What French Toast in Hong Kong Can Teach Us About Great Businesses
Tucked away in the heart of Central District in Hong Kong is a small, hole-in-the-wall eatery called Lan Fong Yuen.
Lan Fong Yuen is a Cha Chaan Teng, or tea café, that’s been around since 1953, and if you aren’t looking carefully for it, you could easily walk right by it.
It’s tiny. You have to share tables. The seats aren’t comfortable. The service is not great. The owners would probably prefer it if you took your food away, but if you wanted to sit, the emphasis is for you to eat and leave (quickly).
But the food is delicious (leave your calorie counter at home) and there’s always a line to get in (even at non-peak hours). Their Milk Tea/coffee is outstanding and their French Toast is – well, it’s among the best I’ve ever had (and I don’t really like French Toast). Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and smothered in butter and Lyle Golden Syrup. Apparently, their toasted butter buns with condensed milk is fantastic as well, but I never got to try it. (I did say leave your calorie counters at home.)
All of which got me thinking – how does a place that you can’t easily find, that places little emphasis on ambience and décor, that wants you to buy and leave quickly, that places no emphasis on service, have lines of people waiting to get in at all times and have been in business for more than 60 years? When much ‘nicer’ restaurants come and go on an almost annual basis?
The answer is pretty fundamental – Great Product.
No pretense. No trying to be something other than what you are.
No spin. No messaging. No concern about overt brand identity. (I don’t even think they have a website.)
Make great product. Consistently. Continuously.
It’s a great reminder for all of us engaged in our own businesses – whether you run one or are working for one. Focus on delivering great product.
Don’t worry about growth for growth’s sake. Don’t worry about ‘scalability’. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone.
Worry about your quality. Worry about your offering. Worry about how to make something so good, word of mouth does your marketing for you.
Worry about creating a few evangelists, as opposed to many lukewarm, occasional consumers.
I think sometimes we get ahead of ourselves trying to create the next Apple, when it just isn’t necessary.
Be really, really good at what you do, and don’t apologize for it. Not everyone will like it, and that’s actually perfectly fine.
Just do what you do, and do it well.
(And the next time you’re in Hong Kong, leave a little room for the French Toast at Lan Fong Yuen.)