To Bespoke Or Not Bespoke

Here’s a header box that greeted me as I opened out a menu at one of central Cape Town’s new trendy spots on the rapidly improving Bree Street.

I instantly thought menu engineers would explode seeing this.

Talk about how to put your clients’ backs up. They haven’t even started and you’re placing restrictions on them. You design everything else around their experience to be brushed with boutique specialness. But then hit them square between the eyes with the approach of a fastfood chain.

I wondered what changes could possibly cause such upheaval. Swap sausage for bacon? Take onions out the salad? Rye bread instead?

Every single independent deli-cafe-restaurant faces such ‘changes or substitutes’. They are near constant.

I then pondered whether a waitron training issue was perhaps the true cause of operational discomfort. As opposed to intransigent cooking staff. Or maybe owner insistence. After all, think of the havoc changing flows in the just-in-time stock system may wreak.

No chance of a pick ‘n mix Full English then?

For balance, let’s not forget though, the occasional unreasonableness of a customer.

Switching items plainly without parity of price cannot be ‘fair’. Crafting a brand-new menu from scraps of what or might not already be available does not make you sound like a Michelin reviewer. Who is so “spesh” that they must have their steak-frites with mash?

An item can be prepared in advance of final cooking as ‘one’, rendering change not possible. I once bore witness to a request for a Dhansak curry to be served “without the lentils”, although thankfully we all laughed along together.

We sometimes suffer this onslaught. Account Managers can live under a barrage of “change order requests”.  New Business field regular spec amendments.

Gone are the days of Henry Ford’s “any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”.

Yet there is a problematic shift here. There used to be two polar options; Bespoke, Off-The-Peg.

The former clearly commanding pricing higher than the latter.

Today, these boundaries have not so much blurred as become flattened. To the extent that buyers might even take great offence if their precious solution was not in fact completely and uniquely tailored to them.

Be strong.

I never work with the cheapest player in a sector.

So yes, I am possibly biased.

Yet I stick to my guns. You have a product that is different. Do not be afraid to charge for that difference. Nor for any extra difference the eventual client may quite like. It has value. To you and your prospect.

Do not participate in our Solution world’s own Race To The Bottom.

But don’t say you can’t be flexible from the off. Leave that to the commoditising, margin-losing, firefighting competition.

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