Will Guidara built Eleven Madison Park in New York City into the number one rated restaurant in the world. Eleven Madison Park not only served innovative, out-of-this-world, delicious, multicourse tasting menus that tickled the tastebuds of foodies across the globe, the restaurant was also stunningly beautiful. Eleven Madison Park was always ranked in the top 50 world restaurants, however it did not reach number one until it served a hotdog.
In a recent Ted Talk, Guidara explained how a hotdog took Eleven Madison Park to the pinnacle. During a busy lunch service, Guidara was clearing appetizers from a table of foodies on vacation. He heard one customer say. “What an amazing trip. We’ve been to Per Se, Le Bernardin, Daniel, Momofuku, now Eleven Madison Park. Then another diner at the table commented, “Yeh, but the only thing we didn’t get to try was a New York City hotdog.”
The lightbulb over Guidara’s head went off. He took the dirty plates back to the kitchen and ran to a stand down the street, purchased a hotdog and then returned as fast as he could back to Eleven Madison Park’s kitchen. He had to convince the chef to serve the hotdog to the diners, because serving what New Yorkers refer to as a dirty water dog in a four-star establishment is blasphemy. The chef conceded. He cut the hotdog into four perfect pieces adding a swish of ketchup and mustard and finished the plate with quenelles of sauerkraut and relish.
Guidara said to the diners as he served the hotdog, “To make sure you don’t go home without any culinary regrets, a New York City hotdog.” The diners were blown away, commenting that the hotdog was not only the highlight of their meal, but their entire trip to New York and they would be telling this story for the rest of their lives.
The hotdog experience taught Guidara that the goal of a restaurant is not just to serve incredible food. What the restaurant and all other businesses should strive to deliver are experiences that are forever memorable. Guidara obsessed over how he could deliver the same experience of his hotdog diners to everyone who came to Eleven Madison Park. He discovered there are three keys.
The first is being present, which Guidara understood to mean, “caring so much about the thing you're doing or the person you're with that you stop caring about all the other things you need to do. And it's essential... See, so often we have such long to-do lists that we aren't able to slow down enough to actually listen to the people around us, to the things they're saying and all the things they're not saying. If I hadn't been present at that table, I never would have heard that throwaway line about the hotdog.”
Second, creating raving fans requires you to take what you do seriously without taking yourself too seriously. Businesses build insulated silos with sacrosanct rules and protocols that can get in the way of customers getting what they want. How many kitchen designers are so wedded to the concept of the triangle that they would never imagine placing the main refrigerator in a walk-in pantry? That’s about as alien a concept as serving a hotdog in a four-star restaurant.
One size fits one is the third principle. You have to treat each customer as a unique individual. You have to provide services that are truly specific to individual needs. If you give your team leeway to create forever memorable experiences, they will do so.
Kitchen and bath showroom designers should have the same goals as Eleven Madison Park. They both are in the business of serving people. If you want to climb to the top of the mountain, you need to deliver forever memorable experiences. When you design a kitchen for a customer, you get to know a lot about the family, what they enjoy, and what they want to experience. Watch for signs and be present so that you can truly surprise and delight. Think about the gift you provide at the end of a project. Should not that gift be personal and provide an opportunity to deliver an exceptional experience? Remember one size fits one. Be present and listen for clues that give you a sense of belonging and your customers a memory that will last a lifetime.