Opinion: Success Starts With a Chicken

How to consistently deliver a customer-centric focus

By  Kevin Higar, Author, Foodservice Marketing Consultant

Kevin Higar

Each year I strategically dissect the game plans of countless restaurants. While every winning concept has its own unique dynamic, as a whole they also possess seven core success elements referred to in my book, “Always Let The Chicken Lead,” as Nuggets of (Restaurant) Wisdom, or NOWs.

Certain concepts use these NOWs to consistently eclipse benchmark standards. I’d like to discuss NOW No. 1, which forms the foundation upon which the others are built. Surprisingly, it all begins by accepting a chicken as your role model. Let me explain.

How each person subconsciously determines what mealtime decision is really appropriate for them is a product of their cumulative life experiences. These experiences create each person’s Purchase Decision DNA. When people make decisions inconsistent with their Purchase Decision DNA, it creates perceived discomfort. That’s bad!

In the long run, restaurants aren’t going to fundamentally change consumers’ Purchase Decision DNA. When concepts create a message or product that leads consumers to temporarily ignore who they really are, they often look back later and decide it wasn’t money spent wisely. This leads to perceived discomfort. The response? Customers seek to minimize the source of this condition, which often means they won’t come back.

So what does this have to do with agreeing to accept a chicken as your role model? Well, why do you suppose people often choose a rotisserie chicken as their first grocery-store prepared meal purchase? Answer: It creates a strong sense of perceived value, which could very well be the consumer Purchase Decision DNA’s best buddy.

Mr. Chicken offers a solid, predictable flavor profile, the ability to feed an entire family, enough different parts that everyone will find a piece they enjoy eating, and it’s adaptable--what may be a drumstick tonight could be chicken tacos tomorrow. It’s the perfect co-star. It doesn’t look to fundamentally change anyone’s Purchase Decision DNA. Instead, it seeks to play the supporting role.

Successful restaurants do exactly the same thing. They consistently offer customers products and service elements that reinforce their personal Purchase Decision DNA.

I was recently in Chicago and visited a fast-casual concept called The Protein Bar. While I have visited countless restaurants offering “better for you” foods and beverages, many make it possible only if you’re willing to accept menu items that don’t taste good or include unfamiliar ingredients--a recipe for perceived discomfort.

At The Protein Bar, my Pier-nut Butter and Jelly blended drink (love the tie-in with Chicago’s Navy Pier) tasted just like a liquid form of the comfort-food sandwich I grew up with. The rest of the menu was just as addictive. Add sound nutrition, fast service and delightful flavor profiles, and you have the perfect co-star for people seeking quality of life without compromise.

Every customer touch point at this concept supports the true stars of the dining occasion: the customers and their built-in Purchase Decision DNA.

So remember the spirit of NOW No. 1: the importance of restaurants consistently delivering a customer-centric focus. This truly is the first step for foodservice operations that want to exceed industry benchmarks.

Kevin Higar is director of research and consulting services for Technomic Inc., and author of “Always Let the Chicken Lead,” available for purchase at www.alwaysletthechickenlead.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

By Kevin Higar, Author, Foodservice Marketing Consultant
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