Last month, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans and witnessing the 41st year of Jazzfest (a great music experience for those of you who enjoy outdoor concerts).   Based on a tip from a waitress at breakfast, we learned about a great restaurant that had earned the #1 rating on Trip Advisor and I was determined we would eat there sans reservation.

 

We found the Louisiana Bistro on relatively quiet Rue Dauphine, which was remarkable given that Bourbon Street craziness resides just one block away.    The place was tiny (we counted 12 tables) and bustling.  The menu was enticing with lots of choices that reflected French, Cajun and artistic approaches to cooking.   But what caught my eye was a little note at the bottom:  “Feed Me.”   Our waiter indicated that selecting this option means that the Chef comes to the table and “interviews” us about any food allergies, strong likes/dislikes, and how hungry we are.

 

Chef Mars came out, got to know our preferences, and then asked, “are we a go?”  This was sufficiently intriguing that we agreed to proceed…and had no other say in our meal except the wine.

 

The next two hours were full of surprises and a constant state of “what’s next?”   The table next to ours had also selected the Feed Me option, and each of their courses was entirely different from ours.   Chef Mars just goes back in the kitchen and creates, a culinary improv that keeps you guessing (including dessert and the the bill, which was a bargain given how fun and novel our dining experience became).    Unquestionably,  Louisiana Bistro gets a strong recommendation, especially for those who have already done the traditional fare of Commanders Palace, Mr. B’s, and the like.

 

This dining encounter proved very informative, and here are the key takeaways that I think are useful:

 

1.  Consumer endorsement   –  the fact that this was #1 rated by Trip Advisor rather than something you see in an airline magazine (eg, “Top Rated Steakhouses”) had significantly more weight and credibility.   In a world where we are flooded with options, knowing this place was highly rated “By the People, For the People” made it easy to conclude that since everyday people like me think the place is great, then it must be.   Those of you who have yet to take seriously the power of consumer ratings’ sites, take heed!

 

2.  Customization –  This restaurant has a fully customizable offering that changes the dynamic by putting control in the hands of the chef.  The ability to choose to let the chef choose was unique and memorable…something I will take away and recall months and years from now.  (I’ve already forgotten what we were served, by the way.)   No matter how “competitive” you believe your particular line of business is, I doubt that level exceeds the very cutthroat nature of being in the restaurant business. What can you do to add greater personalization  in a way that more fully differentiates your offering?

 

3.  Connection – The Chef’s offering allowed for greater customer intimacy via a more personal experience.  The place, the staff, and the food all were a direct reflection of the Chef and his attempt to connect his passion and skill with his customers.   He was actually a bit reserved, yet his personality gets revealed through his  photo gallery on the restaurant website.   I feel like I’m getting to know this person beyond his functional role of serving our meal.  What do you do to “extend” the experience and allow people to get to know you better as a person beyond your defined professional role?

 

In an era where authenticity is becoming the yardstick by which experiences are measured, paying attention to customer feedback, customization, and connection are all strong areas which warrant your care and feeding!