Product Strategy: Keep it Simple, Be Great

Two of my favorite hobbies are eating and running, with the latter a pursuit that allows me to practice the former! So, I had an interest in checking out a new reality show on NBC, America’s Next Great Restaurant. The show will feature 10 aspiring restaurateurs who will compete to be selected for funding to open locations in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. The series debut narrowed an initial field of 21 hopefuls to the 10 contestants that will compete to secure investment capital. The judges/investors include celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Curtis Stone, Chipotle founder Steve Ells, and Miami restaurateur Lorena Garcia.

A major marketing lesson, coming under the category of “What Not to Do” was delivered by the first person to present to the judges. Her idea was for a restaurant she called What’s Good, with a focus on organic and healthy dishes. The concept was interesting, but her description of the product offering doomed any chance of being considered for investment. A sample menu showed page after page of different items- it screamed of a nightmare to manage! Judges gave the contestant feedback about their concerns about the menu complexity, then gave her the bad news that they would not be investing in What’s Good.

Many of the great brands today succeed because of their simplicity in their product offerings. It is not unusual for a business to have an extensive product portfolio, but usually it evolves over a long period of time. Start on a small scale, gain acceptance and traction in the market, and expand what you can do for customers as they buy into your value proposition. Perhaps one reason Chipotle’s Steve Ells was critical of the elaborate menu ideas for What’s Good is that his restaurant thrives with a menu that features essentially two types of products: burritos and tacos. Are there other dishes and items Chipotle could offer within the category of Mexican food? Sure, but it has chosen to focus on being great at serving burritos and tacos.

The lesson is not new, but it is as relevant as ever- follow the edict of Jim Collins and be great at one thing, better than any competitor could ever hope to be.

Labels: ,