Territorial behemoths known as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s don’t like small fry horning in on their territory.
But a little place called Dick’s Drive-In is surviving and thriving in spite of the fast food corporatocracy.
Seattleites have heard all the jokes, including the one about having a mouthful of Dick’s, but beyond the bad humor, you’ll see a small chain that knows what it’s doing, and has been doing it right for a long time.
Dick’s is an institution in Seattle, opening in 1954 with a focus to fresh food, fast service and cheap eats. Not too unusual, but this hardy little chain has survived and thrived because …
1. They treat their employees extremely well, which results in happy burger flippers and super-low turnover. Pretty unusual for entry-level employment.
2. Relationships matter. They maintain great relationships with their suppliers. They’re not always looking for the cheapest deal and see loyalty as a virtue. (see #1 above).
3. Community is king and their involvement with local organizations is a baked-in philosophy.
4. A bit of nostalgia doesn’t hurt. Most of their restaurants have walk-up windows. Then there’s the old-school logo, employee uniforms, and the cash-only policy.
5. Simplicity rules. Here’s their menu.
One of my branding rules is to not give people too many choices. Big boys like Honda and Apple do this extremely well, but I’m pulling for the minnow in the pond today. A burger joint should be a burger joint.
6. Creativity. When they wanted to open a new store — their 6th since 1954 — they used social to build buzz. They artfully crafted a campaign on Facebook, asking people to select the new spot and a voting frenzy ensued resulting in some 100,000+ votes.
Just a few reasons why a simple little burger joint has survived and thrived since 1954.
So, how can you apply all this goodness to your world?
Take these lessons and run with them …
Lesson one: Story works.
Dick’s has a great story and the owners know how to use it, by packaging things like value, loyalty, and community. The stores appeal to a customer’s pocketbook, stomach … and emotion.
This mix has created tremendous brand loyalty, and Dick’s clearly illustrates story can be done in many ways.
Lesson two: The niche rules.
From brew pubs, to food trucks, to dog clothing and accessories, entrepreneurs everywhere are embracing their forte and making it work.
This little restaurant? They’re not trying to reach everyone, and because of this they own a comfortable little niche in the Emerald City.
Like I wrote here you can thrive when you learn to cater to a select audience.
Lesson three: Keep it simple.
And above all, love thy customer. Make them the hero, so they love to work with you and tell all their friends about you.
You earn readership (and customers) by focusing on quality, being different, and learning how to spread the word. You get business by streamlining your messaging and finding the right audience.
Dick’s burgers rocks all of the above and you can too.
Just think about the online world you inhabit: The filters get better, the distribution channels get better, and you keep getting better. And now is the best time to make your online property the best it can be.
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