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Does Your Business Have a Big But?

Summer 2016 and Murray and I are wandering the streets of Rome on a HOT summer day… the kind of day that sends you beelining for the shade. So when Murray spies a sign for a rooftop bar in the Hotel Valadier, we veer into the lobby and up the elevator to the bar.

It was a gorgeous space. Barstools facing out on expansive views of Rome and double digit drink prices. But, at that point, we didn’t care. We just wanted a shaded place to sit with a cold drink.

Our beers were cold and delicious, and the more we drank, the hungrier we got. We asked for their menu and it looked amazing, and we were delighted to find that they had a special: any 3-courses on the menu for just 50 euros.

I don’t know about you, but when Murray and I eat out, we like to do it “family style”, and order lots of different stuff so we can try as much as possible. So we were in 7th heaven as we carefully chose our dishes together.

A waitress arrived to take our order, shook her head and pointed to some small print at the bottom of the menu that read: “THE MENU IS AVAILABLE ONLY IF OPTIONED FROM ALL DINERS AND WITH SAME DISHES.”
The big but in print

Apparently, that meant that all diners MUST order the same 3 dishes.

Genuinely confused, Murray asked the waitress – “Why would you give us this incredible option of choice, then take it away with fine print like this?”

She frowned, and without actually answering the question, said she’d get the manager to come and explain the policy. (I don’t think we were the first to ask LOL.)

A few minutes later the manager appeared — a pompous man with a rich voice that made love to each syllable.

– “Yes. You must both order the same 3-dishes. That is the policy.”

Murray: “Why can’t we each order the dishes that we want? Why do we have to eat the same thing?

– “I’m sorry sir, but you can’t do that. The entire table must order the same dishes.”

Murray was on fire now — “OK. What if we eat at different tables and pretend that we don’t know each other?”

– “I’m sorry sir, but we can’t do that.”

As for me, I couldn’t help but wonder why they create an amazing offer that gives us choice, then take that choice away? It felt like the kind of policy that made sense to someone, somewhere, years ago, in another context. But in that moment — it was just absurd.

Murray and the manager went around for a while, and finally the guy had had enough.

– “Sir, there is always a but. With every offer, there is always a but. This is our but.”

“Fair enough — and here’s our but: we’d really love to eat here… BUT….  your policy is stupid.”

It was the height of summer in Rome, the streets were full of tourists, and this gorgeous restaurant with top-notch food and drinks was a virtual ghost town. As we paid and walked out, looking into the kitchen, I noticed 5 chefs in impeccable white uniforms standing around with their arms crossed. Nothing to do.

This restaurant had what I like to call “a big but”. A stubborn way of doing things that was keeping them from serving their customers in the fullest way possible.

What’s worse, they were proud of their big but, and clearly took every opportunity to defend it proudly. Meanwhile, their profits and sales were going downhill because no-one bothered to ask, “What if we didn’t have to have a big but?”

It just made no sense, and the moment has stayed with me ever since, as a powerful business lesson.

Murray and I left the hotel and immediately found another restaurant down the street that offered tasting menus. We poked our nose in and asked if we could order different menus and they said, “Of course. We don’t require whole party participation.” No big but, and the restaurant was packed. LOL.

Does YOUR business have a big but?

What are you doing that may make sense to you, but not to your clients? If so — how could you get off that but and start building a business with your customers’ best interests at heart?

I guarantee that both you and your customers will notice the shift.

Want more ideas for how to build a business and products without a big but? If so, stay tuned, because in the next few weeks I’m going to share some ideas for how you can create products based on “and” not “but”.

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Virginia Reeves Avatar
    Virginia Reeves

    Marisa and Murray – you have to wonder why the owner isn’t coming down to find out why they’re not making any money. Good example of sticking to a ‘principle’ can bite you in the butt ! (couldn’t resist a pun)

    1. Marisa Avatar

      I know! These things amaze me sometimes… what would you rather be right or happy/successful? 🙂

    2. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Yes you can be right or happy and successful… 🙂

  2. Sue Avatar

    This is a brilliant story Marisa, a perfect example of a business owner smugly focusing on HIS vision, HIS product … instead of listening to customers and giving them what THEY want.

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Thanks Sue!

  3. Rosalind Avatar

    I love this. There have been multiple times questions turned in my head that brought about confusion because their logic was not logical. Recently I had the experience with a restaurant there was a dish that both my daughter and I enjoyed immensely. The problem was that they only cooked enough for 6 to 8 servings. We tried for over a month to purchase the dish again. Last week my daughter called they said about 4pm that dish would be ready I began to share my frustration about trying to purchase that dish I explained one particular week we called ahead was told when it would be ready. After calling to check if the dish was ready so that we could drive over and purchase a takeout. We were told simply that they did not have any and that dish was not on the menu that day, I said strange we were told something different at that point I said enough. My daughter called again last week I was able to make the purchase, but it did not go over so good over the phone when expressing my frustration. I even made a suggestion that would guarantee us the opportunity to purchase the dish. The owner was angry and said I do not have time for this. My typical response would have been to become angry and hang-up instead I wanted to help this person and give them our business. Upon my arrival to pick-up our food we had another conversation was able to work out a win-win situation. That was a lot of work typically I would never have done that, BUT I wanted that particular dish. Hopefully, they will not be as difficult in the future when other customers want to patronize them without the complex situation that we encounter.
    I plan on implementing your experience into business affairs I WANT SUCCESS.

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