Making Lemons Out of Lemonade

By Michael Masterson

We got to Grappa, Park City's best Italian restaurant, at 8:44. Our reservation was for 8:45.

"I'm sorry," the hostess said, smiling. "We're running a little behind."

We were immediately disappointed.

"But we'd like to offer you complimentary Champagne and hors d'oeuvres," she said, "in the boutique across the street."

I looked out the window at the boutique. It was brightly lit and festive looking. I could see a half-dozen people milling around, sipping drinks and looking at the furniture and knick-knacks for sale. They looked like they were enjoying themselves.

"OK," I said, "but . . ."

"We'll page you there as soon as your table is ready, Mr. Masterson," she said.

Many restaurants purposely "run a little behind" so you'll wait (and spend money) in their bar. But Grappa came up with a different way to turn a restaurant's most common annoyance (waiting for a table) into a pleasant way for customers to pass the time. (And spend more money.)

It turned out to be a nice experience for us -- browsing through an upscale boutique full of interesting impulse buys for the affluent shopper. The store was half-full, which meant you could navigate your way around easily without the risk of spilling your drink or getting stuck in a crowded aisle.

I spoke to one of the boutique owners, a young guy who told me that the joint venture was working out well. "We split the cost of the Champagne and hors d'oeuvres. But the profits on the business we do is ours to keep."

One of my friends bought a silver wine-pull. I was thinking about ordering a coffeemaker when we got the call: Our table was ready.

Back at the restaurant, I mentioned that this idea -- two seemingly unrelated businesses linking up for a synergistic effect -- is an old one. In the early 1980s, Jay Abraham talked about it. Since then, I've done it many times. But this particular application was very impressive.

We talked about other potential ways to apply the same idea. The most obvious opportunity is for movie theaters and bookstores. It's not by accident that they are so often in close proximity. (See "Word to the Wise," below.) Bookstores realize that moviegoers often buy their tickets early and then look for someplace to spend the intervening time. All that extra "idle" traffic results in a lot of extra book sales.

But what's in it for the movie theaters? Right now, not much. And that's why there are so few actual joint ventures between the two. But if more of them were to get together and promote a single book-browsing and movie-watching experience, they might all do better.

For example, the bookstore could sell advance tickets at a discount up to a half-hour before the show. It could advertise this service in the store and possibly in its newspaper ads.

Promotions could be created around specific movies -- i.e., featuring related books and maybe serving dessert and coffee after the 8:00 show. At the same time, the theater could help promote after-movie book browsing through its on-screen advertising.

It seems to me that the theater/bookstore combination would provide an entertainment/education experience that people would appreciate and pay for. If a few good marketers got together and brainstormed, all sorts of good and useful ideas could be developed.

The result would be good for everyone: More sales for the bookstores and movie theaters and a more enjoyable night out for the customers.

1 comment:

Robert Wallace said...

From Greg Woodman:

Very interested and still very much the bane of my existence----I still cannot believe how damn difficult it is to create true vendor partnerships…..either the vendor does not get it and wishes to remain but a transactional supplier or my team does not allow them to “value add” and be my R and D back shop? Still a challenge for me….and still not true win/wins with our outsourced vendors and still no luck growing real brokers…..