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The Hot Dog Moment That'll Change The Way You Think About CX

Hi CX Savants!

Big week here. Let me get you caught up.

  1. JRB Greenwich Village (NYC) store opened up this week, our second JRB store!

  2. I’ll be joining the legendary Jess, Alex, and Gina on an IRL panel next week in NYC to chat about “The Evolution of Customer Experience in DTC.” I’d love to see you there! RSVP.

  3. Cody and I just launched Season 3 of Down To Chat Podcast. Listen here.

With the updates out of the way, let’s get into it.

If I had a dollar for everyone who asked me how to create fantastic experiences without a large budget, I’d be retired in a plush robe, only leaving the house to grab the mail and refill my stash of organic blackberries.

I almost lost myself there.

We often get so lost in the sauce and need a refresher on fundamentals.

Pull over a chair (or stay on your treadmill desk #grindset)–let’s talk.

  • Thinking Outside the Box: How Will Guidara's Hot Dog Moment Revolutionized Customer Delight

  • The Business of Memories: How The Breaking the Script Can Drive Customer Loyalty

  • Talking Tactical: How to Provide Unreasonable Hospitality in Any Industry

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Thinking Outside the Box: How WIll Guidara's Hot Dog Moment Revolutionized Customer Delight

This week, Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park says what I want to say much more eloquently than I ever could, so I will largely hand over the pen to Will.

Will co-owned and operated Eleven Madison Park for close to a decade.

New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park had earned just about every possible honor: three stars from the Michelin Guide, four stars from The New York Times, and in 2017, the influential guide "World's 50 Best" named it the best restaurant in the world.

One day, whilst clearing a table, he heard four European foodies talking about how they dined at all the fanciest restaurants in the city but were disappointed that they did not have a chance to try the NYC street-cart hot dog.

They were heading to the airport right after dinner and were bummed.

In Will’s own words:

I went back into the kitchen, dropped off the plates, ran outside to the corner hotdog cart, and bought a hot dog. I ran back inside to our chef with it.

Then came the hard part–to trust me. He eventually agreed to cut the hot dog up and add some sauerkraut and mustard.

Right before their final savory course, which was a honey lavender glaze, Muscovy ducks that had been fried for two weeks, utilizing a technique that has taken years to perfect, we brought over the hot dog.

I told them I wanted to make sure they didn’t go home with any culinary regrets, and so we brought them a New York City hot dog.

They freaked out, and it was one of those moments where I recognized that there was an opportunity to approach all of this differently than it had been done before.

I knew that if we could create a culture where the team was present enough at the table to pick up on these cues, and then not take themselves too seriously, we could accomplish that goal.

Watch Will share this story in his own words:


Hospitality is all about the *experience*, Will Guidara shares the winning strategy that allowed Eleven Madison Park to climb the list of ... See more

What’s even more inspiring than the story is Will’s follow-up thoughts:

Often in customer service businesses, we let our self-imposed standards get in the way of us giving our customers the things they actually want, like a hot dog in a four-star restaurant; it’s sacrilegious… but look at how it made them feel.

Our goal was to give people a sense of genuine belonging and make them feel seen. We needed everybody to understand that hospitality is not one size fits all.

Free champagne and/or caviar to the table is simple but doesn’t create a personalized hospitality experience.”

So often, we get caught aiming for a perfectly branded moment, or something that looks stunning, but forget the core job here: creating customer moments.

The Business of Memories: How The Breaking the Script Can Drive Customer Loyalty

If you want to impress someone, give them something fancy.

But if you want to create a customer moment, do something meaningful.

The hot dog moment became Eleven Madison’s “call to arms.”

They even added a position to the restaurant with the responsibility to help everyone on the team bring more ideas like that to life, with the appropriate title “The Dream Maker.”

In the years that followed, they did endless gestures like the hot dog one, such as turning a champagne cart into a Budweiser cart for a guest who said they were “more of a steak and potatoes kind of guy.”

A couple came to console themselves after their beach vacation flight was canceled, so at the end of their meal, Eleven Madison turned their private dining room into their very own private beach, all down to the sand on the ground and folding chairs in a kiddie pool filled with water so that they were able to wet their feet while they drowned their sorrow over a cocktail.

And lastly, a family from Spain was having dinner in the restaurant on a snowy night, and the kid looked out the window with wonder because he had never seen snow. The Dream Maker found a store open on a Friday night, and at the end of the night, they brought the family to Central Park to go sledding.

In Will’s own words:

The thing I always tell people when I start telling these stories is that “unreasonable hospitality” is not just for fancy restaurants.

Yes, I get it. Some of these experiences are extravagant.

But remember, it all started with a $2 hotdog.

It doesn’t require a huge budget; it is just a way of thinking about your culture.

Talking Tactical: How to Provide Unreasonable Hospitality in Any Industry

The #1 question I get about creating these experiences at DTC companies is around budget and ROI.

I love how Will thinks about this in the hospitality realm, and some of this is undoubtedly easily duplicatable:

My belief is that if you manage your money like a crazy person 95% of the time, you should spend the 5% “foolishly.”

I put foolishly in quotes because I actually think it’s done with great intention.

That’s when you create the kind of experiences for the people you work with and those that you’ve served that galvanizes your culture and business in dramatic ways.

Now, does it have an ROI, and is it easy to measure?

No. But one of the biggest mistakes that people make is they only manage the things that they can measure.

In doing so, they’re missing out on the reality that hospitality is about how you make people feel.

If you only invest in making people feel good when it’s easy to measure, you’ll never get a handle because it’s impossible to quantify emotions fully.

Now, should a DTC business selling protein bars have the same budget as a restaurant or hotel?

Probably not.

But if you aren’t thinking this way about customer experience and moments, I strongly advise you to reconsider.

It can be 1% instead of 5% and monthly instead of daily, but this will change your world.

If you don’t believe this can positively impact your business, I implore you to, at the very least, challenge that belief and give it a shot.

If you enjoyed this, would you mind sharing it with a friend?

Any topics you'd like to see me cover in the future?

Just shoot me a DM or an email!

See you next week,

Eli 💛