Sometimes change is the last thing your business needs.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, this small business in Birmingham, Alabama is thriving by resisting the urge to make changes.

2016-05-16 10.18.36

Eagle’s Restaurant opened for business in 1951. That year the average US family income was $3700 per year and the first tests for Color Television Pictures were broadcast from Empire State Building.

Owned and operated by the same family since 1974, their tradition has always been to offer delicious food at affordable prices. They are committed to serving the highest quality meats and vegetables available.

Lots of restaurants these days boast a similar commitment to serving high-quality meats and vegetables. And, many of them honor that commitment. But, very few maintain a robust host of loyal customers after 65 years of operation.

While enjoying a flavor-packed lunch, this writer noticed some palpable characteristics that every business should plan to emulate. Here is my list of the top five.

  • The business is contextualized. 

Eagle’s Restaurant is an integral part of its neighborhood. The people who work there understand their customers on a deep level. The product they offer meets a need for a high percentage of their neighbors. The neighborhood (and many outside the neighborhood) would be sad if somehow this business disappeared.

Diners who are attracted from distant and different neighborhoods come for more than the great food at affordable prices. Everyone wants to be part of a unique experience where passionate supply and unmet needs intersect.

Even in a digital environment, businesses must understand and connect with people who need their products and services.

  • The owners demonstrate pride and humility. 

Who’s behind the counter, serving customers? The owner is there serving and managing the flow of activity. He was on the scene before the sun came up; making sure the quality of the product always meets their standard of excellence. He’s there because, as he says, “It’s an honor for me to be able to serve my customers every day.”

Clients and customers deserve excellence. They know it when they see it and when they don’t. Everyone benefits when business leaders understand how to combine pride in their product and enough humility to do the hard work.

  • The product is consistent. 

This characteristic of Eagle’s Restaurant was made evident by the words of a long-time customer. She quickly added, “And they better not change anytime soon.”

Consumers are frustrated by an overwhelming variety of choices. It should not be difficult to find the product you found and liked last month. Once a business produces something that meets customer needs, it’s time to “rinse and repeat”. Studies show that fewer options translate into more cash for the bottom line.

  • They make it easy to buy their products.

Eagle’s Restaurant is a small business. The facility can only seat 24 diners at a time and they serve lunch only six days a week. Yet, they serve hundreds of customers every day. They accomplish this with two key strategies.

First, they use the common practice of take-out orders. It’s a strategy that multiplies capacity exponentially. But it’s the second ingenious strategy that potentiates the first.

As customers come in the front door they see what appears to be a buffet. But, it’s not a buffet because customers only need to decide which combination they want from a menu. The server then fills the order and moves on to the next customer.

To create a powerful customer experience ask yourself, “What can we do to make life easier for our customers?” 

  • They’ve created a happy culture.

Carefree, delighted, blissful, satisfied: the synonyms go on and on, but people are attracted to a business that exudes a happy atmosphere.

Owners, customers, and employees all reap benefits from association with a business that maintains a happy environment.

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from incorporating these five characteristics into their current strategies. It’s hard to argue with long-term success.

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