July 05, 2021

Customer Development via Merchandise: The Supper Club

When you chat with an Executive at a traditional brand, you get feedback that sounds contrary to normal.

  • "Yeah, we'd love to run an influencer program, but our customer is 67 years old and isn't on Instagram."
You kinda feel bad for the Executive, simply because she is right. She can't employ a strategy that appeals to a 26 year old customer when her customer is 67 years old.

The Executive digs in:
  • "Given that we can't do modern things to acquire customers, we're stuck. The co-ops don't work anymore and Google is more expensive with fewer conversions. We're just stuck."
This brings me to the topic of a Supper Club.

In Wisconsin, Supper Clubs are a dying breed. Why would you spend two hours at a Supper Club when you could spend 55 minutes in-and-out at Applebees?

So as Supper Clubs die out, those that remain offer an experience that is fundamentally different than you get ordering a shrimp bowl at Chili's with seamless curbside pickup. The omnichannel offering at Chili's must be battled with a different approach.

Ever drive up to a Supper Club at 4:20 in the afternoon?





Yeah, those two places don't quite look like the Olive Garden, now do they?

You don't really ask for a table. You tell the bartender that you have four people, and you order drinks.


The restaurant isn't adorned with big screen TVs showing you a Braves/Nationals game, that's for sure.


This is the point in the script where the omnichannel experts tell you that you are wrong with just about everything you are doing.

Instead, the Supper Club leans into the experience.

At some point a table is going to become available. Ten or fifteen minutes before that happens, somebody takes your order in the bar. Prices are reasonable. Who wouldn't eat Yellow Lake Perch for just $20.95?


When your table is finally available, your are sent to your table, where your salad (french dressing is mandatory) awaits.


You're likely to be served some bread along with a generous amount of butter. You like butter, right?



With your salad you will be served a relish tray (because you care about what you eat). In particularly swanky Supper Clubs, you'll also get bread sticks or crackers wrapped in plastic.


Maybe you order the broasted chicken (yes ... broasted ... the only way to enjoy chicken). You also order the broasted chicken so you can be served rye bread.


Want some butter with your chicken and alfredo shells?



Many eschew the broasted chicken for surf and turf ... in this case, prime rib with walleye (notice the amply supply of healthy vegetables, including an entire baked potato stuffed with cheese and bacon and sour cream).


Or maybe you indulge in an enticing side dish.


Health-conscious patrons will enjoy the whitefish with a quart of drawn butter.


Some will partake in a 16" thin-crust pizza. Why wouldn't you?


Once you've finished the following:
  • 2-3 drinks at the bar.
  • Your salad with french dressing #mandatory.
  • Your relish tray.
  • Crackers and/or bread sticks wrapped in plastic.
  • Warm bread and countless pads of butter.
  • 16oz prime rib plus four fillets of deep-fried walleye coupled with a baked potato and a generous side of heart-healthy vegetables ... or an oversized thin-crust crispy pizza ... or broasted chicken ... and butter.
... once you've finished all of that ... it is time for dessert. Might I recommend a grasshopper?



As you wait for your arteries to stop clogging, you get the bill. $57 for two people. On a pound-for-pound basis you'll be hard-pressed to get out of Red Lobster for $57.

Why did I just spend ten minutes going through this advertisement for obesity?

At some point you just have to "lean in" to your destiny. The Supper Clubs that remain in Wisconsin do pretty much the opposite of "Best Practices". They offer an "experience" unlike anything you'll find in a chain restaurant. Is it any wonder these places are packed to the rafters at 4:15 in the afternoon on a Thursday?

The same logic applies to so many of you reading this missive. Your brands have been poo-poo'd by the pundits for not being omnichannel enough for their tastes ... for not being "digitally native" ... for not leveraging AI and/or Machine Learning ... for not having a micro-influencer program on Instagram ... for not "engaging" audiences on Tik-Toc.

Ignore the pundits.

Go deep into your situation, and capture every single customer in your vertical ... like the Supper Club proprietors did in Wisconsin. These folks have Developed Customers who appreciate the old-school stylings of the food they offer.








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