How Urban Plates Restaurant Won My Vote This Year
How many of you have witnessed one of your favorite shops, restaurants, or any other businesses shutting down this year? I have. One of my favorite restaurants in downtown LA called Dong Il Jang closed after 41 years. They were the pioneers of a slightly progressive new style of Korean BBQ served at your table along with epic Kimchi Fried Rice at the end. They also offered an old traditional semi-private room where you’d take off your shoes and sit on the floor. We just loved going there.
During such an unpredictable time with businesses closing left and right, some others uniquely stood out. In fact, the more I saw the shifts and pivots they were making as the world kept changing, I was in awe. So I thought, why don’t we just dedicate the next month or so to a “Best of” series. The best of everything I’ve personally experienced this year that’s worth mentioning.
Let’s start with Urban Plates as “Best Business Innovation.”
Urban Plates opened in 2011 with the idea that people are changing the way they dine out. People want high-quality, customizable meals which are affordable, convenient, fast, yet with an inviting atmosphere. Whoa! That’s a lot to cover. But Urban Plates made it happen.
It’s not a full-service restaurant, but it’s not all self-service either. It blended the two in a perfect combination. You order at the counter so there’s no pressure for a 20% gratuity; at the same time, there’s always someone walking around offering to refill your drinks and get you what you need. If you don’t see anyone around, you can get up and get it yourself. Best of both worlds. Oh, and did I mention their interior and outside patio vibe was perfection?
As impressive as all that was, I was even more blown away by what they did during the pandemic. Suddenly, they had to rethink the way the guests entered into crowded spaces, and find a way to make quick adjustments to the changing attitudes around eating in public. Basically, they were confronted with a whole new set of obstacles that threatened their livelihood. So they studied what they were up against, and came up with a strategy: they launched an app. That’s it. And this app brilliantly removed all the barriers they were facing – here’s how:
- Barrier 1 – I don’t want to stand in line: No one likes lines. So the app completely eliminates walking up to the counter to order – you can order directly from your app.
- Barrier 2 – I want to choose where I sit. Once you enter the restaurant, you choose your table. You can pick it yourself. Just sit down wherever you’d like. The first thing the app asks you is “where are you sitting?” Every table has a number and you simply enter it. The food you order comes directly to your table. What??
- Barrier 3 – I want to see what I’m getting. The app is full of eye candy. Every main dish, side dish and even the drinks are pictured in the visual menu. Nothing to read, just pick what looks good and that’s what you get.
- Barrier 4 – I want a discount. Whatever meal you order in the app has a guaranteed price of $10. Which is crazy because most of the meals average $12-$15. You can save up to $5 just by ordering from the app. Oh, and you can order for your entire party. When we go out with friends, we can save $15-$20 just by ordering from the app. (The app requires a monthly subscription of $10/month, but it pays for itself after 1-2 visits). This is also a great business strategy.
- Barrier 5 – I want to order takeout. No problem – simply choose the takeout option when you order. There’s also a delivery option which will bring it right to your door (extra cost for that though).
- Barrier 6 – I don’t want to get out of my car. Well, guess what? You don’t have to when you order takeout. There’s a check-in button on the app so when you arrive in the parking lot, you’re one click away. It will ask what color and model of the car you’re in and they will run it over to you.
So, what did I learn? I learned that we need to remove the barriers. Here’s your action step – come up with a list of barriers that your clients/customers might have for your business or services that you offer. Then, remove them. Remove them all! Don’t be afraid to change. The faster you adapt and pivot, the more a world of opportunities opens up, and you’ll continue to grow and thrive through the most difficult times in history.
Congratulations, Urban Plates. Thanks for leading the way.