7 Jul 2014
I watched the movie “Chef” at The Everyman in Maida Vale last night. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil it for you, but as I watched it, I reckon it’s a modern metaphor for how businesses can fail, restart and succeed. In short, it has all the ingredients (sorry) for business success in the modern age.
There were three takeaways (sorry again) for business owners.
– Don’t just keep doing what you’ve been doing (whilst the world’s expectations change).
– Don’t even think about serving your burnt Cuban Sandwich.
– Make it great, and they will come.
Keep It Fresh. In the movie, the Chef (who was once pretty avant garde – and gets hired for being avant garde – then spends years working in an ace kitchen for an owner, serving up what was once avant garde, but then (after years) isn’t. Sure, it still tastes nice, and people like it, but it’s lost the reason people first came to the restaurant to eat it. Enter a food critic, who pans it on twitter, and… Well – like I said, I won’t spoil the plotline. Lesson here, is don’t just keep making what you have to make, or have made in the past. Keep reinventing your menu of products or services, to always keep on the cutting edge (sorry) of your sector. Otherwise, people who once loved you for being new and different, lose their appetite for you if you keep serving the same old. For us, although we know our AlphaGel, a multi-award winning shaving gel over many years (launched in 1995) – is a great shaving gel, we also want to try and bring along better, hence the development of the soon-to-be-launched Shave+Shield – a shave gel that doubles up as a moisturiser post shave (ie you don’t have to wash it off).
If you’ve Burnt it, Bin it. Half way through the movie, the Chef’s son (who hasn’t been spending much time with his Dad due to being separated from his wife) is enrolled by Dad to help him clean out the inside of his food truck, and then help him cook ‘on the line’. The success of any food business is serving consistency and quality, time and time again (“like a robot” as Chef says) – and if you don’t serve to a consistently high standard, then people will be disappointed. The son burns one of the Cuban sandwiches, but is still prepared to serve it “because we haven’t paid for it (the business has been bankrolled by his mum’s ex-husband, complicated – I know). Chef rightly takes his son aside, and explains in no uncertain terms, you must never serve food (or sell products) you know aren’t as good as they good be. The son “gets it”. For us, we fell into this trap for a number of reasons which I won’t go into, with our first 5 blade razor, Azor 5 we launched in early 2011. In 2008, we’d launched our original 4 blade razor, the Azor to good acclaim, and had built up a good vibe about it (“shave closer, longer, for less”). However, we were under pressure from a number of areas, to add another blade (Fusion has 5 blades, as does Hydro). So, although I’d been rather scathing of “how many blades do you need to shave with…?” we succumbed and launched Azor 5. Truth be told, the shave wasn’t a step-up in particular from Azor 4, and as we’d also changed the handle design, to make it weightier, that had issues too. In short, compared to our recently launched Hyperglide, which is an absolute Michelin Starred level of razor, Azor 5 was not what we should have launched, even though it was a ‘good’ razor (and many hundreds of thousands of people use it!)
Create a Storm in a Tweet cup. Finally, in the film, whilst Chef is great at cooking up a storm, there’s no point cooking if no one’s there to enjoy it! The 10 year old son delivers a masterclass in what we term ‘smarketing’ at King of Shaves, or ‘social media marketing’. This requires a number of components to work, and how this happens ‘at scale’ in the film is exactly how it can happen in the real world. Firstly, following the restaurant critic’s review of the food (bad) which he tweets out, the Chef, who takes great pride in his cooking tweets the critic back letting the critic know his thoughts (which he thinks is a private message or DM – but of course, is on the public timeline). So, this exchange gets RT’d by the critic, starts to go viral and Chef (who’s had his twitter account set up by his son) gets lots of followers. He then gets what we call a ‘publicity point’, when the critic returns to eat again, has a bust up with the chef, which gets video’d and posted online. Causing all manner of hiatus.
The son then spends the rest of the film capturing, tweeting & curating the ‘journey’ of his Dad, from cleaning up his food truck, to its ensuing road-trip and ending up where they started, in LA – the van’s visit now anticipated by the tens of thousands of followers, ensuring an unbelievable stream of customers. Sounds unlikely. I don’t think so at all. Publicity is the oxygen of success, and by using social media to engage with your diners, let them know where you’ll be, and when – well – as long as your product is great, you’ll succeed. The icing on the cake is that the critic returns and… Well, you’ll have to watch the film to see whether the ending is a sour or sweet one.
To summarise, A) have passion for what you do and keep reigniting that passion, B) don’t serve up a bad product – ever – and C) help people engage with you, your story and your business – for word of mouth customers – or word of mouse customer (even better) are ones that will stay with you forever.
Film rating: 5 star. Business learnings, top class.
Now, how do I get my hands on a Cuban Sandwich in Beaconsfield?!