Today I had the most devastating lesson in customer retention. First let me set the stage properly, Pinx did not lose any customers. In fact we (Bumper and I) made our weekly Wednesday delivery to our Law Firm…Money, Money, Money (real firm, but this is a fake name). I personally look forward to this delivery because I get the opportunity to visit my favorite SF Deli “Shorty Dolemite”. Every week I look forward to the Wednesday special their signature Roast Beef sandwich. Oh so tender, mouth watering, succulent, and requiring absolutely no condiments whether you use the Au Jus or not, it is the PERFECT sandwich. In the past 8 months I think I have personally provided 8 converts by my impassioned recounting of the virtues of this monument worthy of the Earl of Sandwich. Again to put this in its context, I am not a fan of sandwiches at all (burgers and Philly Cheesesteaks don’t count as sandwiches). So now that the stage has been set…let us begin.
Today we had an incredible challenging day: 3 jobs that would once more drag us out into a 14 hour run. After the breakfast job went out to the Presidential Offices of California University, we harnessed our energies to get the Short Rib Loaf Lunch out on time. Though we were preparing our own signature dishes – and doing our due quality assurance testing along the way – I could not help but hear the call of my sandwich! We got the order out on time. As a matter of fact we were early. Bumper and I got the buffet set up in record time. We walked our customer through his order: the carnivore, vegetarian, and vegan options. We left the building to strike out for our lunch.
On the way up the block, I noticed the sandwich board did not have the “usual” special. Surely this was a mistake. Or possibly they have the special available for their faithful customers. Bumper and I entered the doorway. With two registers before us both occupied, I was provided the opportunity to scan the board and the menus. This was not boding well. It appeared my sandwich had been erased from all memory like some sick plot twist from MIB 3. When I finally got the front I asked the question to hear the words that felt like, “it’s not you it’s me”…IT’S GONE!
Are you kidding me? The greatest sandwich known to man is gone. Not to return because the drought does not produce the mushrooms for the recipe. On the one hand, I can understand the Chef’s commitment to his craft. I have battled people behind challenging Chef’s parings. When you have a product you believe in, you don’t want to produce an inferior product. After all it’s the product that breeds loyalty. But is it the product alone?
Walter White schooled us that the purer the product (better the quality) the higher the yield, less waste is produced and the greater the profit. We are not talking about River Dance inspiring Blue Magic, but Green Eggs and Ham (figuratively). So the key to customer loyalty is having and maintaining a very high quality product. Consistency. With that consistency, you have to have availability. Can your customers get it? The beauty of this deli, is that they created a demand by only providing the product on certain days creating a controlled demand situation. But the next trick is to keep the customers coming back. With the menu change, I was absolutely gut punched. How many other customers felt the same? Of course, I am very serious about my food. Some people wait in line for Spiderman Foamposites or Jordans, I wait for food. But I digress….
What did this lesson bring home to Pinx? If it’s a fan favorite…LEAVE IT ALONE! For this to work, we have to be engaged with our customers. Their voice has to be loud and clear, so we don’t make moves that alienate the very constituents that are our life’s blood. Keep the favorites just scarce enough, to make the people crave us. Don’t allow supply chain issues cripple our operation. Have a “Plan B” because people are serious about their food. I learned my lessons. It is easiest to keep and grow a relationship with an existing customer (building on what you have) than to find new customers. So I’ll introduce our customers to our tasty treats, they’ll try them and the relationship begins. We’ll keep introducing items as we grow, but we’ll keep the menu both familiar and unique.
Because life is short…everyone should eat something memorable.
The Pop Up has come and gone, and we are left wondering, why did we do this? The big day was a long one – I think we (the brain trust) did a collective 28 hours on our feet – and a REAL introduction to the Restaurant Business.
We have had quite a few successes and to this point everything we have done in the food industry has been moderately successful (food festival, private catering, private chef, commercial catering, corporate events, packaged goods, etc.) so in our minds a restaurant – which is still Chef’s ultimate goal – did not seem like too much of a stretch for us. We’ve served thousands at the food festival, how hard could it be? We have a new found respect for the game.
Our first challenge was getting the space presentable. Our location was a musical venue. It has been used in the past as a pop up, but true to our vision, we had to “Pinx” the place. Easy right? Well not when you only had 9 hours to execute that. Where were you when I needed you Robert Irvine? That two days and 10K could have come in handy. We had to move furniture, clean, decorate, and prep for the service in the span of 9 hours, following an event at the venue. Needless to say we got it done.
The space – once transformed – was absolutely beautiful! Thank you to 2Complete, Tres Chic, Unica Party Rentals, Abby Party Rentals, and Solidified Elements. We have some amazingly talented family, friends, and Success Investors (we work so closely it is hard to call them vendors) without whom we couldn’t pull off half the things we do. Pics will follow.
The kitchen crew was ab fab. Not BBC AbFab like, but truly Absolutely Fabulous. The Graduate ran point (the expediter in the kitchen is much like a point guard, or conductor) like a Steph Curry/Chris Paul Hybrid Borg Child! It was beautiful to behold. I know some of the staff wanted to call her the Shepherd’s Sister, but I appreciated her command of the troops. Mello D and the Director were in the paint holding it down like Mutumbo and Mourning used to back in their old Georgetown Days. They had the Shrimp n Grits and Red Velvet Pancakes orders filled like they had worked for Chef Ramsey in a past life. Sue (finally finding her way off a milk carton once more) and Keisha Burns were on the backend fulfilling the Waffle, Frittata and Fruit orders. We even had a sixth man, well woman actually, we’ll call her glue because she stepped in to help hold Sue and Keisha together. Thank you Glue.
The real anchors though were the Sud Busters three. Like Thor’s compatriots these fellas kept the kitchen purring. It’s funny when you go to a restaurant you never consider all that happens in the back. All you want is your food in a timely manner with good service. I know I never considered it. And I saw firsthand what happens behind the curtain. The mask is off the wizard, and I have much greater appreciation for the unseen workers. Their labor makes it easier for the servers to look good.
So that’s what was happening behind the curtain the real show was the Barnum and Bailey act in the front of the house. After running around like headless poultry for the better part of 4 hours getting ready for the curtain to drop, everything was in place and the guests began arriving 15 minutes early! We started seating the first two waves and everything went swimmingly. Then it was 10:15 and the flood gates of the Foodie Horde descended upon us like the Walkers upon Rick’s horse at the end of episode One. The rush was relentless for the next 3 hours. Our room was bursting at the seams (70 person capacity) the waiting area and onto the street. Chef – I guess this day since she spent the majority of her time on the floor, was GM – ran around so much that her feet (though supported by some lovely pink suede Cole Haan Air wedges) were throbbing by 2PM. [Air wedges…c’mon man! That is some seriously good marketing because where are you going to put the air pocket in a high heel? I’m just saying.]
We missed Hustle Man. He wasn’t able to join us because he was in Cancun or Cabo or some other tropical locale. When you work hard, you get to play hard I guess. Mr. Positivity AKA Swiss Army Knife was on the floor with some new players: the Spanish MacGyver, Print Lady, Baker 2, and Fearless Lady. We could never have done it without them! The Service Assistants, the Hosts, and the runners all had a hand in our big day. The only problem was, we created such a cool vibe, no one wanted to leave. In the end, I guess that’s a good problem to have. Next time though…it will strictly be first come first serve. What were we thinking?
So if you made it out to the kick-off of our newest division in our food empire thank you for your support. There will be more to come. If you were not lucky enough to make it, stay tuned for news on our next happening. I will say this, and this is a paraphrased quote from one of our guests, “the food was so good it gave my (fetus) the itis”.
Life is short…eat something memorable.