Sunday, July 29, 2012

King Star's Royal Pivot

Not all business ideas have to be blow-your-mind exciting, like an iPhone app that syncs your toaster and your coffeemaker, and then alerts your dog to bring you breakfast in bed.

Even some fortunes have been built by decidedly un-sexy stuff, like garbage (literally, in the case of Wayne Huizenga...he consolidated garbage operations and made many millions before ever touching professional sports or home video).  Some of Warren Buffett's biggest wins have come from snoozers like freight transportation.

Potentially worthy ideas need to be vetted, and then given a trial run, before being re-assessed.  If they get ensnared in the defeatist mindset that says, "If there were really a market for that, someone would already be doing it," then that's a shame, because if everyone thought that way we'd never have Ford, IBM, Microsoft, Quicken, Domino's, or pretty much anything else.  We also wouldn't pick up a $20 bill we saw lying on the ground -- if it were real, the thinking goes, someone would have already grabbed it, so just keep walking.

I popped into King Star today, which even on early Sunday afternoon during the Folk Festival was not exactly bustling, to say the least.  I asked how things were going and got a pretty honest answer followed up by a more encouraging statement about their "late-night hours."

This could be old news to those more familiar with the Lowell bar scene, but King Star offers late-night delectables, err...drunken munchies, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings (well, technically the following mornings) for a block of time just prior, and just after, last call.

That's an awesome idea.

There's the Club Diner, which can sometimes be impossibly crowded during that special hour.  There's Broadway Pizza, but that's quite a ways from most of the bars spilling around two.  Beyond that, the classic Denny's/IHOP type options are just going to require a car, period.  Even if you've got a designated driver, you've still greatly improved your effort factor at a time when motivation may be slumping.

Enter King Star.  They've got all their standard menu items (including all-day breakfast now) plus cheap pizza slices, which who wouldn't want when they've just stepped out of a long night next door at Major's and aren't quite ready to call it good?  King Star can satisfy a food craving, help get someone back on the path to sobriety/hangover prevention, and also provide a venue for someone looking for a phone number or whatever else people ask for these days but who just ran out of time before the lights got turned on next door.

They say they're building a groundswell of steady late night customers, which is particularly encouraging, given that school isn't even back in session yet.

I don't start b-school for another couple weeks, but as I stated in a previous post, my first-ever lesson in business is that success or failure hinges way less on the concept than on the person or people behind it.    In that spirit, I give kudos to the management team at King Star who decided to be proactive -- rather than just bemoan the anemic daytime foot traffic along that particular part of Market Street, they identified a real need and pivoted in order to be able to meet it.

Sustenance for the staggering may not win hearts and minds at a pitch competition, or inspire the people who dole out humanitarian awards, but it may be enough to tip one small business's bottom line into the black.  

2 comments:

Progressive Veterans said...

Defeatist? Bold words for a swivel chair Ranger. ;v)

I'm going to make a couple of calls today. Let's test to see if that really is a $20 bill laying in the street.

- Jack

JoeS said...

One problem with current business practices is the standardization that leads to rote performance. It may lead to fewer errors, but stifles the exploration for better means to the end.