The buffet problem keeps getting worse

Here's the thinking that leads just about every all-you-can-eat buffet to trend to mediocrity:

"Oh, don't worry about how fresh the mashed potatoes are, after all, they're free."

Indeed, as far as the kitchen is concerned, each individual item on the buffet is 'free' in the sense that the customer didn't spend anything extra to get that item.

The problem is obvious, of course. Once you start thinking that way, then every single item on the buffet gets pretty lousy, and the next thing you know, the customers you seek don't come.

So, the hotel that says, "With this sort of volume... we do tend to encounter a slower pace with our free wireless internet," has completely misunderstood how to think about the free internet they offer. It's not free. In fact, it might be the one and only reason someone picked your $400 hotel room over that hotel down the street. Sure the hot water and the towels and the quiet room are all free in the sense that they're included in the price, but no, they're not free in the mind of the purchaser.

Successful organizations often beat the competition by turning the buffet problem upside down. "Let's make these the best mashed potatoes in town--who knows, next time, that guy out front will bring his friends."

The mashed potatoes aren't free, the mashed potatoes, the wifi and everything else you do are an opportunity. The cheapest and most effective marketing you'll do all year.

       
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