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I was at the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport and wanted to get dinner. I saw a friendly TSA agent and asked, “In your opinion, what’s the best restaurant for dinner in the airport?” He made a suggestion, and I asked what he liked there. He was very specific, and I couldn’t wait to go there to eat. After dinner, as I was walking toward my gate, I saw the TSA agent and thanked him for the recommendation.
We talked for a while and I learned that as an employee at the airport, he receives a big discount at various restaurants. It’s more than just offering a break to the people who work there, and it gets them to experience the restaurants and hopefully talk about them to passengers like me.
It’s common practice in the retail world to offer employee discounts. I have known some people to work one evening a week at a store just to get the discount. Lululemon is one of the most generous retailers when it comes to employee discounts. A full-time employee can get 60% off regular priced merchandise and even more off anything marked down. Why do they do this? First, they care about the employees and want to offer this generous perk. Second, they know the employees will wear the clothing and evangelize the brand by sharing positive comments about the clothes.
The point of these examples is that it’s common practice to offer perks to employees to get them talking about the brand. That leads us to this next example, which is unique because it offers perks to people in an industry, rather than just to the employees of a company.
There’s a high-end restaurant group in New York, JF Restaurants, run by Michelin star award-winning chef John Fraser. He came up with an idea that’s not too far from the above examples and he calls it The Industry Table. The idea is that Fraser will reserve one table at each of his restaurants every night for anyone in the restaurant industry to enjoy a VIP dining experience … at his food cost! This means anyone in the industry can make a reservation to experience the culinary expertise of these fine dining restaurants at a substantial discount. There’s just one limitation to that. Fraser says, “You cover the booze (because it’s the law), help spread the word about our program, and provide valuable feedback on your experience. That’s all we ask.”
Why would he do this? Not only does Fraser want others outside of his restaurant group to enjoy the JF experience and tell their friends, but he also hopes to reignite the spirit and camaraderie that brought these hard-working people into hospitality in the first place. Fraser says, “I want to make sure that the people who join us get a sense of who we are and meet the team. All managers and at least one chef should greet the table and make them feel at home and at ease. We can send bar teams over to talk about their work, and even the cooks if it is appropriate.”
Executive Chef Warren from The Terrace and Outdoor Gardens, one of Fraser’s signature restaurants, responded to the program saying, “I love the message behind The Industry Table. I look forward to touching the tables and meeting some of our fellows in the biz. We will ask if they would be willing to let us guide their experience a bit. That makes it a real VIP experience, beyond just a discount.”
What better way to get word-of-mouth referrals and general “buzz” from people in the restaurant industry? Fraser and his team are building a program that gets industry people, servers, managers, cooks, etc., to come to his restaurants, enjoy a meal at a steeply discounted price, and then talk about it to others.
Fraser says, “We want to use this as an opportunity to get to know them (other industry folks) and for them to get to know us. It’s good vibes for future dinners with us and a way of meeting people who might want to work for us in the future. I consider these discounts as a deposit for future sales and a chance to do something good for our communities.”