What 'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives' Can Teach You About Providing Customer Value

By Josh Linkner | Small Business

The restaurants spotlighted on the popular Food Network show are good examples of how to provide customers with world-class products and service.

Millions of Americans regularly binge-watch the Food Network's hit TV show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Hosted by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, the show has a cultlike following. Fieri profiles restaurants that have incredible food in a nonglamorous setting.

The grounded, down-to-earth, focus-on-what-matters restaurants featured on the show generally have two things in common: First, they have passionate chefs who truly want to delight their customers. These leaders take great pride in the quality and preparation of their product, scouting out the best ingredients and often taking the long route in order to deliver a stunning experience to patrons. Second, the joints are typically packed with dedicated and loyal customers who have brought their appetites and business for years.

The dives also are clearly missing a few things. No uptight, stuffy vibe. No outrageously priced, tiny portions. No flip-flop menu choices just to cater to fleeting trends. No glitzy ad campaigns or gimmicks. Instead of putting energy, time and money, into packaging, these restaurateurs focus on substance over sizzle. Value over vanity. Authenticity over pretense.

Think about your own business in this context. Are you truly committed to delivering world-class quality products or services, or do you accept the low bar that's been set by lazy competitors in your field? Are you building your customer base by delighting clients with value or do you need to over-invest in marketing tactics to get people in the door?

When I survey the business landscape, many of the most successful businesses are those that remain dedicated to the fundamentals. They obsess over their customers instead of counting them as numbers. They spend time figuring out how to deliver more value, rather than extracting more profits. They worry about substance far more than shine.

I've been lucky enough to travel extensively, eating in some of the finest restaurants in the world. My all-time favorite, however, is in Berkley, MI. Sila's Italian Restaurant would be a shoo-in for Fieri's show. I've been enjoying pizza and pasta there for more than 40 years, and they remain committed to their craft. What they lack in pizzazz, they more than make up for in quality and service. I am a lifelong customer, yet I've never seen an ad. Heck, I doubt they even have a website, let alone a social media staff. Delivering extreme quality and value is the best marketing tactic of all.

In our businesses, it's easy to become seduced by new trends, fancy gimmicks, and the lure of cosmetic makeovers. Let's not forget what really matters to customers. Taking a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives approach may yield a far better result than adding some new overpriced feature or fancy marketing trick.

Take another look at your organization through the lens of a dedicated Dive chef. Embrace this approach, and--in the words of Guy Fieri--you'll be "riding the bus to flavortown."

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