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Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that one area into which I occasionally veer is food. One of the great business lessons I’ve ever learned from food is that of substance over style. In fact, in many cases, substance IS style.
OK. Let me give you a few examples. We have a rule that we’re guided by here: any great restaurant serving non-mainstream food will be a shithole hole in the wall. That’s not to say that nice places can’t serve good food. But more often than not, the real gems are decor-challenged. There are NO great barbecue places that one would consider as having five star decor. Neither Arthur Bryant’s nor Sonny Bryan’s nor Dreamland are places one would consider “upscale” or “stylish” (BTW, I hate those words: they’re laden with so many prejudices). All are among the best places of their genre.
My new favorite locally is a Venezuelan beach food place called Valencia Luncheria. 22 seats. BYOB. Paper napkins. No table service at lunch – like the BBQ places, come to the damn counter and get it yourself – we’re busy here! But food to die for. One bite of their pernil and you realize that the same food in a major five-star hotel would cost three times as much and reservations would be impossible to come by.
And that’s the business lesson. How many people do you know who show up in a great looking suit with a fancy haircut but add nothing to the conversation? How many times have you made the mistake of ignoring a casually-dressed Gen Y-er because they couldn’t be “serious” looking the way they do? One is a fairly benign thing – empty suits are a classic in business. The other can hurt you if you miss it.
Look for the great food and ignore the dining room. Believe me – if you close your eyes, the great eats can transport you anywhere and a hole in the wall becomes Gordon Ramsay’s. Pay attention to substance both in food and business. Style is generally overpriced!