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This is Part 5 in my series, The Old Rules of Business That Still Matter. Previous Rules can be read by clicking these links:

Old Rule #1: It's All About People

Old Rule #2: It's X Over Y

Old Rule #3: Everything Walks the Talk

Old Rule #4: There's No Such Thing As A Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder


The_Old_Spaghetti_Factory_Logo When my golf phenom daughter, Kelly, and I were in Palm Springs for a tournament earlier this year, we met my sister and her family for dinner at the Yard House restaurant. I think we had seven people total and the greeter said the wait would be about 35 minutes. It was really crowded, so we took the Your-Table-Is-Ready buzzer and went outside to wait. 

35 minutes went by pretty fast, but our buzzer didn't buzz. We weren't too worried about it. The restaurant was very busy and a few more minutes weren't going to kill us. 

It started approaching 45 minutes, so I went to check on our table. The greeter cheerfully told me our table should be ready very soon, so I went back out.

Fifteen more minutes go by. I check again. "Almost ready!"

Fifteen more minutes. And finally, after waiting 90 minutes, our buzzer lit up. We went inside and were led to our table. No apology was offered.

Recently, Kay, Kelly, and I went to the Old Spaghetti Factory nearby in Tacoma. Like the Yard House, it was really crowded.

"There's about a 30 minute wait right now," we were told. The Old Spaghetti Factory doesn't have nifty buzzers, so we serpentined our way to a corner and found a place to stand.

Fifteen minutes went by and we hear, "Table for Kelly is ready!" We smile at our good fortune and go sit down.

Later, Kay and I talked about how nice that was to not have to wait the full 30 minutes. She pointed out the same thing had happened the last time we were at the Old Spaghetti Factory, too. It was then we realized what was going on. I've since confirmed it in conversations with friends.

The Old Spaghetti Factory KNEW it was going to be less than 30 minutes. They KNEW they were going to be able to sit us sooner and, as a result, we felt BETTER about the wait. It put us in a BETTER mood during dinner. Was the table service great? I don't remember. Was it fast? I don't remember that, either. All I remember was that we were seated sooner than 30 minutes and I was happy because of that. 

Which brings me to the Old Rule of Business that Still Matters #5:

Under Promise & Over Deliver

For many years this concept has lived in Louisiana and they even have their own word for it — lagniappe. The idea is that a customer receives a small gift or benefit beyond what is expected, much like getting a 13th donut when buying a dozen (see Bakers Dozen). And it's easy to deliver.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, but one thing its done is create more and more commoditization. If a product can be copied, it most certainly will be copied. As such, companies who used to be able to market product superiority have lost that edge over the competition and must find a different reason for people to do business with them.

Unfortunately, too many companies have taken to promising big benefits…benefits that are often difficult to deliver. As a result, they fall into the black hole of Over-Promising & Under-Delivering. 

This is not a good thing, folks.

What I didn't tell you about Kelly's and my experience at the Yard House was that we'd had a similar experience at the Palm Beach Gardens, FL Yard House during another tournament. Even though we liked the food and ambience, we expected to our wait in Palm Springs then to be well beyond what they promised. We weren't looking forward to going to the Yard House and if we'd had our choice would have gone somewhere else. You see, the Yard House practiced the Over-Promise & Under-Deliver model.

It's interesting to me that businesses always seem to focus on finding that next Big Thing or Shiny Object that's supposed to launch them well past the competition. These are usually difficult to implement and more often than not, cause Bigger Problems, Bigger Headaches, and, quite frankly, Unhappy Customers.

I am becoming more and more convinced that a great way to separate yourself from the competition today is to not look for the Big Promise that you may or may not be able to deliver. Look for the promise you can Over Deliver. Your customers HATE it when you promise something and fail to deliver on that promise. They LOVE it when you make a promise and then exceed those expectations. 

The best way to do that is to regularly and consistently Under Promise & Over Deliver. Apparently, the Old Spaghetti Factory understands that.

PS: I've written about this topic before. You can read that post again by clicking HERE