It can be difficult to satisfy the wide variety of customer expectations while also maintaining the integrity of your business. For Chef Lucas Sin of Nice Day Chinese in New York City, he takes on this challenge with pride—recognizing and delivering what his customers want and also honoring the core values and mission upon which the restaurant was built.
When first developing the plan to bring Nice Day Chinese to life, Lucas and his founding partners had to face two competing truths: one, that Chinese food in the U.S. is “largely quite singular and limited,” as Lucas described, and two, that Chinese-American cuisine is very important to American food in general. “People have a very nostalgic and intimate relationship with Chinese-American food,” Lucas shared. So to honor tradition while also meeting customer demand, Lucas and his team opened a restaurant that would give customers the Chinese-American food they crave while also paying homage to the traditional ingredients and recipes—which are becoming increasingly difficult to find as the preceding generation of chefs begins to age.
This week’s Yelp reviewer (and Yelp’s Brooklyn Community Manager) Morlene C. admitted she initially felt skeptic of Nice Day. Being part Chinese, she didn’t grow up with Chinese-American food specifically and notes that it can be difficult to find quality Chinese-American cuisine that is produced with integrity and respect for Chinese culture. But she soon discovered that Nice Day Chinese balances the two perfectly. And doing that is no easy feat—maintaining cultural integrity while meeting customer expectations takes patience and dedication.
We often speak about how important a great customer experience is, but with food industries especially, it can be easier to focus on the end product: the food itself. But when you focus on the experience, it can bring even more to your customers—the experience can serve as a catalyst for an even more meaningful connection. Lucas said, “I’ve always had this sort of curiosity about the ability for food to tell stories, for food to be a starting point to think about deeper cultural issues and social issues and having it as a sort of a gateway into a larger conversation.”
Consider how your business can serve society as a whole. Not every individual service or product has to lead to a deeper conversation, but generally, think about the ways your business can impact the world around you.
Here’s a look at some of the learnings in this week’s episode:
- Consistency. When you’re trying to attract loyal customers, focus on creating a consistent experience and/or product. Think about the little things—for example, especially for restaurants during the pandemic, think about your to-go experience. Does the food travel well? Will it taste the same when it arrives? Can guests expect the same sauces and sides? Focusing on consistencies like this will help you build and maintain trust with your customers.
- Stay true to your mission. When you have a strong, values-driven mission for your business, you can always look to it as the North Star, ensuring that all decisions and choices you make are representative of that mission.
- Sometimes food just needs to be delicious. While it’s important to focus on the business’ mission, it goes without saying that the end product also has to be outstanding. Lucas shared, “I really appreciate that for many, many people, food is just food, and it needs to be delicious and hot and crispy, and I think part of the amazing thing about the American-Chinese food is that you can enjoy it in and of itself for its own purpose without further thinking about history and all these things while you’re eating it.” So while having a guiding mission is integral, it’s also important that you recognize the reality of your customer’s expectations.
Interviews by Emily Washcovick
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Lucas and Morlene, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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