If you’re a BBQ lover in the Detroit area, you recognize this door. Behind it is the tantalizing flavors of smoked meats, refreshing liquids from the Great Beer State, and an aroma that pleasantly stays in your nostrils for hours. You know it as Slow’s BBQ. In fact, you take pride in knowing those natural-colored thin planks stacked tightly together is the actual door of entry, not the door to the right going upstairs, nor the door ten feet left of the picture covered with stickers and locked, nor the locked door leading to the patio another fifteen feet to the left and directly beneath the sign on the building telling you that you’ve arrived.
Those were the three doors I tried first before finding the actual opening.
If there hadn’t been a sign on the building telling me where I was, this would be a different post. It would be about Over-the-Top Design and Sharing Secrets. It would be about how you felt like an insider because you knew the red and black building without a sign and with a hidden doorway was home to some killer ‘cue. You only knew because someone told you, making it (and you) feel even more special.
Instead, I felt like an idiot. I felt like I was made to feel stupid before I ever set foot in the joint. That’s a big obstacle to overcome. If the food or the service had not been stellar, just average, I’d probably never go back. It would be a nagging feeling just below the surface.
As I was leaving, there was a guy outside having the same struggles I had. Apparently the design of the door wasn’t over-the-top enough to get people to talk about it, only about the food. Their fancy, hard-to-find door didn’t generate word-of-mouth, only frustration. You never want your customers walking into your establishment frustrated. Make sure they know how to get in the front door.
PS The other alternative would be to remove the sign on the building altogether. Sure, it would make it harder and even more frustrating for some people to find the joint, but since most of these places get their new business from word-of-mouth, it would ratchet up the need for people to talk about the design elements and ratchet up the feeling of knowing something others don’t. It would have changed my feelings of frustration to feelings of discovery and being in-the-know.
PPS Of course, at the end of the day, if you’re a restaurant, you better have over-the-top food first and foremost. Slows brought it. I saw a few items on trays passing by that will get me back. They overcame the obstacle. Not many stores and restaurants do.