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What I Learned From The Fondue Restaurant

While it may not be broke, it could still use some fixing.

Fondue Restaurant
Getty Images

My daughter turned 13 last month and my wife and I took the entire family out to celebrate. These birthday dinners often center around the kids’ favorite restaurants. In this case, Quinn chose The Fondue Restaurant (the names are changed to protect the guilty). If this doesn’t ring a bell, here’s a quick refresher: It’s the meal where you pay the restaurant $400 to cook your own food.

We’ve eaten at The Fondue Restaurant for years. My wife and I used to go on special dates there while attending the University of Maryland. I say all of this to communicate that we have fond memories of this place. It’s fun. They’ve got bottles hanging from the ceiling like the Regal Beagle did in Three’s Company. We’ve never had a bad experience there, and didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary this time either.

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From the moment we walked in, I was struck by how much everything was the same. Like, exactly the same. Same carpet, same fixtures on the walls. Same everything. Now, I get it. How much innovation is there in the fondue industry? Fair point. I don’t think I was looking for a twist on dipping apples in cheese. That most certainly ain’t broke and shouldn’t be fixed. What started me down the road of lamenting their stasis was more oriented around how tatty and worn everything looked. It was as if the owners hadn’t poured a nickel back into the place since 2001. I kept turning it over in my mind. Was it a single thing that set me off or the overall vibe of the place? It was definitely vibe. Vibe is tough. Good vibe is amazing and fixing bad vibe is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.

Once again you’ve been hooked into another Clifford story and find yourself at the “land the damn airplane” stage. Fine. Here it is. I walked into Livewire last week with The Fondue Restaurant goggles on and I didn’t like what I saw (all my own fault, by the way). Why don’t we keep the shrubs religiously trimmed outside and why do I put up with the lawn guy’s lame excuses week after week? Why haven’t we upgraded the Séura mirror TV in our foyer? Why do we still have old technology visible in our conference room? Why is one of our work vans not wrapped with our new brand identity? Clifford’s inertia, that’s why.

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As we look to 2022 planning, is it time to look in the mirror and think about changes we can make in January or February next year to avoid becoming like The Fondue Restaurant. Should we budget for it and make it part of our annual cadence?

What are you doing to avoid becoming like The Fondue Restaurant in the eyes of your customers?

Stay frosty, and see you in the field.