“What do you want for lunch?” he asked as we entered the bar of his restaurant. Seems like a simple question, but when the person asking is the president of a successful restaurant chain, it is more complicated. I was meeting with him to discuss working on an expansion to his popular chain of local restaurants.
He had just finished telling me his family’s uniquely “Southern California” story about the establishment of the business. His father loaded the family into their old car, then drove miles to an abandoned hamburger stand where he announced that he had just purchased the stand and that the family would be opening a Mexican restaurant there. He went on to explain how he and his brother had worked long hours to help the family business become a success, and how they protect the company’s brand by promoting motivated employees from within and allow only the most capable of those employees to open a franchise.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to experience something new and unique, I answered his question, “If there is a traditional dish or something unique to your family that I can’t get anywhere else, I’d love to try that.”
His eyes brightened and he said, “I have just the thing!” and he hurried off to the kitchen.
After a few minutes he came back with a warning that the dish I was about to have, I could never order again. I immediately replayed our previous conversation in my mind to try and figure out if I had said something that might have offended him. Sensing my confusion, he went on to explain, “This dish is so involved that it drives the chef crazy when I have him prepare it.”
We continued our conversation, and in a few minutes the dish “that I dare not order again” arrived. While it didn’t look like any Mexican dish I had ever eaten, it was delicious! As we ate, the owner continued to tell me the history of their family business and explain the subtleties of the dish we were eating. Then two of the regulars spoke up from across the bar.
“Hey,” one of them said, “How come I’ve never seen that dish before?”
The owner smiled back, “That’s because it’s not on the menu.”
“Can we ask for it?” asked the other regular.
The owner explained that it didn’t make financial sense to add the dish to the menu, due to how complicated it was to make. But as he spoke, I saw him begin to take a portion of the dish that he was about to eat and put it on two clean plates and give it to the two regulars. He served it to them with the same warning he had given me: “You can never order this.”
Why do I tell you this story? Because one of the best parts of my job as an architect is hearing stories about how businesses are started and what helps them succeed in the competitive Long Beach area where we do a lot of our business. The interaction with this particular business owner gave me more insight into his business than he probably knows, and it’s information I will keep in the back of my mind as we work together to design spaces that will help him expand his business.
Understanding my clients—their wants and needs, their history, their goals and dreams—is vital to giving them a finished product that they love, whether we’re working on a commercial or residential project. If you need an architect in Long Beach for a project you have in mind, and want a company that will partner with you, give us a call to set up a meeting. I know a great Mexican restaurant where we can meet for lunch.