“The sea of sameness” is a term that many, including myself, have used to describe the awful location where many businesses are adrift. And, it’s precisely the spot the CMO of Applebee’s stated that their more than 2,000 restaurants were located.
My friend, Dr. Scott Vernon of Cal Poly, forwarded me a really important article about changes for the casual dining restaurant — that also reveals what could be troubling your business, as well.
Applebee’s sales were down 3.7% just this past quarter. According to the article, they’ve had “years of slumping sales and unsuccessful turn-around initiatives.”
It seems to me that Applebee’s is suffering from two of the critical challenges in creating distinction.
- What’s the compelling reason you’d choose to dine at Applebee’s instead of a competitor like Chili’s, Bennigan’s, Cheesecake Factory, Houlihan’s, O’Charley’s… or any of the others from the approximately 81 chains in the category? (I couldn’t think of any.)
- What have you noticed that Applebee’s has changed recently so that it doesn’t suffer from Destroyer #3 from “Create Distinction” — “Familiarity Breeds Complacency“? In other words, what steps has Applebee’s taken lately so that regular customers do not become bored and complacent with their menu and service? (Again, I couldn’t think of any.)
Applebee’s, to their credit, has recognized their challenge…and is taking major steps to correct the problem.
According to the report, “The brand is installing wood fire grills in all 2,000-plus locations across the US — a $40 million investment by the chain’s franchisees. The grills will completely change much of Applebee’s menu’s meal preparation, impacting 40% of items on the menu.”
How much will it impact Applebee’s? The expectation is that it will be significant: “You’re going to see it and hear it,” Julia Stewart, the chairman and CEO of Applebee’s parent company DineEquity, Inc., told Business Insider. “You’re going to literally smell it when you’re in the parking lot, and then you’re going to walk in and see it on the menu, and then you’re going to have a food server talk about it in a very excited way.”
Frankly, I can’t wait to try their new menu — and, I believe this is a infinitely superior strategy to what most organizations do: cut prices and work harder on an outdated, old plan.
What does this mean to you?
- Be honest: are your customers bored with you? Can they tell a difference between you and your competition?
- What can you do to shake up –and improve/enhance –your product or service, so that you stop drifting on that “sea of sameness”?
- How about renovating your customer experience while you’re at it?
If you can do these steps, you may very well find yourself charting a fresh course into the waters of distinction!