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An American Diner | #MyFridayStory No. 141

An American Diner | #MyFridayStory No. 141

Now and then, an opportunity presents itself that is made for you to succeed.

When I was growing up, our house always had the smell of food cooking or something baking in the oven. Both my Mom and my Dad were great cooks. On weekends, my parents would start preparing for our Sunday lunch on Friday night. They would be in the kitchen for hours, chopping, peeling, and cleaning, while pots are ‘prupping’ on the stove.

Through them, I grew to love cooking. They would often let me help with cleaning, peeling and chopping vegetables. The cooking and baking would carry on until Sunday as we are sitting down to eat lunch. As my Dad would always say:

Food fit for a king.

I was fortunate to visit the United States 7 times over a period. The first time was when I started high school in 1976. Over time, I crisscrossed the country, visiting many of the states and big cities, some several times. As an awe-struck boy from South Africa, I relished the experience of the culture.

By contrast, South Africa had only introduced television into the country!

I got to experience all the tourist hotspots like Disneyland, Knot’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios in California, to the Kennedy Space Centre and Epcot Centre in Florida, and on to the Hawaiian Islands, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and New York among others.

In the early ’90s, my partner and I bought a small fast-food outlet, located in a suburban area. It was called Yanks Fast Food – a franchise chain that had dissolved some years before. Although the business was not doing well and hadn’t been for some time, we saw potential.

We decided to call our new business Yanks Diner and Milky Way and keep some of the more distinctive features. Over the next month, we completely renovated and upgraded the restaurant into an American diner.

Many of the items I had collected while in America like baseball helmets, flags, posters, and other American paraphernalia was displayed throughout the shop. Our menu included all the traditional American fast-food staples such as large burgers, pizzas, and milkshakes. We also introduced some Mexican items such as Tacos and Nachos.

The shop was opposite a large finger-lickin’ chicken franchise. Many folks told us this was the reason we would never do well. We saw this as an opportunity.

Our offer was simple.

We made sure our store was always spotlessly clean. Every year, we entered the competition for the most hygienic restaurant in the region. We were always in the top 3.

We made sure our food was of the highest quality ingredients, no shortcuts, or cheap alternatives. One aspect we knew we could beat our competition was in their potato fries. We purchased the best frying potatoes on the market. We cooked our fresh-cut chips on site and changed our cooking oil every week. These steps, although more expensive, gave us the edge we needed.

First, when we opened, people would mostly come to buy our fries. As they started to try our other menu items, we made sure their experience would bring them back. Soon, we had people coming from all over the region, not only for our fries but for other menu items.

We made sure our food was good value for money. I developed a little computer program to cost every ingredient and calculate our margins and mark-ups. Our prices were always reasonable, in fact, we often had specials that sold out night after night!

Finally, we made sure we are nice to our people and our customers. The people we hired and worked with all became friends. We grew to know our customers by name. Our little diner became the local meeting place for the young crowd in the area. Soon it became a hit with young and old alike.

The business grew by 1000% in 8 months.

A combination of a love for cooking, having a collection of Americana items, a passion for people, and a key marketing differentiator, all came together to create something special and memorable.

Have an awesome weekend and stay safe! 😄

As always, thanks for reading 🙏

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