Chocolate Fish Cafe Embraces the Purple Cow

I was in Fiji the week before last, and finally got around to reading Seth Godin’s Purple Cow. I can’t say I was enthralled by the book but I liked the concept of always thinking about the remarkable. This weekend I had breakfast at a place called The Chocolate Fish Cafe, a place that has totally embraced the concept of being a Purple Cow.

How the Chocolate Fish Cafe is Remarkable

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Instead of walking 2 minutes to any of the cafes surrounding where I live, we got in the car and drove 20 minutes to the Chocolate Fish Cafe. In fact, I’d go so far to say that every single patron of the place had to drive there. This is in a city where virtually everything is in easy walking distance. Also, unlike most places in Wellington, every single time I’ve been to the Chocolate Fish Cafe, I’ve had a very long wait to get my food. Normally this makes people angry, at the Chocolate Fish, we all sit around patiently. How do they do it?

  • The Chocolate Fish Cafe is limited by Geography and has to have the outside eating area ACROSS THE ROAD from the main restaurant. They have embraced this constraint and turned it into an advantage. Their bright yellow ‘Waiter Crossing’ signs are famous around Wellington, as are the fluorescent jackets that waiting staff wear.
  • The Chocolate Fish Cafe is a quirky place. Every single chair has been handpainted with a different picture. I stood up off mine and looked down into the open jaws of a shark that had presumably been biting my bottom throughout my dining experience.
  • Because the place is chocka block full of people, The Chocolate Fish Cafe has come up with easy ways to use LESS SERVICE. You get your own menu off a central stack, they have water dispensers around the place where people queue in friendly fashion to get their own water. They don’t apologise for this either, but once again, turn it to their advantage. This time they had a big sign up saying ‘sick of slow service? We need you to join us as a cook!’
  • The Chocolate Fish Cafe has turned themselves into an institution. They sell versions of the rocks they use as table numbers, they sell paintings of the cafe, and neat little post cards, guides to the city and other weird and wonderful objects including a clay seagull devouring a chocolate fish. They have created a tourist attraction out of a cafe.
  • Wellington has a whole lot of waterfront. The Chocolate Fish Cafe is about as far round as you can go from the city. But it’s a stunning drive or cycle and makes a nice lazy weekend activity. A trip out for food turns into an outing.

One thing I got from Purple Cow is that every single constraint can and should be turned into something remarkable. Everything should be looked at in the context of making it remarkable. If you are a marketer or a small business owner needing some inspiration, the easiest thing I can think of is asking the same question about every shop you visit or product you use ‘how could this be a Purple Cow?’. It’s amazing what you come up with.

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