Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Alinea’s key to success: Different + Excellent = Remarkable Experience

In Ideas, Insight on November 3, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Another speaker at the IDEA conference, Grant Achatz, is the chef/owner of Alinea in Chicago, one of the best restaurants in the country. His message to brand marketers: Break down your challenges to their smallest parts and ask if there is a different way of doing things.

Hey, where's the tablecloth?

Hey, where's the tablecloth?

Here’s a great story he told:  “Why do all fancy restaurants have tablecloths?  Because they use crappy tables.  They’re cheap materials, they’re rickety, they have tablecloths to hide the tables. So they asked, ‘what if we remove the table cloths?’ ‘What if we use really great tables and make that a focal point – the stage in a culinary theater?’

I’m paraphrasing a bit, but you get the idea.  Grant and his team took a look at the status quo and decided it could be done a different way. Not, “let’s use red tablecloths instead of white” different, but “let’s completely flip the paradigm” different.  He went on to describe another half dozen examples of how they re-interpreted what a top flight restauarant is supposed to do, and each one seemed brilliant.

The brilliance was in the simplicity. They didn’t over-complicate thing, they made them easier, smarter, simpler. Sure, that sounds easy, but here’s the key – they were done with a fanatical dedication to detail and excellence. Anything less than the best is unacceptable to Grant. Now that’s not easy, especially in the restaurant business, where it’s easy to cut corners.

So the next time your faced with a marketing problem, see if you can attack it with that double-edged sword: completely different and excellent. I’m guessing that combination works, and works well, most of the time.

  1. The difference is not in reinventing the wheel, it’s just making it better. All we can do is try. Thank you so much for the reminder!

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