I had lunch several weeks ago at a well-known spot in an area of my city that I don’t normally frequent. An extremely popular lunch destination that often wins “Best Of” polls in local papers, this family-owned business has been there for almost 20 years and boasts an extremely loyal clientele.
Clearly, they are doing some things right to be able to still exist in the tight-margin world of restaurants. The food was pretty good.
And I am never going back there again.
From the moment I stepped in, I was surrounded by chaos. The cooks behind the line were tense and overwhelmed staring at handwritten order slips. Customers that were not regulars stood around looking confused, unsure of when and where to pay. The person at the cash had no idea who ordered what and would shout out the names of different dishes, which resulted in even more confusion as many people had ordered the same thing. There were dirty plates on many of the tables.
All-round it was a thoroughly unpleasant atmosphere. And, according to others, it is like this all the time.
The most obvious solution would be to introduce a computerized system for taking orders that spits out a receipt with an order number that is handed to the customer and another neatly printed chit for the cooks. There are so many of these systems now that they are not even that large of an expense, even for a small business.
I could picture myself having a conversation with the older gentleman who not only owns the place but is actually “on the line” every day. After explaining the solution and its benefits, I can imagine him responding with a single sentence: “But we’ve always done it this way.”
It would be easy to dismiss this small business owner as not having the sophistication to be able to do a simple cost-benefit analysis on changing his approach. And it would be wrong to do so.
How many times have you offered up a new (and even proven) approach to strategic planning, only to receive some version or other of “but we’ve always done it this way”? This is an all too common barrier in even the most sophisticated organizations.
The devil you know is sometimes seen as the least risky path.
A certain amount of predictability is good. But it can also rob you of innovation.
In business, your goal should always be to improve. Standing still is one of the fastest ways to move backward.
Take those tried and true recipes and mix them up a little.
Add some new ingredients (new experts, new approaches, new exercises, new timelines, and even new humor when the opportunity presents itself) to keep things fresh.
You’d be surprised at how far a little flare can take you.
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