In Your Brand We Trust: Consistency Begins With Believing

As with many chapters within the Tall Tim Story, this one begins innocently enough with having lunch.

Anna and I were celebrating a rare day off together and had selected a popular chain restaurant that featured an impressive, cavernous dining room evoking a Mediterranean flair. Familiar with the concept from our time spent in Atlanta, it was a friendly and comfortable choice.

Recent articles had referenced this location outside of Tampa as a promising new addition to the expanding brand, generating over $4 million in revenue during its first year and trending above that in the second.

We decided to extend lunch with a selection from the dessert menu: Chocolate Cake, served with Warm Fudge Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream.

Sounds decadent. What was served was an over-baked, extremely dense piece of chocolate cake, with fudge sauce the consistency of paste. While noticeable, this did not distract from enjoying the moment. Anna was the first to bridge the obvious and posed the following question:

“Maybe you should bring some desserts for this place?”

“Why?” I responded, hurriedly scooping up vanilla ice cream, challenging Anna’s spoon like two hockey players chasing a puck on the ice.

“Why not?” she responded.

Why not? I placed an exploratory call, and much to my surprise, the Executive Chef agreed to meet and discuss the possibilities. Included within samples for that meeting were Petit Chocolate Banana Charlottes. Both the Chef and General Manager viewed them as a fabulous Mother’s Day Special and placed an order for 300 on the spot.

Fate then delivered a near fatal blow. The facility I was using to produce desserts was no longer available. Reluctantly, I contacted the Chef to pass along the disheartening news. He then asked a simple, but transformative question:

“Can you make them here, in our kitchen?”

We arranged a walk-through of the kitchen facility, clearly designed for high-volume: a long, slender line of production equipment housed directly behind the customer-facing finishing stations for sauteeing, grilling, and plating. Impressive.

The Chef asked me to look over their in-house desserts, typical fare that included the chocolate cake, cheesecake, a custard torte, and tiramisu. Not impressive.

Having noticed my expression, the Chef smiled and asked, “Do you think you can help us with these, too?”

We worked out an arrangement in which I would support the restaurant’s dessert production in exchange for access to their kitchen. While this turned me into a nocturnal being, it provided a commercial platform from which I could continue producing our line of specialty sweets.

As for correcting their in-house desserts, that part was simple. The ingredients were all there, it was the technique that was missing.

Safeguarding Consistency

At the beginning of the arrangement, I noticed everything in the kitchen was made fresh, produced on site. From sauces and sliced vegetables, to the portioning of proteins and seafood, every menu item depended on the talents at hand.

Within six months, any food items that could be produced at a central facility were being packed and distributed to Brand locations throughout the country.

Mine had become a front row seat to how the organization was adjusting to the demands of growth. Across their more than 100 locations, customer satisfaction had dropped, highlighting numerous inconsistencies with food product that distracted from the overall experience.

The rustic and festive atmosphere of the dining room, the visual spectacle of the culinary stations, and the allure of house-made wine were the essentials that powered the experience. Bulk food preparation, when executed properly, seamlessly supported delivery of the essentials, creating a platform for service staff to work their magic.

A practical solution was to centralize control of the basics: sauces, proteins, prepared vegetables, and desserts. Pastas would be cooked on site and entrees, as always, were prepared to order.

It worked, at least in this location.

Renewed consistency in the kitchen liberated confidence among the staff. Servers could focus on creating emotional connections with guests, without the hesitancy that had accompanied an inconsistent product. Guests were free to be themselves, to enjoy something they had come to know, like, and could once again trust.

Sharing a Belief from Inside > Out

This Brand, like millions of others, was built around sharing something intimately special. Family members so cherished their memories of cooking and learning from Nana they opened a restaurant that captured her spirit.

It was their Core Belief, the genesis moment of a Brand.

Impassioned beginnings fuel an initial belief. Like ripples from a droplet of water, that passion appears strongest nearer the core but remains part of every ripple as the circle expands. Whether a team of five or company of 500 locations, protecting and fostering a belief will influence every decision, every action, every connection moving forward.

Preserving why we exist . . . what’s most important, the non-negotiables, ultimate do-or-die purpose of our brand . . . begins with communicating from the Inside > Out:

What’s the Mission Statement?

A well-crafted, concise mission statement doesn’t just communicate a belief, it translates why you exist, carrying forward an almost spiritual connection to what you feel.

Whether the convenience of Amazon, the peace of mind of FedEx, or the inspired performance of Nike, every successful Brand has translated their Core Belief into an emotional connection that projects a desired state of being. For example, Nike’s Mission Statement is:

“Bring Inspiration and Innovation to Every Athlete* in the World”

*If you have a body, you are an Athlete

In ten words this statement communicates to every employee their shared purpose. The creative subscript reassures a sense of inclusion, that existence is not limited to elite or professional athletes, but to every human being on the planet.

Promoting a sense of altruism, barriers segregating employment from enjoyment are removed. Sharing that feeling thus becomes a collaborative effort among Nike employees and their customers.

Translate the Spirit

We had named our catering business Renaissance Desserts, in that our products “represented a graceful revival of classic structure and technique”.

Sounds tempting as a Mission Statement, except it defines what we produced, and not the spirit behind why we did it. 

Our desserts were crafted from minimal, high-quality ingredients, with stunning visual appeal showcasing artisan technique. They offered a respite from the chaos and cumbersome, a return to the joys of simplicity present in every bite.      

That was the feeling as they were designed and produced, and my belief in what people would feel or experience while sharing them.

Two words, perhaps more mantra than mission, would capture this spirit: Master Simplicity.

Adding talent to our group would include a responsibility to translate that spirit into a universal language, one that moved beyond the why and into the “what” and “how”.

Visions, values, promises, credos, commitments, mottos, basics . . . all serve to promote a sense of practicality from a central source of passion.

While I certainly have thoughts related to how these should be structured (notably less is more) they all support:

  • Why someone would choose our product or service (Know)
  • What they expect (Like)
  • How we deliver a consistent experience (Trust)

These aspects of why, what, and how are grounded in human nature, sponsoring a shared belief among all who become part of it.

How this translates into every day is captured in this post. A client had made a choice and I had made a promise that was now in jeopardy. I felt nauseous, disappointed in knowing that broken promises violate trust, and risk the future of even long-standing relationships.

The emotions experienced were the same I would expect from any other member of my team.

Cascading Consistency

Standards represent the essentials necessary to power the Brand experience . . . consistency lies in the technique with which they are delivered.

Every organization must monitor these essentials to identify inefficiencies, opportunities to improve, or impact from trends or changes in society. This is not to deviate from a Core Belief, their Mission, but to remain relevant, from both a customer and employment perspective.

This is especially critical in the service industry, where embracing and extending a Core Belief hinges on confidence in the essentials.

Consider our chain restaurant example. Both Customer Satisfaction and Service Execution were impacted by inconsistent food quality, distracting from festive elements within the experience customers had come to know, love, and trust.

Now consider Guest Facing Staff, who exist in a perpetual moment of truth, representing the face of your Core Belief in every food item delivered and beverage served. No amount of smiling can disguise a lack of confidence . . . you could see it in their eyes, read it in their body language.

The solution was to ‘control the controllable’ by creating a centralized food production system. This did more than restore trust. It reinstated confidence, energized a sense of community, and placed the future of the Brand in the hands of those most qualified to protect it: the Staff.

Enjoying these accolades comes with a commitment to joint accountability. Believing in a shared purpose and having it influence your thoughts is the beginning. Taking action when something is not in alignment is when the true value of a Brand surfaces.

Just as a Mission Statement does not reference or segregate levels within an organization, neither should the responsibility to uphold standards . . . the essentials . . . be relegated to those in a leadership position. Everyone within the Brand is responsible for its health and safety, regardless of title.

Moving On

Once desserts were supplied from a central facility, the restaurant no longer required my assistance. Which was a good thing . . . the restaurant continued to trend up in sales, and even with a reduced food preparation schedule, space in the kitchen was at a premium.

The experience leaves us with a question: What’s your Mission Statement?

Mission Statements don’t have to be lengthy or contain complex words. They must simply speak to your heart and soul.

The success of any Brand, much like any team, depends on attracting and retaining talent. The more connected that talent feels to the Core Belief, the reason why a Brand exists, the more connected they become to the reasons why a customer or guest will know, like, and trust their Brand.

This begins with a look in the mirror. They’ll discover it’s the same reason they know, like, and trust their Brand . . . and why they stay. Confidence will bloom, consistency will generate loyalty to the experience and foster growth.

The ingredients are there, the only thing missing is technique. I trust you’ll be ready.

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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