Striking the Perfect Balance: Cultural Integrity and Customer Expectations
Customer expectations can be tricky, and as a business owner, they aren’t always what you think they should be. Lucas Sin, owner of Nice Day Chinese in New York City, has been expertly managing the challenges of meeting customer expectations while refusing to compromise on the integrity of his business and what he offers.
To bring Nice Day Chinese to life, Lucas and his founding partners had to face two competing truths: one, the understanding of Chinese food in the U.S. is “largely quite singular and limited,” as Lucas put it, and two, how important Chinese-American cuisine is to American food in general. In Lucas’ words, “people have a very nostalgic and intimate relationship with Chinese-American food.” So in order to honor tradition while meeting demand, Lucas and his team decided to open a restaurant that gives customers the Chinese-American food they crave while also paying homage to the more traditional ingredients and recipes—which are becoming increasingly difficult to find as the generation of chefs start to age out.
Morlene C., this week’s Yelp reviewer (and Yelp’s Brooklyn Community Manager) admitted the skepticism she initially felt toward Nice Day. As someone who is part Chinese, she didn’t grow up with Chinese-American food and notes that it can be difficult to find Chinese-American cuisine that is produced with integrity and respect for Chinese culture. But she soon found out that Nice Day Chinese strikes that balance perfectly. And it’s not easy—maintaining cultural integrity while meeting customer expectations takes patience and dedication. To achieve it, regardless of what industry you’re in, it’s important to always remember what you’re working toward. With every decision you make, make sure it checks all the boxes—both something that won’t jeopardize your cultural integrity and also creates an experience or product that you’re proud to deliver to your customers.
We talk a lot about the importance of a great customer experience, and with food, it can be easier to focus on the end product than on the experience itself. Lucas brings it even further, describing that it’s really about what the product itself facilitates: “I've always had this sort of curiosity about the ability for food to tell stories, for food to be a starting point to think about deeper cultural issues and social issues and having it as a sort of a gateway into a larger conversation.”
Think about what your offerings can do for society as a whole. Not every service and product may lead to larger societal conversation, but in general, think about the true impact your business can have.
Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the learnings from this week’s episode:
- Consistency. When you’re trying to garner loyal customers, one of the most important things to do is focus on creating a consistent experience and/or product. Especially for restaurants during the pandemic, this also means thinking about your takeout experience. How can you make sure your product travels well? How easy is the ordering process? It’s these little things that will help you find success.
- Identify a mission and stay true to it. One way to ensure you never compromise your values is to create a mission for your business and make sure that all decisions and choices you make are representative of that mission.
- Sometimes food just needs to be delicious. While it’s important as a business operator to focus on a mission, sometimes, for the customer, it’s just about the end product. Lucas shared: “I really appreciate that for many, many people, food is just food, and it needs to be delicious and hot and crispy, and I think part of the amazing thing about the American-Chinese food is that you can enjoy it in and of itself for its own purpose without further thinking about history and all these things while you're eating it.” So while having a guiding mission is integral, it’s also important that you recognize the reality of your customer’s expectations.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Lucas and Morlene, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.