In June we travelled to the USA (New York City) to meet with our North American members.
I’m constantly on the lookout for business ideas, things that can be transferred to our business and that of our subscribers and members. So
wherever I visit, I always take time to read the press, watch the news and keep my eyes wide-open for any business that does things differently. (As an aside, this is something I urge you to do as well.)
There was one significant thing I came across, which can have a big impact on your business. Let me explain…
We arrived at the hotel at around 3pm and decided, after checking in, to take a walk and take in the city. It wasn’t long before I spotted a very interesting business. If you’re based in the US, you’ll have heard of the business I’m about to share with you. Anyway, we turned out of the hotel and walked a couple of blocks and one of the things NYC is famous for is its street food. You can’t walk one block without seeing street vendors selling all kinds of food, from burgers to nuts and everything in between.
But there on 53rd and 6th was a sight I can’t recall ever seeing before. It was a huge queue of people waiting by a food cart. I counted 43 people. Remember, by now this was probably around 4pm—not exactly prime eating time!
As I got closer I noticed the name of the vendor—it was ‘The Halal Guys’. The tagline on the side of the cart reads ‘We are different’. Not exactly brilliant marketing—but, clearly, to get queues of this nature they’re obviously doing something right.
Furthermore, there are many other halal street vendors. In fact, one competitor was on the opposite corner. There were just a couple of people standing by the cart. It was deserted. Yet a glance back towards The Halal Guys and, if anything, the queue was getting bigger! So how have The Halal Guys managed to create such a great business in a very, very competitive landscape?
Well, of course, when doing ‘research’ of this kind, it’s important to sample it! So I joined the back of the queue (I hate queuing, by the way—such a waste of time) and what struck me first was how quickly the queue moved. There were 4 Halal Guys on the cart and, looking closely, each one of them had a set role. They were ‘working system’ and what a system it was. One guy took the orders and collected the money. One guy took the orders and collected the money. One guy was responsible for rice and another for the meat. And the last guy was responsible for serving. Observing more closely, and over a longer period of time, I also noticed every hour or so that another guy would drive to the cart and deliver more food and remove the rubbish! It was a well-oiled machine.
You cannot and must not ever underestimate the value of having systems in your business. Can you imagine what it would be like if The Halal Guys didn’t work to a system? Having well-oiled systems enables you to deliver consistently good results. It impresses people. It forces you to remove waste. It streamlines your operations. It ensures you deliver on your promises. It keeps your team productive and it leads to an ethos of continual improvement.
Remember, SPEED is a very powerful attribute to have. The Halal Guys always have queues but people are prepared to stand there because the queue moves quickly. It’s interesting to read the comments people post online in places like Yelp. Often people make reference to the queue and how quickly it moves. It is never stated as a problem, but a benefit!
Also think about the effect it has on people when they see a queue. First and foremost, you are intrigued (like I was). You wonder ‘what the fuss is all about’. When it comes to food and restaurants, in particular, you know (actually, you PERCEIVE and ‘perception is reality’) if there’s a queue or the restaurant is full—it MUST BE GOOD. It’s social proof at its best. It’s the same with any other type of business. It makes a lot of sense to fill your car park with cars, for exactly the same reason!
We arrived at the front of the queue after about ten minutes. The guy took my order and charged me $6. I thought that was a reasonable price, bearing in mind this is street food, the price has to reflect that. But when he served me the ‘dish’, I was amazed to see how big the portion was. They serve most of their dishes in large round foil tins. What’s more, for food that could easily look ‘sloppy’ on a plate, the presentation was simple but pleasant—it definitely made the food look appetising.
This is where they over-deliver. They charge $6 and then give their customers a large portion of the dish they ordered. The food itself is pretty good. Again, this is street food so you’re not expecting high-quality food, but it’s tasty, well presented and ticks the right boxes. Once again, when you look at the comments people are making online, they talk a lot about the generous portions and the fact that they usually eat half and take the other half home for dinner! They say how good the food is and how well presented it is.
So people know, when they go to The Halal Guys, they are going to get good fresh food with generous portions. They know they are going to get VALUE FOR MONEY. And that’s the key. The Halal Guys charge top-end prices for street food, but they OVER-DELIVER on value. Despite the queues, their service is quick and courteous. Their food is good. They serve BIG portions and it’s served hot.
That’s how you dominate and kill off the competition. Your business is no different. Your existing and potential customers, figuratively speaking, have a scorecard in their heads. It consists of a number of ticks and crosses. When comparing you to your competition, it’s this scorecard that ultimately decides the outcome of where they’ll pay their money. You have to make sure your scorecard has as many ticks as possible. That’s all The Halal Guys have done. They’ve looked at street food and created a scorecard where they completely obliterate their competition. Frankly, if you’re looking for halal food or just street food in general, you’d need a very good reason for NOT buying from them. If you can do this in your own business, you’re on to a winner! See you next month. SH