What You Can Learn From a Bread Stick

Bread_SticksOlive Garden has been in the news a lot recently. The chain offered a $100 “pasta pass” to 1,000 customers that allows pass holders to chow down on unlimited pasta for seven weeks.

That marketing ploy got a lot of coverage in the press, but more important to the restaurant in the long run is the fact that a disgruntled group of investors replaced its entire board of directors.

They were so critical, they even called out Olive Garden for its bread sticks!

The times, they are a-changin’

One of the biggest problems the chain is facing is that it hasn’t kept up with the times. While all-you-can-eat bread sticks may have been the hook that pulled Baby Boomers in for a meal of pseudo-authentic Italian food, it’s not working so well for the Millennials.

The lesson comes too late for the ousted directors, but you still have time to move. Is your product or service positioned to appeal to a younger generation of consumers or businesses? A CPA I know was once employed by a division of The Yellow Pages. He went from having more work than he could handle, to a trickle, to losing his job over about five years. His employer moved too slowly.

The market is constantly moving. Yesterday’s successful business strategy will almost certainly need to be adjusted – if not this year, very soon thereafter. Learn a lesson from the bread stick and take a critical look at what you’re doing.  And if you count yourself among an older generation, bring in a trusted younger associate to give you an assessment.

Ask yourself these two critical questions:

  • Will my product or service meet the expectations and desires of the next generation of consumers or managers?
  • Is the way I’m marketing my business on target with the next generation of consumers or managers?

Time for a youth movement?

A “no” answer to either of those questions means it’s time to do some serious retooling in your business. Also, take a look at your staff. Is it time to bring in some younger employees? Perhaps you can make contact with a nearby college or university and plug your business into an internship program. Sometimes the most valuable part of working with an intern is the exit interview when you, as a small business owner, can get an honest appraisal of your business from the perspective of your next generation of customers or clients.

Whether retirement and a sale is in the foreseeable future, or you plan to someday pass along your business to your children, you must continue to grow its value, and that means keeping up with a changing market.

Otherwise you’ll eventually find yourself left holding little more than a stale bread stick, figuratively speaking.

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Image: Bread Sticks, © 2007 Charles Haynes, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.