Do you ever get that strange feeling of vuja de? Not déjà vu; vuja de. It’s the distinct sense that, somehow, something that just happened has never happened before. Nothing seems familiar. And then suddenly the feeling is gone. Vuja de.
- George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
Fast food restaurants have certain ways that they are supposed to behave.
- You are supposed to get your food in 4 minutes or less.
- You never should have to stand in line.
- Food is prepared somewhere out of view (generally).
- There need to be a lot of microwavable items.
- Almost everything is either automatic or self-serve.
One fast food company, however, is not following these rules at all and has changed the way that people define a fast food restaurant. Patrons stand in long lines and watch high-quality food that is being prepared and assembled before their eyes.
This restaurant is Chipotle – the socially aware, hip, gourmet, bicycle-team-sponsoring Mexican restaurant that is red hot with growth. Here are 3 ways that Chipotle suffers from vuja de or they are seeing the same thing in ways that have never been seen.
1. They are authentic to who they are. They are really animal-loving people who happen to own a restaurant that serves burritos. Despite your personal opinion on hormones and antibiotics for animals, the chefs and owners at Chipotle stay true to their core principles and beliefs on what type of meat, pork and poultry they serve (a large portion of it is free of antibiotics and hormones).
They did not decide to try to be hip or “relevant.” They just are being themselves. Founder and CEO, Steve Ells is an animal nut (there is an area on the website where you can upload your animal photos). His passion for this ethical stance comes at a cost, though – one that is passed on to customers (burritos are 6 or 7 bucks now).
2. They offer a community around more than the business. Have you visited their website? You need to. They have created a “movement” and not a company. Chipotle has a page for fans to submit their photos, insights into their architecture and artwork, and a series of music devoted to their menu and approach to food. It is a shrine not just to the company, but to the people who love the company and everything they stand for.
3. They serve excellence. The product, itself is high quality. This breaks most fast-food doctrine, also. Their menu is simple. Only 4 choices. No deserts or other up-size, super-size-type stuff. They concentrate on doing a few things extremely well. It is made gourmet and you can wait sometimes 15 minutes for food, but it is among the best gourmet for the price.
By being themselves, Chipotle has changed the fast-food experience and is changing their competition (Burger King and Wendy’s are now looking at hormone-free pork).
This does not appear to be their aim, rather a natural occurrence of being authentic and willing to see the same thing (fast-food burritos) in an entirely new way (a chance to make a statement of beliefs and create a community). Vuja De.
They don’t try to compete with the competition…they create a new game to play.
Do your customers know you? Do you stand for something beyond your business goals? How can your business reinforce your beliefs and allow your light to shine? Do you have the guts to create a new playing field?
Please comment and let me know how you will work out this process.
Jeremy Nulik, Creative Energy Officer (CEO), St. Louis Small Business Monthly