Tiny MBA at Hussein
Yesterday I was having dinner at a tiny restaurant in Cairo's very old quarter of El-Hussein. The whole dinner experience didn't exceed 20 minutes, but in that 20 minutes I was able to realize why this restaurant (which isn't exactly a restaurant, but rather an occupation of a tiny alleyway) continues to be very successful.
I'm in a line of business where people think in bullets, so here are my observations:
- The restaurant only sells stuffed pigeons. Of course they have salad, soup, bread, and some meat; but the whole show is mainly about stuffed pigeons. Talk about leveraging competitive advantage.
- The business was hit hard by the Bird Flu scare. To counter this, the walls of the restaurant were all adorned with photocopies of articles from independent newspapers stressing that pigeons weren't infected with the virus. This form of PR is more effective than a chicken producer's 30 seconds spots on radio and TV saying that our chicken is all right, if you asked me.
- As I said before, the whole dinner lasted around 20 minutes. Because of a very limited menu, and standardized components (one salad, one bread, one soup) , the waiters are able to serve fresh dishes quickly.
- You don't get to pay for the salad, the bread, or the soup. You fully expect beforehand what will you pay at the end. "You had 2 pigeons?", me: "yes", "that will be 32 L.E. (6$)". That's it. So although you're obviously paying for the other things, you get the feeling that you had every other thing as freebies. No sales taxes, or service taxes either.
- The restaurant has a head waiter. This guy is analogous to a football team captain. He stand at the center of the restaurant, and direct the other waiters to the tables that require their attention, but he never serves anything himself. That's why I was surprised when I saw him serving this huge pan filled of rice and meat to a table at the far corner of the restaurant. It turned out that the restaurant was about to close (it was 2 AM) and that this table was the workers' table, where everybody who works there will go to have their dinner before going home. Only this table is waited on by the head waiter. Seems like a very effective team building technique to me.
Sometimes doing is more important than knowing!