11/16/11

Inconvenience is good, in moderation

This past summer, Rick Bayless opened a Fontera restaurant location at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. I pass it every couple weeks, and it's usually pretty crowded.

Which may seem surprising.

Because when you order a sandwich there, you're handed a pager, indicating the wait for your order will be a long one. Once can understand why you're handed a pager on a Friday night at a suburban Applebee's. (True, one can't understand why you're at an Applebee's in the suburbs on a Friday night, but go with me on this.) But at an airport? When all your customers are rushing off to catch flights? As my cohorts would say, "Someone broke the user experience."

As many a restauranteur (and marketer) seems to understand these days, a little inconvenience can go a long way. The Donut Vault regularly runs out of donuts by 10am, so people line up at 8. Grant Achatz' restaurant Next only keeps a menu for 3 months, so people constantly beg for a ticket. Food trucks by their very nature are almost always inconveniently located, which makes seeing one feel special. In the case of Air Fontera, the pager (and the awaiting crowd) serves as great marketing for the restaurant. It's living proof the place is worth the wait.

A lot of inconveniences likely means your business or product will fail. But a little inconvenience - the right inconvenience - could be the most interesting story you can tell.

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