Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are tons of sushi bars. Most of them are pretty good. So how could a sushi bar hope to stand out in this environment?
Well, there’s a colleague of mine who will tell you that the sushi bar experience has to be “highly personalized” in order to be worthwhile. Apparently, after experimenting with several establishments, she now frequents a particular sushi bar every Friday night, and the bill quickly reaches $150 on a regular basis. And she expects the experience to be “a certain way.”
“Look, this is the Bay Area. A lot of places have access to high-quality fish. So it’s a no-brainer that the fish has to be exceptional.”
OK, I’ll bite: It takes more than exceptional fish to create this “highly personalized” customer experience. It would be reasonable to think that the service also needs to be “outstanding.”
However, if you are thinking this means “faster” service, you would be wrong. Very wrong, in fact.
My sushi-eating colleague happily tells me that during peak times, when the place is packed, the service is really slow. In fact, she says, people who come in after her often get served more quickly.
I thought about this for a moment. Why would anyone go to a restaurant with slow service?
“But aren’t you hungry and impatient?” I ask, thinking how I would feel watching everyone else getting their food before me.
She admits that yes, she is hungry and impatient. But, what happens next that makes it all worthwhile – what she describes as the “highly personalized” experience:
“When it starts to slow down, the chefs start making special dishes for us – stuff that’s not on the menu. And never will be.” Sometimes, it’s a cut of sashimi in limited supply. Or a roll that contains “unusual” ingredients. Maybe they “ran out” of oysters, but have set some aside.
She confesses: “Once, it was smoked baby octopus. I couldn’t eat it because the babies were too cute. So my husband ate them all, but admitted afterwards that he ‘felt bad’ for the babies, and only did so to be polite.”
Baby octopus images aside, I learned something: Customers who desire a highly personalized experience will endure waiting for “their” experience, rather than have an “outstanding” customer experience quickly.
How could you create a highly personalized experience for your best customers – one that is worth the wait?