Making VIPs of the Rejected

I love simple ideas that seem so obvious after-the-fact, but have real and immediate impact to business problems.

This was one of those solutions and the problem is fairly common, even outside of this industry.

We’ve all experienced it. You show up at 7pm at a restaurant that you have your heart set on only to be told by the host that it may be a 1hr or more wait. So you walk away, cursing yourself for not making a reservation and maybe even going to your smart phone to search for alternatives in the neighbourhood (having just paid $20 to park your car).

The Cactus Club ( is a mid-market Western Canadian restaurant chain that serves fairly standard urban fare, with a slightly up tempo atmosphere. A recent opening of a high profile location (Cactus Coal Harbour), being as busy as you would expect of any opening in downtown Vancouver, threatened to steal business from several other downtown Cactus Club locations, but when asked about the impact to the nearest location (Cactus Bentall), the manager exclaimed, “actually we’re up 20%!”.

The reason is simple and something that I think we can learn from. They took the popular opening of a new location, the obvious seating limitations and the resulting prospect of turning away paying customers and created a boon to their other locations.

The solution? They hired a sedan/car service, which was on stand-by on busy nights so that instead of apologizing for an unreasonably long wait, a host could simply offer an option: “At the moment we’re looking at a 60min or more wait. However, I’ve taken the liberty of confirming a table at one of our other two nearby locations and have a car service right outside the door waiting to drive you straight there. We’ll even pick you up when you’re finished. Which location would you prefer?”


That is the type of experience that people talk about … and not only did they rescue their $50+/seat in revenue that would have otherwise walked away, but they likely have influenced future buying decisions for quite some time to come. The cost? Based on contract rates … I’m guessing in the ~$10 per roundtrip neighbourhood.

I wonder if those people felt “rejected”, having been essentially turned away from the restaurant of their choice, or did they feel like VIPs having been delivered “door-to-door”, ushered in to a table already waiting for them?

I think this scenario plays out in many other industries. In the consulting business we often have to “break bad news” to customers in terms of options, opportunities, risk/issues or other impacts and constraints. The difference though is to have an immediate solution (or several) available that has the effect of creating delight.

The car service was a no brainer. I wonder if I would have thought of that?