Veggie Burgers (Issue 954)

In which we are reminded to reduce glaring weaknesses that detract from our expertise.

My wife felt like eating a hamburger last night and suggested we order takeout from a neighborhood restaurant that is locally famous for its hamburgers. Something to do with the shape and the cooking style that makes them particularly good. I am now pursuing a vegetarian diet, so hamburgers are off my list.

“What will you order, then?”

“I guess I’ll have the veggie burger,” I said. It was the only vegetarian-friendly entre on the menu.

We arrived at the restaurant just as the servers were putting out our take-out burgers (and they smelled terrific!). We snagged them from the pick-up table by the door and returned home.

Following the time-tested principle, “look before you eat,” I lifted the top half of the bun. The restaurant had served two veggie patties, each about 3/8” inch thick. While they create their hamburgers in a distinctive shape, the veggie patties looked as “manufactured” as you could get. Perfectly round, perfectly flat, perfectly even, the color of beach sand with a little dark matter mixed in. They were dressed with a slice of tomato, a lettuce leaf, and a bit of red onion.

“This is going to require a lot of ketchup,” I thought, and I headed to the refrigerator.

Returning to the table, I removed one of the flat patties from the bun, slathered ketchup on the remaining patty, and (since I tend to eat almost everything quickly) consumed most of the meal before my wife had finished dressing her burger.

I then turned my attention to the remaining patty, alone and unadorned in the takeout container lid. I took a bite. The texture and flavor reminded me of “oatmeal not finished at breakfast and left to sit in its cereal bowl all day” … only less interesting. My wife was still eating her burger, so I, bite by bite, finished off the second patty.

But I thought to myself, “For cryin’ out loud, this is a burger place. Couldn’t they do better than this?” My wife had asked them whether they served either the Impossible® burger or the Beyond Meat® burger, both of them better than my cold-oatmeal-sand-colored flat patty. They didn’t.

Seriously???? If you’re going to build your brand around a burger, and you live in a community where a significant number of us are vegetarian, why wouldn’t you offer a veggie burger that is, at least, not so memorably disgusting that it leaves a bad taste in peoples‘ mouths?

I’ve had this experience with physicians, accountants, bankers, and lawyers (and, possibly, others…) each of whom have extraordinary individual specialties but whose “bedside manner” or some other aspect of their practices are so weak that (despite their towering expertise in their specialties) no amount of ketchup can compensate for it and I have taken my business elsewhere.

I will certainly be looking for alternatives to the place we went last night.

Nick Miller trains banks and bankers to help small businesses thrive by guiding them to good financial practices and leveraging the full range of their banks’ capabilities. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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