Many many years ago, as a young and fresh faced graduate, I left University and spent a glorious summer doing very little (it was great!). Until my parents made it abundantly clear that it was time to move into the world of working for a living… so I took a place on a graduate management training scheme with Little Chef and ended up running a restaurant for a couple of years before deciding that smelling of grease and dealing with tired hungry people that had been in a car for 3 hours wasn’t for me!
I distinctly remember asking my area manager whether I could have a proper coffee machine – her answer was along the lines of “Why would we need anything posh like that, it’s not the little chef way, our customers like instant coffee, it’s how we have always done things ” Then the petrol station across the road got a proper coffee machine, put up a big sign advertising it and we lost quite a lot of business. Roll on to today and the once ubiquitous Little Chef has all but disappeared.
What got me to thinking about those Little Chef days, was seeing that the pub near my office has just boarded up its windows and closed down. Not altogether surprising – it was one of those pubs that seem to be in a glorious 80’s timewarp, offering reheated food that may well have been in the freezer since 1982 at 2016 prices; a carpet that will probably have to be disposed of by a hazmat team and the revoltingly sickly smell of 30 year old beer stains emanating from furniture that should have been burned in 1987.
The pub, like the Little Chef and so many other businesses I remember from long ago, fell foul of the awful adage “This is how we have always done things, so there is no need to change” Whatever business you are in, it doesn’t take a soothsayer to be able to look around at your competitors and pinch their innovation. As a pub landlord who is feeling the pinch, you should be visiting other pubs in the area – finding the ones that are full and asking “what are they doing that I am not?”
No matter what your sector, or your views on “new fangled ways” you have to innovate to survive. A lot of people get trapped in the idea that innovation is coming up with something completely new, but the reality is most “innovation” is about 10% new. Take Facebook – they took the idea of a “social network” from sites like MySpace and even Friends Reunited, added a twist of magic (and continual innovation) and today they are worth billions.
Whatever business you are in, the ideas are out there: online, in the high street and on social media. Don’t be scared to do something different and new, it won’t always work but if you ever hear yourself saying “This is how we have always done things” there may be trouble ahead!