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Everyone needs a good story …

We are universally and compulsively attracted to story. Our entertainment choices are driven by our pathological desire for a story, and when we aren’t trying to get in on someone else’s story, we are desperately trying to create and elaborate reality to generate our own.

Our tendency to gossip is driven by our desire for a good yarn and when our mind wanders … it wanders into story. Culture is driven by story and all art and music is, in essence, a story. Even Coco-Cola knows this – their first global mega-marketing campaign in years has been launched:

Coke with stories … stories with Coco-cola         

Genius. Marketing Shakespeare in proportions.

We need stories … we hunger for them just like we do for food and drink. I can’t imagine trying to be a human being without living and breathing stories. If this sounds too abstract or philosophical to you? Get with it … the most powerful businesses in the world have always understood the importance of story.

Do you think that Steve Jobs created his phenomenal launching stories just for a laugh? Do you think that Jesus spoke in stories by accident?

I was forced to create my own story this week as I sat at my local bar and restaurant – drinking Coke as Mr Hospitality drank his well-earned beer. The establishment has recently under-gone a refit; reasonably expensive and slick, a splash of chrome and faux black leather … and a whole lot of nothing. By ‘nothing’ I don’t mean ‘say-nothing Italian chic’ – I mean a whole lot of functionality and no ‘story’ whatsoever.

When punters go out we want an experience, the sort of experience may vary on our mood, but we want to be part of something, and the more experience on offer, the more likely we are to spend. That’s why Disneyland charges about $8 for a Coke and gets away with it.

Now I dislike Disneyland, it’s not my thing at all, nor are the soulless theme-like bars and restaurants that seek to re-create something else, from somewhere else, and for no reason at all; they should all be banned to the Gold Coast where they belong … shallow stories have limited power to suck adults in even if the 5 years-olds are screaming for more fries and tomato sauce.

Most people, I believe crave an experience. For example, my soulless chrome local sits smack in the midst of tantalising local history; history that involves the prohibition movement, government corruption, suffragettes, and ancient stories of murder and forbidden love, a banished McDonalds and tales of earthquake heroism … and yet nothing … nothing within the walls that would separate it from a takeaway pizza outlet. I could tell they sponsored a local cycling team – great, but I want more than just a framed jersey! If their sponsorship is important to them I want to understand why.

It’s my local, I desperately wanted a reason to come back.

So I concocted my own story. I’ve decided that the owners are lost sons of Opus Dei who now use my local as a training facility for those recently out of prison for crimes specifically to do with the demon drink and whom seek to gain skills in the culinary arts. I like it … a combination of elements that would make for great décor and marketing soul – a local with stories. I’d certainly stay and buy more Coke even if it was eight dollars; and I’d find the demon drink instantly more appealing.

Of course, a lot of those within the Industry already get this; they already understand that they have to create a story, weather it is in terms of an identity or through their sustainable practice and community action. These stories attract the best employees and allow for the highest margins.

Here is a Michelin Star restaurant who has taken the concept literary, simply and powerfully;

I’m going to ask a big question. Is a good story even more important than the menu? I wonder, and I think I know the answer.

Apart from obvious business acumen, what separates an ignored burger restaurant from a heaving global movement like Shake Shack? It’s a good yarn … and a yarn that leaves the story-teller laughing all the way to the bank.


18/04/2016 Mrs Hospitality