“Oh my God, I want to go THERE!” I said to my wife, as I pointed up at a restaurant sign that read: Boru Noodle Bar.
“What? I don’t want a belly full of noodles. We’re on vacation,” she said.
True, we were on a two-night getaway from the kids in Newport, RI, but I didn’t see what that had to do with noodles.
“Listen,” I said, “we brought the bikes and you said you’re going to drag me on a 20-mile ride tomorrow, so let’s go there for lunch afterwards — we’ll certainly be able to afford the carbs.”
“Fine, go 20 miles with me and you’ll get your noodles,” she negotiated. “Noodles — ugh!”
Now, it’s true I enjoy pasta and noodles and such, but what I like even more — and what attracted me to Boru — was that the place specialized in one thing, and when a business does that, it’s more likely to do it well. I absorbed this lesson over 20 years ago while watching a show on iconic restaurants. One of those profiled was a place in Los Angeles that makes French dip sandwiches — and that’s pretty much all they’ve made for more than 50 years.
The lesson was reinforced when watching Gordon Ramsey’s brilliant series, “Kitchen Nightmares” which chronicles the aggressive Ramsey going into failing restaurants and making changes to turn them around. Inevitably one of his standard moves is to shrink the menu so the chef can focus on making a few items — from conceiving the dishes to buying the ingredients to actually cooking them — well, rather than dozens poorly.
The next day, we went for what felt to me like the Tour de France of bike rides. I did well for the first half, worked hard through the next quarter and then suffered through the final leg. BUT, the idea of a big steaming bowl of ramen with all the pork and other fancy bits they throw in kept me going. Some may picture glory and riches but, for me, it was a bowl of soup.
As I hobbled into the place, I got even more excited. For my part, I wanted their signature dish, and asked the waitress for their most popular item. She recommended the House Ramen featuring pork belly, egg, and napa. My wife went fancy, ordering the New England Clam and Lobster Ramen with corn, chourico and tarragon oil.
After tasting the dishes, my wife — who has an excellent palette, unlike me, whose analysis of food stops at good/bad — pronounced them not only good, but “amazing.” And she went on and on like that as she consumed the dish. I felt so vindicated that I took many liberties of telling her never to doubt me again.
Of course, going with a specialist, such as Boru, doesn’t guarantee quality, but it does put the odds in your favor. Additionally, specialization doesn’t mean that one cannot expand into other areas, but it must be done very slowly, thoughtfully and deliberately. Some questions to ask might be:
- Does this complement what we already do or will it confuse customers?
- Can we leverage some of our strengths in this other area?
- Do we have the resources to execute on the new area while not suffering any loss of quality in our current work?
If the answers to these questions is yes, then it may make sense. But too often we expand our offerings just because we think it will supercharge growth, and almost all businesses worship at the altar of growth.
So the next time you come across a laser-focused business, consider trying it out to see if that focus has led to superior outcomes, and the next time you think of expanding your array of offerings, ponder if you can do it while remaining strong.
As we were walking around later that evening in Newport, I saw another place that caught my eye — Friske Fries.
“Honey, look, all they do is FRIES! Let’s check it out,” I implored.
“Next time,” she said. “But it will cost you 25 miles.”