Focus: a recipe for customer success

Sometimes you just need to stick to one thing and do it really well

Back in January I had a celebratory meal that illustrated the good and bad aspects of complaint management and so it was with some trepidation that we embarked on another celebration recently – but this time at a different restaurant. Fortunately the experience could not have been more different, and the key to success this time was the restaurant’s single-minded focus.

Le Relais de Venise is a small, international chain of restaurants that offers you a choice of one thing: steak-frites. And it’s great.

To be specific, there is some choice: you can have your steak (only one type of cut) cooked in one of four ways – well done, medium, rare or bleu (no sitting on the fence with medium-rare) and there’s a good range of wines and a choice of desserts, mostly variations on the combination of ice-cream, cream, cake and chocolate.

But if you’re averse to red meat for any reason then the message is clear: this place is not for you.

I’m happy to say that for this unrepentant carnivore, the proposition is bang on the money, so let’s unpack it and find out why it works.

Firstly, and most importantly, did it deliver my desired outcome which was a great evening out to celebrate my wife’s birthday? It did, because all the elements were in place:

  • A great product – beautifully cooked, tender steak with plentiful French fries and, oh joy! actual “secret sauce”, which we spent a few minutes trying to figure out the ingredients of (probably cream, anchovies, parmesan – who cares? It was excellent).
  • Friendly service – despite the stern “no medium-rare” warning – and even though we were in the Soho branch on a busy Friday evening, it was relaxed and unhurried.
  • Reasonable prices – portion sizes (you get your steak in two servings, so it doesn’t get cold) are generous so it feels like value for money.

Core competence

Of course, if you can do one thing really well, it’s tempting to think you could expand your product line to include non-red meat options and thereby capturing more potential customers. But actually, why bother? In the case of Le Relais they would lose their distinctiveness if they expanded beyond their core competence of steak frites even though I am sure their chefs could knock up a pretty good sole meuniere or Poulet frites if asked.

I don’t know if, in these vegan-friendly, clean-eating times the market for a narrow slice of classic French cooking is big enough to sustain or even grow their operation – in the UK at least times are tough for the restaurant trade, but I hope so, since I am keen to return in future.

Focus and grow

But having a narrow focus doesn’t mean you have to stay where you are. Remember that Amazon started out as an online book retailer but soon built on their underlying core competence in distribution to offer almost anything, with a wide variety of delivery options.

Finding out what you should focus on and making sure you deliver it brilliantly is a fundamental business challenge. I believe having a clear idea of what customer success looks like – a combination of customer outcomes and customer experience – is fundamental. The rest is down to execution – as our regular contributor Gordon Tredgold often puts it: “the right job, done well”.

Or, putting it another way: what’s your equivalent of steak-frites?

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