Sam Horn - Intrigue

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Outback Listens To Its Customers. Do You?

A great article in USA Today entitled Takeout Takes Off (is that a POP! title or what?) showcases Outback Steakhouse as being one of the first casual restaurant chains in the country to offer curbside pickup. The reward for being visionaries? A hefty $300 million annually in takeout orders.

What's interesting about this article is that it points out that P.F. Chang's (an "upper-end China Bistro") initially "snubbed its nose at takeout." It actually discouraged customers from requesting food to go which resulted in their top complaint being poor marks for poor takeout service.

P.F. Chang CEO Richard Federico realized they were in the business of meeting their customers' needs, not arguing with them. They now have a dedicated takeout area in each location with a person on staff who does nothing but handle takeout. Voilla. Some Chang outlets now do 20% of their business in takeout.

What's the point?

Comedian Drake Sather said, "My girlfriend tells me I never listen to her. I think that's what she said."

Are you listening to your customers or ignoring them?

Do you have an example of a business that does a great job of listening to its customers? I'll give a free copy of POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd to the first 3 people who write in with a story about a company that goes above and beyond to meet and exceed its customers' needs.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Please - More TV Shows Like "So You Think You Can Dance"

What a delight it was channel-surfing last night and stumbling upon So You Think You Can Dance on the FOX network from 8-10 pm EST.

It's my new favorite show because it POP!s out for all the right reasons.

Why? It's always alarmed and saddened me that most of the "prime time" programming on network TV is devoted to homicide, rape, autopsies, murder, crime and other examples of man's inhumanity to man.

I like American Idol because it's an updated version of the American Dream in which someone can be plucked from obscurity and get catapulted into the limelight -- all within a few months. Case in point, Fantasia starrring on Broadway, Jennifer Hudson receiving an Academy Award, and Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson having #1 hits and sold-out tours.

Unfortunately, that show has an increased emphasis on the staged snarkiness between Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest and on people-behaving-badly who will do anything to get air time (including obscenity-laced rants). The most egregious kooks were actually rewarded on the final show with their 1 minute of fame and further exposure to an audience of 180 million people (!) around the world. What other countries must think of us for glorifying these shameless attention-at-any-and-all-costs individuals.

That is why So You Think You Can Dance is such a welcomed contrast.

It showcases talented young people who work hard for what they want and are passionate about their creative art. They are healthy, innovative, dedicated, creative individuals doing what they love with energy, enthusiasm . . . and character.

When they're voted off, every single one handles it with grace and dignity -- no snarling epithets tossed at the judges. When they need to dance in a genre that is alien to them, they don't complain or make excuses, they just get to work and expand their repertoire. When they're partnered with someone not at their level, they respond with graciousness and a commitment to somehow make it work.

What a concept! Man (and womankind) at their best. Now that's worth watching and emulating.

Do you have a favorite TV show that showcases the best (instead of the worst) of man(woman)kind? What is it? Are you a fan of American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance? Why or why not?

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Best of Book Expo

Where else can you start your day hearing insider writing tips from Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones author's new novel is Almost Moon), Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner author's lavishly-praised 2nd book is A Thousand Splendid Suns), and Stephen Colbert (the Comedy Central star penned the forthcoming I am America (And So Can You!) . . .and wrap up your evening dancing non-stop to Dave Barry, Mitch Albom and the rest of the Rock Bottom Remainder Gang?

If you're involved in the book industry, Book Expo is the place to be every year as publishers break out the Fall books they hope become bestsellers.

It's also an extravaganza of educational sessions, hundreds (really!) of autographing sessions, and aisles upon aisles of booths pitching everything from a remote pen (created by Margatet Atwood, this unique device is a way for authors to conduct long-distance book-signings via the web - to a $2000 book (an oversize edition of the coffee table book Earth from Above) to the purple Hogwarts Knight Bus that's about to visit libraries across the country to promote the much-anticipated release of the final Harry Potter book this summer.

As always, I'm on the lookout for clever, stop-me-in-my-tracks titles. A few this year include "Fat, Forty, and Fired" by Nigel Marsh (love that alliteration), "Flickipedia: Perfect Films for Every Occasion, Holiday, Mood, Ordeal, or Whim" (Flickipedia is what I call an Alphabetized title in my book POP!), "Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box" and for canine lovers "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet?"

Book Expo features many real-life stories that remind us that dreams can and do happen in the publishing world. The PW Show Daily (a free newsletter which chronicles the events of the weekend) revealed that Paulo Coelho (92 million books sold in 64 different languages) wrote "The Alchemist" in 2 weeks (!)

I must admit though, that in addition to spending time with my consulting clients who were there pitching their books and meeting with agents and editors, my favorite part of the entire 3 day event was rocking out with the Rock Bottom Remainders at New York's East Village Webster Hall. Can you imagine anything more fun than boogying to Gloria, It's my Party, and other oldie-but-goodies while watching some of your favorite authors (e.g., Dave, Mitch, Frank McCourt, Scott Turow, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Greg Isles) jam with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Roger McGuinn (The Bryds)?

If you couldn't be there in person, the next best thing is to check out their website and click onto the YouTube clip which features them being interviewed by Steve Martin at the Aspen Comedy Festival. Get ready to laugh. These guys know how to have fun.

Have you been to Book Expo before? What was your highlight?