It was a few months ago that I took my wife to Nashville. It was her birthday. Every year we try to do something a little bit different, and I took her to Nashville for three days. We did line dancing, Honky-Tonk, Blues, tastings, whiskey, too much whiskey. It was a good time, and ate at some fantastic restaurants. They really do food well over there. I also experienced on one night thunder and lightning that I had never before seen the likes of. There was tornado warnings and everything and they were saying get away from the windows. Of course, I’m on the 12th floor of a beautiful hotel, the Thompson Hotel in the Gulch area, so that was quite scary. But what it did was it killed the reservation that I had for dinner that night to surprise Claire.
We didn’t want to spend the last night in the hotel, we wanted to get out. Two doors down from us was the STK Restaurant. A very well known steak restaurant, and we’ve been in there many times before. We knew what to expect. We knew we enjoyed it. We’ve had great meals in STK in New York and Hollywood. We’ve enjoyed STK. So we thought, eh, we’ll go in there. There’s nothing different, but we know we like it and it’d be a good night. So we went in there and it wasn’t. It was one of those nights that was just off. As I say, the disclaimer at the beginning, STK is usually bang on. This was not a good night, and there was only two of us, we tried to get a couple of drinks in to see if that would crack the evening a bit more, but it didn’t. It just absolutely didn’t. When it got to the dessert, the guy said, “Oh, do you want some dessert?” No, no thank you. We would have been better off staying in the hotel and ordering room service.
So we left and we’re walking back to the hotel, and bearing in mind it’s a very, very short walk because of the weather conditions that night, and my wife turned around and she said, “Well, that was a waste of $242.” Exactly. She knew exactly how much it was. She’d seen it, she’d seen me sign it. I did leave a tip. The server was a great guy, there was no reason to be wrong to him, but we paid $242, and it was in her head exactly how much had been paid for that meal, that as we saw would have been better off if we’d had crossed the other road and gone to a McDonald’s or something.
Now, a few months later it was my son Henry’s 23rd birthday, and on birthdays as you’ve probably guessed already from the Nashville story, we don’t like to give presents, we like to give experiences. He loves wine and he loves good food, so we took him to one of my all time favorite restaurants that is not in Beverly Hills, is not in Monaco, it’s not in Mayfair, it’s in Encino, just outside of Los Angeles. And this is funny, if I actually drove you past this little shopping plaza, it’s next to I think a dentist or an optician, and said, “That’s one of the best restaurants in the world,” you’d be like, “Yeah, right.” Placement is weird as hell, but Scratch Bar is by far one of the best restaurants on the planet. It’s a tasting menu. They don’t tell you what’s going on there. They change the menu on a regular basis. It’s a 16 course meal and you’re in there for about two and a half, three hours.
So we took him along. You enter through a door. Once you’ve rung a bell, they come to the door, they check your name, they let you in. It’s all very speakeasy-ish, very secretive. You sit down at the bar, they give you cocktails which you’d never had before. I told him I like an old fashioned, a smoky old fashioned, and he actually knocked up a mezcal and beetroot cocktail that today is still my favorite drink I’ve had. So we went through all these different experiences, and I guarantee you if they told you half of the stuff you were going to be eating you’d go, “No, I won’t be eating that,” and then you find out that it’s the most amazing experience in your mouth you’ve ever had. The food is phenomenal.
So, we go through this whole experience. They say, “Do you want to do a wine pairing?” As a special treat to Henry, he’s a good lad, we allow him to pick his wine pairing. He picks the middle price point, it’s not cheap, and the sommelier comes over and goes, “Hey, we’re going to be pairing this with this.” Goes through this whole thing. “This one’s from here, this one’s from here. Try both of these.” So again, engaging him in the experience. At the end of the night I got the bill, signed the bill, and it was $1,000 plus. Whenever there’s a one in front of a bill, you know it’s a big bill. It was $1,000 plus for me and the family. We left, there was only three of us, we left, went home. Been talking about this night ever since, and the other night we bought something, I forget what it was, like 246. I forget what it was we were buying, but my wife turned around and she said, “Oh, that would have been better if we’d just not bought STK and just bought that.”
It still needled her that we spent $242, and it got me thinking and I actually started looking around my house. What do I remember the price of? And I noticed something. If you can walk into somewhere and go, “Well, how much was that? Well, that was $373,” was it of value? You see, a lot of people chase the price tag. A lot of people chase the checkbook, a lot of people negotiate with the price. If you are negotiating with the price, you have failed to expose the value. You see, as far as I’m concerned that Scratch night with my son on his birthday will go down as one of the best nights of my life. That STK, it was just a bad night for them and a bad night for me, will go down as a pretty poor night in my life.
The bottom line of it is, you remember the price tag when the value has not been demonstrated. If you’ve got a client coming to you going, “Well, I don’t know about this. Can you make it cheaper, can you make it?” Yeah, I can make it cheaper, I can get this kid over to do it, and then when he’s screwed it up, you can come to me and you’re going to pay twice as much. Demonstrate the value. Never, ever, ever argue the price tag. Someone says, “Well, that’s expensive.” It’s your fault. Say to them, “Why is that expensive? Have I not demonstrated what you get? What the value is?”
Anyway, that’s my story from my restaurants. It stands very true to me. I actually started walking through my garage, through my house, and there’s a few things that you go, “Ah, I never wear that. I’ve wasted 400 bucks. Oh, I never do that, so I’ve wasted a gym membership.” Things like that. We can all think of things that we’ve wasted money on, but don’t let your service or product be one of them. Make it seem, make it feel, make it experienced that the person got a bargain by getting involved in you. Never chase the checkbook, expose the value.
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