The Pursuit of Grilled Cheese
When’s the last time you had a million-dollar idea only to Google your concept and find that someone else had beat you to the punch? Let’s face it: with the world’s population closing in on 7 billion, there’s not much out there that hasn’t been thought of already. However, the good news is that one solid, marketable idea can open the floodgates for any number of spin-offs – provided that those spin-offs are solid and marketable themselves.
Case in point, Mashable recently featured an article that caught my eye (yes, mostly because it involves grilled cheese). The article itself will set readers a-drool, but what I found most interesting was the comment feed that followed it. The article announced “Flip video founder Jonathan Kaplan has launched his newest venture, a high-tech chain of grilled cheese restaurants.” The restaurant (dubbed “The Melt”) features a gourmet array of grilled cheese sandwiches and soups, but its real schtick is how it makes use of current technology involving SmartPhones and QR Codes to place orders. However, this little detail seemed lost on Mashable’s readership as commenters scrambled to point out that gourmet grilled cheese is hardly a new idea. One commenter posted “Interesting — this has already been successfully done…It was even featured on ‘Man vs. Food’ Sheesh — steal a concept much?” Another kvetched, “Seems strangely like the Meltworks concept from America’s Next Great Restaurant…lawsuit??”
Luckily, with adversity often comes opportunity, and who was following this article but the founders of the aforementioned Meltworks themselves. Not only were they gracious enough to not bash “The Melt,” they were kind enough to point out that “We’re looking forward to competing against The Melt and certainly don’t mind the attention that they are bringing to the segment.” As if that weren’t enough, they were then clever enough to use the forum as a focus group, asking “What do you guys think? Do you want a more gourmet version [of grilled cheese] or are you happy with just the basics?” interesting way to use the competition’s press to its advantage.
There aren’t many better examples as to why it pays to always be up-to-date on what your competition is doing. Consider it keeping your enemies closer. In a worst-case scenario, bad press for a competitor may open up opportunities for you, and at the very least shed light on possible pitfalls that you can avoid. In a best-case scenario, you can ride the competition’s coattails and build upon good press with your own efforts.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s always room for more grilled cheese restaurants in the world, and hopefully The Melt’s food is decent because all the tech-y gimmicks in the world won’t mask a bad grilled cheese. Meltworks summed it up best: “Ultimately, the concept that finds the most success will be the one that executes best.” Isn’t that what a competitive marketplace is all about?
~ Trish Salge, Sr. Art Director, The S3 Agency
Source: Mashable, “Flip Video’s Inventor Launches High-Tech Grilled Cheese Restaurant Chain” by Ben Parr. August 29, 2011.