Kara-Okey-Dokey

I once worked at an upscale Hollywood restaurant that catered to the entertainment business. We were within a few blocks of about six TV and movie studios, so the environmentally friendly celebrities didn’t waste too much gas taking limos three minutes to grab a bite to eat. Great food, and saving the planet is some impressive multi-tasking.

On any given day or night, you could see the cast of ‘Cheers’ mingling with the cast of ‘Married with Children’. I have to say, it’s a surreal experience serving Cliff and Norm a couple of beers as they sit at your bar. Unfortunately, I don’t think they ever knew my name.

As a result of having famous people hang around, we were almost always busy. Show biz wanna-be’s populated the bar hoping to be discovered. Celebrities liked it since there were so many of them, they weren’t bothered by people. And, we had excellent food.

Notice though, I said we were almost always busy. That’s because, every summer, television shows would go on hiatus, and things would slow down by about 60%. That’s a huge drop off. And every year, the owners would try to decide what to do. Most years, they accepted it as a seasonal fact. In Florida, it gets busy in the winter, At our place, it slows down in the summer.

Then one year, our GM came up with a bright idea. He had gone to a place that had karaoke and it was packed! That, he said, is what we would do the next slow season. Against many objections, the idea was implemented. And it worked. For a while.

Initially, business picked up a lot. At least it appeared that way. The bar was full, people were everywhere, and a whole lot of singing was going on. One small problem. We had no sales. As busy as it was, very little money made it into the register. It didn’t take long to find out why.

The people filling the restaurant all wanted to sing. Having a reputation of being a place that had Hollywood producers and the like hanging out attracted every aspiring singer in town. They thought they’d be discovered here. And they had no money to spend, so we served a lot of water. But boy could they sing. It was American Idol two nights a week.

No one got discovered of course, since most of Hollywood was on hiatus. We had to implement karaoke rules to give everyone a chance to sing. Some would come in and try to sign up to sing six songs in a row. In other words, they wanted to do a set. It also happens to be that karaoke singers can be quite jealous of each other, so the occasional tiff would break out.

The idea failed. But it also helped take the restaurant down with it.

How?

After spending years of cultivating an image of a high end, celebrity hangout, it was ruined with one summer of cheesy amateurs. Every now and then, one of our regulars would pop in, off season of course, see what was going on, and never come back. The word spread quickly. Soon, we were “that karaoke place”, and when TV season ramped up, they wanted nothing to do with us. We weren’t cool any more.

Our singers left too. When the chance of discovery was gone, they went to clubs that would let them do ten songs in a row.

Soon after, we closed. A lot of factors contributed to the failure of the restaurant, but the karaoke experiment was a big one.

Bottom line… You can’t be everything to everyone. If you build an image, or a brand ID, protect it. In the pursuit of another plate to spin, you just make drop your best one.