Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Art of Falafel: Recipes for Exceptional Performance

The ubiquitous New York City street vendor. Whether serving up franks or falafel, these entrepreneurs compete for your attention and your business in a very crowded marketplace (think 3000+ competitors).

Yet many have a very loyal clientele and each year a few are awarded as the best of the best at the annual Vendy Awards - New York City’s annual awards for the Best Street Food Vendor (or, as Chef Mario Batali called them, “The Oscars of food for the real New York”).

Here are seven “not necessarily secret ingredients” Vendy Award winners know about pleasing customers along with some of the most frequently mentioned observations and accolades from the winners’ fans.

Product Superiority

Significantly better product quality was the most mentioned attribute. Fans used phrases like, “phenomenal,” “out of this world,” “unbelievable” and “not just a product to be sold but an experience.”

Good? That’s not nearly good enough.

People go out of their way to buy from them

One customer checks Twitter daily for their location and “…if they’re even remotely close to where I am, I’ll find them.” One loyal customer has his favorite Upper East Side food cart on his speed dial and thinks little of walking blocks in the rain to pick up lunch. Another customer cites a “loyal and intense fan base.” Still another says he’s “addicted” and can’t help himself from coming back.

Street vendor or radio station, daily consumption is a significant measure of success.

Entertainment Adds to the Experience

Many loyal customers said their favorite vendors were skilled in the art of performance. One cart king was referred to as “the most entertaining vendor in town.” Another said, “Watching them work is like watching a ballet...” and, “These guys are such characters that it adds just as much flavor to your meal as their secret hot sauce.”

How’s your entertainment quotient? Would a little more “spectacle” be beneficial?

Anticipation is Part of the Experience

A number of people think about the experience long before stepping up to the cart. “I actually find myself sitting at my desk daydreaming about it.” Another noted that he waits all winter for his favorite summer street vendor to return and as soon as you’re done with your plate, “you are already planning your next trip…for another one.”

As DMR’s Tripp Eldridge pointed out in “31 Moments of Truth,” what audiences think about your radio station brand when they’re NOT tuned in is critical to their future listening decisions.

There’s Something Surprising, New or Unique on a Regular or Even Daily Basis

“Always changing” and a “constant introduction” of items were also hot buttons.

Rolling out product upgrades and innovations is a common tactic particularly among smaller brands.

Social Media is Part of their Business

The King of Falafel, Fares “Freddy” Zeidaies, a Vendy finalist for 3 years, tweets, is on Facebook and has a website that includes video of a TV interview, menu, map and a guest book where submissions include “you have truly become a vital part of the neighborhood,” and “I cook my first arabic (sic) meal thanks to you.”

Vendors tweet their specials, update their arrival times if they’re running late, and just simply communicate regularly with their fans. Kenny Lao’s Rickshaw Dumplings claims to have 5000 followers; he also has a website that includes the history of dumplings, locations, a menu, and recent press coverage. You can see similar efforts from many Vendy winners including Wafels and Dinges and the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck both of whom sell merchandise with Wafels also offering products for sale.

It’s More Than Just Cooking, It’s Connecting

Many comments referenced how the community was a better place because of a favorite vendor – not because of the cooking but because of the connections that had been forged between vendor and customer.

“She is a wonderful, cheerful person who knows everyone in the neighborhood and takes care of them like family,” “He’s a great guy, humanitarian and environmentalist” and, “If money is scarce, you can get a meal from him and pay later.”

Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO and author of No-Compromise Leadership writes, “Demonstrate a sincere interest in discovering my needs. Remember those needs. Respect me. Listen to me. Give me your best – not something less. Earn my trust and you’ll have my loyalty. As a customer, these things are important to me. The more of these you fulfill, the more your business earns my loyalty and respect – and my praising referrals. The less you do, the more your business tells me how average it is.”

No comments: