Every Night is Opening Night

It was opening night.  There was a line out the door of the restaurant as people clamored to get inside.

The famous restaurateur Wolfgang Puck had been in Atlanta all week, writes Peter Guber in his terrific book Tell to Win.  Wolfgang wanted to make sure his staff were properly trained and understood the standard of excellence Wolfgang was famous for.

The results were impressive.  The restaurant more than doubled the amount of revenue they had expected.  All was good.

Six months later, Wolfgang was back in Atlanta to bid on a large catering contract.  In the middle of his presentation, someone told him he should shut down his new restaurant: “Take the key, throw it out the door, and lock it up. It’s not you.”

This week we are looking at how storytelling can transform business.  We are exploring different types of raw material for the stories we tell to prompt our audience to take action.  Today, we look at the power of metaphors and analogies.

Wolfgang was alarmed.

The next morning, he was out of bed early. He showed up at the restaurant at 6 am unannounced.

“The sandwich bread was old and dry,” Wolfgang remembered.  “The romaine had brown spots on the side.  You have the simplest thing, a Caesar salad, but it’s terrible because the ends are brown.  It’s not that we bought the worst quality; it’s just that instead of prepping it every day, they did it every three days because it’s cheaper and easier.  The chicken came from an unreliable source.  It wasn’t me.”

Wolfgang’s first instinct was to shut the place down.  Immediately.

Then, he reflected.  He thought about how nervous he always felt when he opened a new restaurant: “What if it doesn’t work out?  What will people think?  Why did I do another restaurant?  What if nobody shows up?” 

Wolfgang knew the anxiety he felt on opening night was a big part of why he was successful:  “On opening night everyone is on their best behavior, making sure everything is just right.”

Wolfgang realized the energy and excitement of opening night was something to be channeled and replicated every night.

Every night is opening night! 

Wolfgang told this story to his team in Atlanta: Every night is opening night! 

They got it.

He began telling this story to his teams in all his restaurants across the country: Every night is opening night!   

Wolfgang realized his patrons flock to his restaurants not just to consume the food, but because they savor the entire experience.  

And, they retell it.

“I wish somebody had told me, ‘Wolfgang just tell a story; it’s easy!”

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Reflection: Think about a current business challenge.  Is there a story from a personal experience I could tell to move people to take action?

Action:  Tell it.

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