Hello and good day!
Not far from our chocolate shop, there is a burger joint. I know the owner and he is a good man.
He is a franchisee who owns six locations and has close to one hundred employees working for him. The location nearest to us just underwent a huge remodel.
Corporate required that all franchisees install new equipment to make the operation more efficient. Corporate also mandated new interior decorum so that locations hew to the current brand image.
I know from chatting with the owner that he spent close to $100,000 per location on upgrades and that he was forced to cease operating while construction work was carried out. He was even keeled about the undertaking and the investment.
This business has been good to him for many years, and he is a team player. I visited one of his locations yesterday and I could only think of one thing.
Please see the photo above.
The question I had to wrestle with throughout the meal is how it can be possible that a humble farmhouse lunch served in the dining room above can be so much better in every way than a burger prepared using hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment.
The farmhouse and the kitchen cost essentially zero dollars to build. They were built with materials scavenged from the surrounding countryside.
Before continuing with this line of thought, I'd like to switch gears for a moment.
I had a righteous hunger yesterday. Ever had one of those?
You don't want to eat because it's time for a meal or because you have a hankering for something. You eat because your soul needs nourishment.
This could be caused by many things.
It could be straight hunger. You worked yourself to the max and you need calories.
Or it could be that you are stressed out and only your favorite food can calm your raging nerves.
Or maybe it's a particular day of the year, and your family makes a traditional recipe that you've loved since you were a kid.
You wake up that morning yearning for dinner time to come around.
I stood out on the corner of a busy intersection in an icy cold rain yesterday.
Our shop was dead-a few customers, and I didn't feel right standing idly by.
I needed to get out into the world and make something happen.
I grabbed my trusty free hot chocolate sign and headed out to the street in front of our shopping center.
Here is something no high school career counselor will tell you. They don't teach it in business school either.
In terms of hourly wage, very few things are more lucrative than standing on a busy corner with a sign that offers free hot chocolate.
But you have to overcome the fear and potential embarrassment associated with being a person who stands on a corner with a sign.
I have no such fear.
A lot of people depend on me, and I will do whatever it takes.
Plus, I love to observe life and the corner of an extremely busy intersection is not a bad place to watch life happen.
I was able to observe the smooth elliptical curve of a car making a left turn through a traffic light.
I heard the white noise roar of tires treading at high speed over a wet street.
I collected fascinating evidence about social proof.
People have a very strong tendency to do what others do.
If one person waves at you from a car and you wave back, the odds are very high that the next person will also wave, even if they hadn't planned on it.
Also, if somebody rolls down a window to yell at the person in front of them, another person in the vicinity will soon do the same.
This is the basis for leading by example and the phenomenon is real.
There is an unconscious pull towards mimicry.
After three hours in the rain, my hands were red and numb and burned cold.
But I felt good. I had done my duty.
On Wednesday night, my wife closes our chocolate shop and I spend the evening doing a boy's night out with my sons.
When my shift was up on the corner in the rain, I had a righteous hunger.
I didn't just want to eat. I needed it.
I love a good burger.
I hadn't been to the burger joint in a while and I felt that a burger would hit the spot. The first thing that caught my attention when we walked in were all the magazine and newspaper clippings all over the walls.
The place was covered in articles featuring the original location and gushing about how they made the best burger in the United States.
The second thing that caught my attention was a young man at a table with his two grandparents. The fellow looked to be about twenty-five and the people with him were two old to be his parents.
The old man had on a fishing vest and a mesh hat with a fish on the front. Grandma was dressed warm and wore thick glasses. Both had grey hair.
It seemed to me that this was a place where the man and his grandparents liked to come together for a meal.
Only problem was that the fellow was looking at his phone and his grandparents were staring off into space, not too enthusiastic about their food.
When it was my turn to order, I was surprised by how expensive the place had become and the general malaise of the staff.
I'm not willing to spend more than $20 for me and my kids to eat out.
That means that we usually share one or two plates between the four of us. $20 got me one burger and one order of fries.
Part of the high price is from inflation and that I can forgive.
But what I cannot forgive is the quality of the food.
Going to your favorite place with your grandparents should be a righteous hunger. You shouldn't have the cognitive surplus to stare at your phone or look into space.
The food should be so darn good that you can't think of anything else.
Even if the burger is small and overpriced, the least you can do is put out the best dang burger you are capable of making.
What was once the best burger in the country is now just a business and a brand image.
The focus is no longer on the food.
The owner owns six locations and has one hundred employees. He runs an organization. He isn't passionate about his product anymore.
I'm sure that his profit and loss statement is strong, but at what cost?
Every business owner has to make this type of philosophical decision.
Now back to the original question of why a humble farmhouse kitchen makes better food than a place that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build.
Part of it is ingredients and recipes.
But a truly good burger can hold its own against many of the best dishes in the world.
The biggest reason that the quality is so much better is that the people on the farm who do the cooking care deeply about the result.
Their family members come in from working hard under the blazing jungle sun with a righteous hunger, and the women who cook out on those farms intend to satisfy that hunger, every single day, with every single meal.
I've already gone long even though I have more to say.
So, I leave you with this.
The key to a quality outcome is how much you care about the result.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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