This Dish Isn’t Very Good

As consumers, we’re besieged with puffery. Brands shout at us, boasting they have New York’s #1 pizza, the world’s best coffee, America’s favorite car, or the best blue jeans in the universe. But these hollow claims fall flat with our exceptionally well-developed BS detectors.

In sharp contrast, one creative restaurateur took the opposite approach. The owner of Aunt Dai’s Chinese Restaurant in Montreal prefers a more brutally honest approach. Listed next to each item on the menu are ‘owner’s comments’, serving up transparency that will make you chuckle. Here are some of my favorites:

Sweet and Spicy Pork Strips: “I am not a huge fan of our version of this dish, to be honest.”

Orange Beef: “Comparing to our General Tao Chicken, this one is not that good.”

Black Pepper Chicken: “Don’t let the name fool you, this one is NOT authentic Chinese food. True story, one customer got really mad because it’s not so Chinese.”

Beef and Potato Stew: “Because of this dish, I gained at least five pounds.”

The honest comments are disarming, genuine, and unexpected. Instead of over-promising with exaggerated claims, this forthright entrepreneur shares the truth about his dishes. He explains that one dish “is really too dry”, while another is “totally not recommended for takeout or delivery, since it gets soggy.”

With an estimated 65,000 Chinese restaurants in North America, here we are marveling at the one who stands out by doing the opposite. In nearly every industry — from oil change shops to landscape designers to beauty salons — competitors are nearly indistinguishable from each other. While blending in with the flock can be helpful for animals in the wild, the herd mentality can be deadly in business.

Aunt Dai’s menu tells you without hesitation that one chicken dish is worse than another, or that despite the shrimp dish’s popularity, the owner just isn’t 100% satisfied with the flavor. But think how eager you’ll be to order the items that they proudly recommend. The creative menu serves as both a competitive differentiator and also a mechanism to build customer trust and loyalty.

In our own businesses, let’s push the creative boundaries. Let’s reject conventional wisdom in favor of fresh approaches to delighting customers. Let’s challenge ourselves to bust the traditions instead of complying with them in order to generate mouthwatering results.

According to the menu, when you order the Sichuan Spicy Pot, “You may experience numbness of your lips from the Sichuan peppercorn.” Similarly, you may experience a tingling of satisfaction when you outpunch your competition by pursuing unorthodox approaches.

Read More

New Thinking for the New Era of Business

Albert Einstein famously noted, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” In our post-COVID world of ...

When an Astronaut Needs a Pen

Ever get stuck on a problem, only to realize you're solving for the wrong thing? That's exactly what happened when the rocket scientists at NASA ...

How Shake Shack Drives Innovation

Do you prefer the crispy mozzarella, tempura watercress, and black garlic mayonnaise cheeseburger or the pumpkin mustard, bacon, cranberries, and sage hot dog? For something ...

Lady Gaga’s Secret to Creativity

Just before she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, I watched Lady Gaga dazzle the live audience with a pitch perfect performance of ...

Creativity: Does Size Matter?

For some reason, we’ve been taught that for creativity and innovation to count they need to have a magnitude the size of the 1989 San ...

The Lexicon of Creativity

There’s more confusion around the meaning of the word innovation than the chaos at the airline ticket counter after a cancelled flight. Is there a difference between ...

The Brain Science of Becoming More Creative

When we hear stories about iconic leaders like’s founder Marc Benioff, or widely celebrated virtuosos like Lin-Manuel Miranda for that matter, we immediately think ...

Correct the Overcorrect

When the misguided leaders at Enron, Tyco and Worldcom committed fraud and marred their shareholders with huge losses, the Securities and Exchange Commission rightfully swooped ...

Learning to Color

Fact: Creativity has become the most needed skill in business. It’s gone from a nice-to-have to becoming mission-critical. Fact: Creativity is a learnable skill. All humans have ...