estimates as indicated by the number of staff on hand. While the diners were oblivious, the pain was clearly evident on the proprietor's face and in his voice.  He had been taken. Big time.

The investigation:

Canvassing the staff and the locals provided some clues as to how it all went down. All the evidence pointed to a hit by three of the five P's of marketing.

Product: there are both a high-end fine dining restaurant and a low-end burger and fries place within walking distance. The bistro seeks to compete with both, but has not created a distinct value proposition that compels diners to consider it over the long-established competition.

Pricing:  A menu for the event was not posted or communicated. Prospective diners literally did not know what they were getting for their $35 Prix-fixe investment.  Were appetizers or dessert included?  No clues offered. Those who attended were taking a leap of faith. That's a lot to ask when you haven't yet built a brand or a loyal following.

Promotion:  Lots of promotional tactics were employed:  flyers, Facebook, emails.  But the reservation line was an answering machine. There was no website and no email.   Strictly a one-way dialogue.  The dinner was set for 6 pm on a Saturday.  For a lakeside resort community, this was an ill-considered choice, as many are still on and around the lake, the locals said.  They said they saw it coming.  But they didn't want to get involved, and no one asked.

The Conclusion:   A voluptuous idea leads to greedy thinking and is felled by execution and aided by a thousand missed details. A classic story of a marketing caper gone wrong.

The Verdict:  It didn't have to end this way. It never does.

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