I knew the famous nasi lemak restaurant was a busy one. Thus, I arrived at 11.15am on a weekday, expecting a lesser crowd. My strategy was to be there after the breakfast crowd, but before the lunch crowd. After all, take-away should be faster since I would not need to wait for a table!
My strategy failed - there was still a large crowd! Standing at the doorway, deciding whether to stay or go, the whiff of Santan (coconut milk) from freshly cooked nasi lemak induced me to stay in line.
It ended up a 40-minute wait, which gave me A LOT of time to reflect on why this business is so overwhelmingly good. Queues were everywhere – apart from my take-away queue, there was also a queue at the payment counter where customers were practically pushing money into the hands of the cashier, who was very efficient.
I look around, everyone seemed happy with the arrangement. “Why?” I asked myself. Well, I was one that was adding to the crowd, and I was there because I…
• Know and like the product
• Always get what I expect
• Am willing to be uncomfortable for a known gain.
After I received my order, I walked home. Walking past the shop lots, I noticed another restaurant that was completely empty, which caused me to reflect on my experience.
Here’s my take on what I believe are the famous Nasi Lemak Restaurant’s Critical Success Factors:
1) They were clear about their USP (Unique Selling Proposition). There were many other items on the menu that were also good, but they knew their USP was the Nasi Lemak Ayam Goreng. It was the first item on their menu and their whole business was organized around that product. As featured on a recent documentary, they had a clear and specific vision about their USP, which was what made their product great. In their case, they got right down to the proportion of special ‘rempah’ (spices) used on their chicken and the 3 kinds of ‘beras’ (grains) they used in their nasi lemak. Their USP was superior and not easily replicated.
2) Their Consistency built Trust. Their customers consistently enjoy a very high quality meal. I have been there on multiple occasions, and at different times of the day – and have never been disappointed. Through consistent requests, they have even “trained” their customers to fill up tables in a certain pattern to simplify their order-taking process. Most customers comply and regard it as a normal part of the transaction! Trust takes time and through time, their customers have snowballed.
3) Customers were lining up to pay a Premium. “Price is what you pay; Value is what you get,” as Warren Buffett famously quotes Benjamin Graham. In any business, both elements are important; yet to avoid the pendulum effect, a business needs to decide which of the two is key. Think about the empty restaurant that had cheaper prices, but no customers, which serves as a good reminder to consider the complexity of the Price/Value equation carefully.
While there are many business models that work, the famous nasi lemak restaurant has inspired me to deepen my grasp on these principles that seem so simple, but yet are not easy to implement.