The FoodTruckr team is together in San Diego this week, and a couple of us had an experience that I suspect is common for hard-core fans of food trucks (or any restaurant).
We met up with a friend who lives in San Diego, and he took us out for “the authentic San Diego experience, but unfortunately the Food Network has made it popular.” He apologized for the restaurant’s popularity several times throughout our meal, assuring us that it really is the real deal.
I’ve come across this in many different iterations—the “I loved this band before they were cool” being the most common. What I find interesting is the conflict—as the restaurant becomes popular, presumably they become more financially stable—thus ensuring they’ll be around for us to enjoy their fish tacos for many years to come. But, as a restaurant (or whatever we love) becomes more popular, we also become afraid that they’ll start to cater to the new crowds, whose tastes are different than ours. We’re afraid they’ll lose the essential essence that made us love them in the first place.
As you become more popular—especially if you experience a sudden wave of popularity—keep in mind that your popularity may worry your initial loyal fans. Find ways to stay connected to the core elements that make you special, whether it’s the way you prepare your ingredients or the interactions you have with your customers. You’ll have to experiment to locate the fine balance point between reassuring your old fans that you’re still your authentic self, while also welcoming your new fans into your world.
If, as you grow, you find yourself needing to make changes to keep up, make sure you make those changes intentionally. Don’t cut corners simply to keep up with demand—you may end up alienating your core fans, and your newfound popularity may not last. When you do decide to make a change—make it with as much gusto as you had when you initially opened shop.