Business Everywhere: A Chef’s Vision

Business Everywhere: A Chef’s Vision

Business Everywhere is a series about looking for and finding business lessons in our everyday activities. Every day we see the lessons we learn in working with businesses popping up all around us. If you take a moment to look, you’ll start to see them too. You can read more by clicking on the “Business Everywhere” category above.

Oftentimes on the weekends, I find myself watching Netflix as my wife drifts off to sleep next to me on the couch. She’ll doze off and I usually switch from whatever we were watching to something else, and more often than not I find myself drawn to cooking shows; shows about renowned chefs and their incredible restaurants. (Chef’s Table is my latest go-to)

Now this is probably for a number of reasons; personally, food has always been an important part of my memories and my life growing up. Almost every holiday, every life event revolves around the special food we’ll be eating that day. My grandma, and now my mom, spend days preparing huge meals for our family and I have countless memories of helping them in the kitchen.

But beyond my personal attachments, I’ve come to realize something: these chefs are freaks. They fit every characteristic that we preach in our work at freak. They are extraordinarily passionate and strive to perfect their craft, they want to share their gifts with others, and they work fearlessly to deliver an exceptional experience.

I’m fascinated by the people who run the restaurants, by the chefs who have changed how dining is done, who have shifted the expectations for what “good food” really means. The chefs’ stories are as interesting to me as any of the food they cook. And I think that is because I can see so many similarities in the restaurants they run and the businesses we help. The parallels between the crafting of a meal in a restaurant and owning a business appear when looking at things from the right perspective. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed recently:

 

Vision

One of the most important things that any of the chefs possess is a vision for their food and the restaurant they are running. They are crystal clear on what they want to do and they have a perfectly produced picture in their head of what the finished restaurant will be. Often the chefs tell stories about the formative moments in their lives, how they’ve worked in various kitchens and taken lessons from all of those places. How the apprenticeships and all of the jobs they’ve had have shaped the person and the chef that they are today. This is exactly the same process as creating a vision for your business – using every resource available to them, they’ve created the picture of the restaurant as they want it to be. The only thing left to do is to get there.

These fine-dining chefs have eaten food all over the world, they have references in their mind from countless cuisines, and that gives them the ability to create something that is unique to them. They cook using unique combinations of flavors and techniques to create something truly special. They use their references in creating their own food, their own version of something they enjoyed, and it belongs only to them. That is a really powerful idea, and something that applies as much in business as it does in the kitchen.

As a business owner you have a unique set of experiences that have shaped who you are – and you can draw on all of them when you’re creating the business you want to create. You may have ideas from previous jobs of exactly what you want to do, and how you’re going to do it. But you’ll discover as you create your processes, things look a little different, you add your own personal touches, and you take ownership of the thing that once belonged to someone else’s company. Having this palette to draw from is crucial as you’re creating the vision for how you want the company to be when it is finished.

 

Customer Experience

In these fine-dining restaurants, you’re paying for more than the food – the entire experience is curated and created to leave you feeling incredible as you walk out the door. From the moment you walk in until the moment you depart, you’re inside the world that the restaurant has created. You’re there for the experience not just food. You may forget what ingredients were in a dish, you might not remember each course in detail, but you’ll never forget what it felt like to sit in that restaurant, to have your needs catered to, and to experience all that they had to offer. This idea applies to your business vision as well.

If your customers are only going to remember what they got and how much they paid, you’re not likely to keep them coming back; you start competing on price and instead of being a fine dining destination – you’re McDonald’s. (Now, maybe you want to be McDonald’s, and that’s fine. But remember, the experience you have at a McDonald’s has been curated to leave you feeling a certain way too) There are countless ways to leave an impression on your customers and you shouldn’t neglect them. Pay attention to the details, your staff’s attire, how they greet your customers, the decor on the walls of the office – all of these things help create the experience your customers will have, and they shouldn’t be left to chance.

 

Excellence

Finally, one of the most important things I’ve noticed across countless restaurants and chefs on these shows – they’re constantly evaluating and evolving their processes. Whether they’re trying new techniques, experimenting with ingredients, or changing the presentation on a dish – they’re never satisfied with the status quo. Sitting back and accepting that the way things are done now is the only way they can ever be done is a sure way to fail. There is always a way to improve, there is always something that can be done better, and they know they have to be on the lookout for these opportunities. Innovation and improvement are built into the DNA of the restaurants, so they’re constantly looking for a way to improve. Your business should be no different.

While you want the innovations to fit within the big picture goals you’ve set for yourself, the quest to improve, the desire to see things done better should be a part of the foundation of your business. The EMyth idea of Innovation-Orchestration-Quantification is something that has to live within your business if you want to to continue to grow. There are always areas where you can improve your business practices. As in the restaurants, there may be times when you have to throw out the entire menu and start fresh – and there will be times when a small tweak to something can have a huge impact. You can only know what you need by being truly in touch with the pulse of the business, and by knowing what things are most important to you. One advantage we have in business that many chef’s may not – is the data we can collect. We have numbers to study that will help us make decisions and measure outcomes (this is quantification). If this idea is built into the DNA of your company you’ll be well served for a long time to come.

 

As with any good restaurant, a great business has a vision for what it should be. Everyone who works there understands what they are trying to achieve and why. The staff know what their role is and why it is important. The employees feel engaged with the work and know they’re part of a team. The leaders have painted a clear picture of what they’re going to do and given the staff a road map for success. The leaders have crafted an experience that will wow their customers and draw them back again and again. Everyone on staff looks for ways to improve and are encouraged to share their ideas to move forward. The leaders understand that stagnation is nearly as bad as death, so they’re always looking for ways to improve. In business, and in the kitchen, this is a recipe for success.

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