« Noted Without Comment | Main| When you get wrapped up in your own industry jargon »

July 10, 2006

What big brands could learn from a local Indian restaurant.

We frequent a local Indian restaurant here in KC. It's a meal we can always count on the kids devouring. We generally get carry-out, and each time, I am surprised and delighted by the joint. It goes like this:

I walk in and say I have a carry-out order. They promptly hand me a chai tea and a small bowl with two gulab jamun (think donut holes soaked in syrup). If I happen to have one of the kids with me, they also bring some milky-mango drink concoction. All of this for free. How many people have I told about this? I don't know. Zillions? Recently, we decided to see if the boys would sit still for an entire meal at the restaurant. I'm sorry to say that the kids didn't comply. While the service wasn't exactly slow, it wasn't exactly fast. Sensing our distress, they brought us dessert a little early. Even though we hadn't ordered it. When the bill came, there was no charge. This restaurant has earned occasions from us because of their efforts. Incremental traffic is the lifeblood of a restaurant. It's paying off for them.

While major brands can't give away the farm and stay in business, there's clearly an opportunity available in the surprise and delight department.  Even if it adds some nominal operational cost. Little, inexpensive things carry large, profitable implications. It's sad to say that things that were once taken for granted, now seem like big extra perks.

We all know about Nordstrom's. What other brands do you think are doing a good job here?


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference What big brands could learn from a local Indian restaurant.:


John, you are so right. I blogged about an experience titled "Little things matter":

And little things do matter. A lot. They become a huge part of how we remember and react to a brand, be it big or small. The brand in my post was Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto. They did something very small, cost pennies, but will be remembered.

BTW - I just spent the last week or so listening to AC # 1 - 19. I was singing along to School House Rock with you guys! Love the show, keep up the great work.

Similar story, in my hometown of san marino, ca.. there is this small(the only one actually) pizza shop that has been around FOREVER....
The pizza isn't the best around, but it's the best service i've ever had at any pizza joint.
If you phone in an order and arrive too early, you're almost religiously given some garlic bread sticks and sauce while you wait... for delivery - i can't remember just how many times i've opened the pizza to find that they've thrown something in it for free(i.e. breadsticks.. a couple times a small calzone with a toothpick flag that says what's in it, etc..)..
They're small, and like i said, not the best pizza around, but if you live anywhere near san marino, you're bound to order from them rather than a big chain... garunteed.
A few years ago i had a talk with the owner(Tony... as in.. the Tony in Tony's Pizza) and we talked about how the pappa johns that opened up down the street didn't hurt his business at all.. I thought that was kind of funny at the time, but now realize why. Cue to today, the papa johns has gone out of business due to "the little guy"

When I work on the Left Coast I always try to stay at the Mondrian for a couple of reasons, but for this one in particular:

My first stay in the hotel was circa 1996 or so. The rooms are minimalist and literally everything within it can be purchased.

Like the bed sheets? $80. The bar set? $65, and so on. It’s all priced out for you.

Each room also comes stocked with a selection of music CDs and on that trip my room had one by a group I’d never heard of. I played it, loved it, and it became my personal soundtrack for the rest of my stay. I thought about purchasing it but after looking at the price-- $35-- I decided I’d pick it up locally on my return home.

Sadly, when I got home I learned the album was very obscure and very much out of print. One local record store manager informed me he MIGHT be able to find a used disc from Japan, but the cost would be around $40.


Fast forward a year and a half and I’m back out on the Left Coast for another production. After I’d finished checking in, on a lark I told the concierge about my last stay with them and about the album I’d listened to 18 months prior. He told me he’d try to look it up in their inventory system and that he’d see if it turned up.

I walked into my room and the phone rang. It was the concierge letting me know he’d found the disc still in their system-- their only copy-- but that no room numbers were attached to help locate it.

I thanked him, hung up, and spent the rest of the week going about my business.

On the last night of my stay, I returned to my room to find the CD sitting on the bed in my room. The concierge had notified the cleaning staff to check each of the rooms and had, himself, checked all the rooms on an entire floor. The disc was located and passed on to me.

No charge.

Since then I’ve probably spent 125 nights with them which, just on the room rates alone, earned the hotel a little over 1,000 times more than the disc was originally valued.

Its the old but true concept of:

Under-promise : Over-deliver


Sounds like Korma Sutra in Westport?? One of my all-time favorite restaurants. You pay $12 for a 5-course meal. It's incredible. We took a big group there one time and they didn't have a table big enough to accomodate us so they literally were jogging around the restaurant trying to find a way to seat us. They went to the back and brought every folding table and random chair they could find in the place and set it for us. It took about a total of three minutes to get seated.

I like Korma Sutra too. Had my first experience out at their Overland Park occasion and they gave me the mango lasse AND a chai tea. Too much food, but I certainly appreciated it.

A similar story, this one about a tire store here in the KC area. A friend of a friend got one tire changed out and on the way back home it went flat on the highway. Ouch. Thankfully the guy had a cell phone, so he called the store and the owner immediately came out to his car, changed all four tires for free and gave him a full refund on the bad tire. Did that friend of a friend recommend the store to anybody else? Don't know, but if I had to hazard a guess...

And then, an experience of mine at the now closed Houlihan's on the Plaza. Ordered a meal of seared ahi tuna. Part of the garnish was cabbage. I decided to eat a piece of it with my tuna and I come up with a metal twistie-tie. I show it to the waiter and ask for the manager. Couple minutes later the manager comes over to the table, I explain the sitatuion and this is verbatim what he said, "Well you know what that means...you win a free desert." The entire table gave him a "you're fucking joking, right?" look and after a little negotiation on my part, he comped my meal. Did I ever go back to Houlihan's on the Plaza? Not a chance.

Good post.

This week, I was planning on buying an iPod as a gift for a client. I wanted to get it engraved. I called the nearest shop to find out if they did engraving: "Yes". How much does it cost? "It depends." It depends on what? "How many letters." Okay, well let's assume about two lines of text. How much? "It depends. I can't tell you."

Now, I don't need to know down to the dime. I need to know, is it fifty bucks or three hundred? I told the guy that I would figure out how many letters there would be, and call him back. Of course, I never will.

I called the next place. I repeated the exact same schpiel, and they said "$50, for the first three letters, and eighty-five cents per letter thereafter. Oh, and by the way, we're one block from the Burlingame, California Apple store, and they refer people to us all the time."

Guess who gets the business?

I'd have to say Infiniti. Years ago I had an M30 convertible I bought used from a private seller. The top didn't close quite right due to a very minor misalignment. It didn't leak, but it bothered me, being a "new" car, to me anyway. I took it to Infiniti, and they put a brand new top on it at no charge because it was still in warranty according to the mileage. I've owned two more Infiniti's since then, which were only replaced because people keep hitting them. And yes, I've told many, many people about how well I was treated by them and how much I like the cars. They earned my repeat business and the free word-of-mouth.

The comments to this entry are closed.

The Latest Podcast

Ad Age Power 150

As Heard On

Radio Talent Zoo


Audio Comments

Record a comment from your computer right now. Be pithy.


Recent Comments

Podcasting Links

Sites of Note

Talent Zoo Column

Everything I need to know about advertising I learned from Star Wars