Better than they deserve
At eight o'clock tonight, the best restaurant in Grand Cayman was deserted. Just two diners, chowing down on an astonishing whole red snapper, caught several hours before by a local fisherman.
Jindi, the owner of the Thai Restaurant in Georgetown, explained to me that they've been there for fifteen years and lunch pays the rent. "Every day, lunch is very busy... it's the cruise ships," she explained.
Imagining a stream of classic cruise ship turistas invading her restaurant every day made me shudder. The restaurant does well at lunch because it has the perfect location for cruise ships (three blocks from the dock--exactly far enough way to seem exotic). Then I looked over the restaurant and realized that for more than a decade, Jindi has refused to compromise her standards. There are dozens of dishes that would disappear if she was only catering to the lunch crowd. Do the bulk of her customers care about her home-grown thai basil and lime leaves? There are preparations and ingredients that cost her a fortune, and it's clear why she's doing it. Not for the bulk of her customers, but for herself, for her staff and for the chowhounds she encounters at random.
Jindi's refusal to compromise is yet another reason she's doing so well at lunch, actually. Because taste is starting to catch up with her. People are now ordering the items she would have deleted ten years ago.
And in a connected world, it's much easier for the chowhounds to leave a digital trail of breadcrumbs to her door.
Letting your customers set your standards is a dangerous game, because the race to the bottom is pretty easy to win. Setting your own standards--and living up to them--is a better way to profit. Not to mention a better way to make your day worth all the effort you put into it.