Would you pay in advance to eat at a restaurant, hold a printed paper ticket and wait in line to be seated to eat your food?
While this has been the procedure at fast food restaurants since almost fast food was invented, this is relatively new in the world of fine dining. I recently read about a restaurant in a major city that charges $150 per person in advance. Guests can print out their own tickets at home then wait in line at the restaurant. Everything is paid for in advance. So, why the disparities between how fast food has been run and what some fine dining restaurants are moving to?
Fine dining has a problem: No-shows.
No-shows mean a table that is waiting for a party to arrive sits empty as other people who would be willing to take it are turned away. Restaurants have tried for years to take a credit card as proof people will show up.
Some places ding your card $25 or more for not showing. But people willing to pay $300 a couple sometimes make multiple reservations, then take a ding or two on the credit card when they finally decide where they want to go at the last minute. The $25 is just a slice of what the restaurant could have gotten out of a bill, so some restaurants are going big, for the whole enchilada, so to speak, and charging everything up front.
You may think, “Ha! I’d never go there.” That may be true. But at the restaurants I’ve read about, the lines are around the corner and down the street. They’re not only creating buzz, but expectations and desire on the part of would-be diners. Plus, the no-shows have essentially been reduced to zilch. After you pay your $150 in advance, now you HAVE to go, right? Think of the $150 charge not so much as a punishment if someone doesn’t go but as a method to weed out the people who aren’t truly committed to go to that restaurant.
I have to hand it to these restaurateurs — they’ve identified a problem, where sometimes 25 percent of their reservations don’t show up, and attacked that problem head-on.
Ah, yes! Auto parts, right? Well, I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to use the rest of this column to discuss point-by-point issues that affect auto parts distribution and list innovative ways to address them. But consider how some restaurants took a well-worn process — making reservation, sitting down, ordering food, eating, paying for food — and turned it completely on its ear and solved a nagging problem that ate into their profits all at the same time.
I bet there are plenty of you out there who have seen problems every day and thought, in a moment of reflection, how you might fix it or improve things. Then you probably got right back to work and forgot all about it.
The next time a da Vinci-type moment strikes — that a-ha! moment of clarity in which you see the light and think up a truly innovative solution to the problem you’re facing — write it down! Stop what you’re doing and jot down a note, put it in your pocket and don’t throw your pants in the wash without first removing that note.
That note may just contain the single greatest contribution to the future of our business.