The bad table

I saw a marketing dilemma at the hot new restaurant I went to the other night.

We got there on time at 6:30 and the restaurant was about a third full. We were promptly seated at the worst table in the place, in the back, in the corner, cramped by the kitchen.

We were first-time patrons, having secured a reservation via Open Table. That made us doubly second-class citizens, I guess.

We asked for a better table, pointing to one a few feet away. "Oh, I’m sorry, that one is reserved."

The chances, of course, that a particular table is reserved are close to zero. What he meant was, "oh, we have a regular customer who deserves that table more than you."

Hence the marketing dilemma: who should get your best effort? Should it be the new customer who you just might be able to convert into a long-term customer? Or should it be the loyal customer who is already valuable?

Sorry, but the answer is this: you can’t have a bad table.

No one wants to settle for the bad table, your worst salesperson, your second-rate items. Not the new customers and not the loyal ones…

Which means you need to figure out how to improve your lesser offerings. Maybe the table in the worst location comes with a special menu or a special wine list or even a visit from the chef. Maybe the worst table, for some people, becomes the best table because of the way you treat people when they sit there…

Treat different people differently. But don’t treat anyone worse.