Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Do Your Employees Know Who You're Competing With? (Au Bon Pain vs. Chop't)

The other day I decided it was time to ingest something green again.

I have been eating largely white and brown foods for the past week and am starting to feel pale.

Normally I would love to go to Chop't and get a salad but there are two problems with that plan.

First, at lunchtime the line is out the door and second, the salads are usually too big and I wind up feeling sick afterward. (Holocaust families don't leave food over.)

So I went to Au Bon Pain and glanced over the soup. I don't know, that stuff they call "12-vegetable soup" - is it really as healthy as it sounds? Tastes good, but I was after fresh. And I don't count starchy vegetables as healthy.

The new salad bar at Au Bon Pain is not as appealing as Chop'ts is but it was empty.

I walk up to the counter and look at what's behind the glass.

Same kind of food as Chop't, I guess. Not as good.

Spinach is safe. So I say to the person who serves the food, "I'd like a salad please."

We go through what I want and the vegetables go in the bowl.

That's funny, it looks similar to Chopt's. Except they put the salad stuff there AFTER the chopping is finished.

The salad maker starts chopping the vegetables in front of me.

That's funny, the knife looks similar to Chop'ts. It's a mezzaluna I think. But it's smaller.

The leaves are still huge when he is finished.

"Can you chop it more?" I ask, puzzled. It's a salad; I am not a goat.

"Please?"

He looks equally puzzled.

Finally I say, "You know, chop it."

Still nothing.

Then I say, "You're competing with Chop't. That's why."

Suddenly the server starts laughing. He is chopping those spinach leaves like crazy.

I walked out with a damn good salad, I must say.

The moral of the story, for me, is that leaders do not usually communicate all that well with their employees. (Surprise, surprise.)

They are traveling in circles different from their staff.

They are having conversations with people at a more executive level.

And their spirit of competition is fierce, but it's not a conversation they are normally having in the break room.

Just like people like to watch sports together and root for the winning team, so too they want to compete against other groups and emerge victorious.

If you are a leader and you've got a competitor in mind, for G-d's sake tell your people about it.

Because otherwise you're competing with a ghost.

And it's up to the customer and your staff to try and figure out your business strategy.

Good luck!


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