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Red-lobster-biscuits Bill Darden opened his first restaurant, The Green Frog, at age 19. From the beginning, Bill’s restaurants focused on quality and service, so he says. With a passion for seafood, it was only a matter of time before Bill and his team opened the first Red Lobster in Lakeland, Fla., in 1968.

Personally, I never liked the Red Lobster, not for a minute. I think it’s the lobsters tied up in the tank as you walk in the door. Until October of 2010, I hadn’t been in a Red Lobster since 1985!

Several months ago at Coverings in Orlando, FL, I found myself in a hotel next to a Red Lobster. My plane arrived late and I’m starving, not having had enough peanuts and pretzels on my Southwest flight. Here I am no car and starving. I look out my window and in front of me is a Red Lobster—oh no, I think, the lobsters! After much trepidation, I decide to go to the Red Lobster — and what a surprise.

The building is new, everyone is smiling and everything is clean, and I mean clean. And did I say packed? I ignore the lobsters; they’re still in the same place and get seated at my table. I order my iced tea and out comes the iced tea with cheddar biscuits. Fluffy, toasted and smelling so good; I can’t believe they’re so good; for one thing, I don’t really like cheese. I talk with my smiling waiter who says, everyone loves our signature biscuits, that’s what we’re known for. (I smile thinking maybe he’s part of the new marketing team and I can get him to take the lobsters out of the front.)

I order my plain fresh catch salmon, no butter please, broccoli steamed, no butter please and a salad, dressing on the side. Oh I forgot, and one more biscuit?

What’s the point? It all goes back to how do you get known, what’s your differentiation, what’s your competitive advantage? Bay State Rug has Alex, an Englishman, with lots of good advice as well as a sense of humor. I went through all the commercials and I think they’re quite cute. I particularly like Alex wrapped up in the drapes. Are commercials customer services? Of course they are? Anything that happens to the customer is either service or not service. What are you doing to provide service for your customer? 

  • Do you know what makes you different? 
  • Is this difference important to your customers or just your staff?
  • Do you know what your customers like, or do you do what you like? It reminds me of a recent conversation, should we stay open on Saturday—no one else does. Isn’t the whole world open on 
Saturday?
  • What are you known for, how do you know?
  • When was the last time you talked with your customers about your business?

Without customers you’re out of business, period.

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