A Guy Who Knows How to Compete with the Mighty New Street Food Vendors

I experienced a great example of customer service today. For lunch, I went to one of the new street food carts that I wrote about in a blog about a week ago. I got my sandwich (a grilled shrimp and oyster po’boy) and went to a public area with some chairs and tables so I could comfortably sit and eat my lunch. As I was getting seated, the manager of a near-by Italian restaurant (Toscana Grill) came over and said he had ordered one of the waiters to come and clean my table (which was wet from the morning rain) and bring me a glass of iced water.

Please take a moment and think about it! I was sitting right in front of this guy’s restaurant, but in a public area, eating food I brought from another place. He and his restaurant would not profit at all from my being there. But he still sent someone to clean the table for me and bring me water.

“Why?” – I kept asking myself. And then it dawned on me – this was his ingenious way to respond to the increased competition from the street vendors. Rather than trying to intimidate and chase away the street vendors themselves, he was trying to attract the attention of potential customers and win their goodwill. I could see his logic – “OK, this time this customer ate at the competition – the Po’boy street vendor – but next time he might come and eat at my Italian restaurant.”

And why not – I looked up and paid closer attention to a place that I would normally ignore because it had been there since I’d started living in the neighborhood. I finally noticed they had done renovations and were offering very competitively priced lunch dishes. Now, I knew I could potentially have lunch there the next time.

The new generation of street food vendors has redefined the notion of street fast food. Now, the new generation of restaurant owners is redefining the notion of fair competition. Isn’t this ingenious?

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