Imagine you’re a restaurant owner in Vancouver. Not only are you involved in one of the most risky endeavours around, you’re trying to make a go of it in one of Canada’s biggest cities.
How do to stand out from the crowd?
That was the challenge facing Steve Da Cruz, proprietor of The Corner Suite. Mr. Da Cruz loves food, and he’s passionate about delivering a top-notch dining experience. But in a city full of foodies, that’s the entry level for successful restaurants – there has to be more.
So Mr. Da Cruz decided to build his reputation on what makes The Corner Suite different: its cocktails. He has more than 500 on the menu, and the list is growing all the time. It’s more than just a well-stocked bar: Mr. Da Cruz takes cocktails very seriously.
“I use only what’s in season. For example, I’ll use Meyer Lemons from California that are only available four months a year because they have a unique taste. It’s a small thing, but customers appreciate that attention to detail,” Mr. Da Cruz says.
He’s also taken a passion for organic ingredients and infused it into his restaurant. Everything is personal and in the style of an old French kitchen – no computer screens, and lots of training for staff on the art of food service. That includes a fully stocked library on the subject in the back room.
The understated approach has worked wonders. Word-of-mouth has spread, and business is booming. Mr. Da Cruz is doing it by building a profile as someone who’s a local expert on food – his door is always open for people who want a tour, and he makes an effort to build connections with local farmers and introduces them to his staff.
There are two important lessons here for small businesses. First, focus on one thing you do well – even if it’s only one element of your entire product or service offering – and capitalize on it. The recognition will come. In the case of Mr. Da Cruz, his efforts landed him a feature story in Food & Wine magazine and recognition as Best New Bar in Canada.
Second, don’t sell your business, sell your story. Mr. Da Cruz isn’t just running a restaurant, he’s advocating a lifestyle on local, organic food that involves the broader community. It’s personal, and people can feel the passion. From there PR flows naturally.
Look for ways to infuse your personality into your business. Do it right, and the ripple effect will have people flocking to your doorstep.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. With more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies, she is focused on fostering the overarching vision for the Canadian market. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients, some of the most innovative and well-respected companies in the country, to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies that drive measurable results. Ms. Wedgbury is known as an innovator, an advocate of career opportunities for women and a dedicated supporter of the technology industry.