A Tale of Two Restaurants

by Jonathan Longnecker

A Tale of Two Restaurants
Obligatory Soap Opera Title Card

Did I mention my family and I are traveling full time now? In case you missed it, check out our blog here. Let's just say that in the past 6 months I've run across a ton of brands in bunch of different places. This is one story of a lesson I learned when dining in the Adirondacks.

Back in the Summer, our travel adventures took us into Upstate New York near Whiteface Mountain. There, in the tiny town of Wilmington we hiked, climbed, canoed and explored to our heart's content. It's by far been one of our favorite places we've been.

We also ate out a few times, and had vastly different experiences. This - is a Tale of Two Restaurants! *Cue soap opera music.

Wilderness Disappointment

The first place we went was called “The Wilderness Inn II Restaurant.” Was it the sequel to an original, better restaurant? Why was the word “restaurant” in the title? We'll never know.

Kids, just an FYI - TripAdvisor and Yelp are total crap shoots in small towns. Especially touristy ones. Sometimes they're right on the money, and other times you're left wondering if everyone eats tasteless blobs of food and enjoys it.

Anyway. This place had good reviews, but our experience was pretty terrible. Outside of the questionable decor and smell (hello grandma's attic!), we were weirded out by the large group of waitresses 15 feet from our table who just seemed to be watching us the whole time.

Worst of all, the food was insanely expensive and not good at all. You could tell everything was frozen or from a bag. And when you're charging that much money for crappy food, I get frustrated. The final nail in the coffin for us, though was when we got the bill. Apparently they charged us every time we (or the kids) got a refill in our 6 ounce cups crammed with ice. It was like $17 worth of soda! And I doubt we even had a two liter between the 6 of us.

I talked to the manager, and while she did take some of it off, she was visibly upset and said something like, “We've always charged for every refill.” In a small tourist town, it doesn't matter what you've always done - I'm a new customer and no one told us we were going to be charged every time they offered to fill up our minuscule cups.

Oh, and finally, because we were a “party of 6,” (including our 4 kids) a mandatory 20%+ tip was added by default. * Eyeroll *.

Now, maybe it's not always like that. Like I said, there were plenty of people who gave this place great reviews. But our experience was bad enough that we won't be back.

Italian Delight

The second place we visited was “Rosalia's Italian Kitchen.” It was right across the street from this great little ice cream place we went to faaaar too many times, and it just looked so warm, cozy and inviting. It also had great reviews on the internets so we headed over.

Right off the bat, this place subverted our expectations. There was one server, he was 12 years old - and I'm pretty sure he was Rosalia's grandson. He grabbed us some waters and delicious fresh made garlic bread while Rosalia herself came out to chat.

Turns out there's no menus or prices at this Italian kitchen. Nope! We'd never been anywhere like this before. She said she had chicken, beef and veal this evening and said she could make whatever we wanted. I think she saw the look of confusion in our eyes and quickly recommend some chicken parmesan with a bunch of pasta and sauce for the kids. Basically it would all just come out as one dish. That sounded perfect to us. She even brought us a huge salad made from vegetables from her garden out back.

Guess what? It was amazing. The pasta was perfect, the chicken was delicious and all the kids were scrambling to grab whatever they could before it was gone. And at the end of the menu? She only charged us $25. Compared to our nearly $100 bill at the last place, we were floored. Needless to say she got a big tip (more than 20%) and the whole thing left us with a huge smile on our faces and a great story to tell.

Why are you talking about restaurants?

So what does this have to do with you? Well, I think there's a simple branding lesson here.

The Wilderness Restaurant felt like it had gotten lazy. They were serving prepackaged, frozen food, nickel and diming drinks and adding huge tips - relying on their Adirondack theming and the fact that there were only 5-7 restaurants in the area to make a profit. They got bitten by the mediocre bug. I bet in years gone by this place was humming with great food and atmosphere - but that's not what we saw this summer.

Rosalia 's on the other hand, subverted our expectations at every turn, and more importantly delivered way above our expectations. They delighted us and then followed it up with amazing food at a great price. Talk about a one-two punch.

Has your brand gotten lazy, or are you taking chances and standing out? As I think back to our time in the Adirondacks I'm encouraged to make sure FortySeven Media is the kind of company that delights and over-delivers.

How about you?


November 17, 2015

Business, Personal


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