Experience Files: Ruby Tuesday's "Handcrafted" Hype

Last night before "meet the teacher" night at my daughter's school, we took the family to Ruby Tuesday. I hadn't been there in awhile. As we waited for our waiter, one of the things that jumped out at me on the table was a tent card, which listed featured drinks. The first item was a "Handcrafted Drafts". "Funny....I thought... handcrafted? Since when is Sam Adams hard to find, and made by hand?"

I shrugged off my own critique as nit picky...until, that is, we got the menu. I noticed immediately that they also featured Handcrafted Steaks and Handcrafted Burgers. My daughter and husband rolled their eyes. Looking deeper, I also noticed on their beverages page that they also feature "Handcrafted Martinis" and their bottled beers were labeled "Handcrafted Bottles." In fact, the word "handcrafted" was so grossly
overused, it was somewhat unbelievable:

Thus began the jokes, as we sat at our "handcrafted table" looking at our "handcrafted menus" and "hand-crafted" napkin/utensil set... Our chuckling increased after the waiter offered to take our drink orders and suggested a handcrafted drink. It was all pretty kinda silly!

    To the folks at Ruby Tuesday,

    We understand that people may confuse you with Applebees. We understand that you do not want to be viewed as "fast food", but rather "Simple Fresh American Dining."

    We also understand that, to the extent you can change these market perceptions, you can up your price to $10 for a burger and $15 for a steak.

    We aren't dummies, so please do not insult our intelligence or attempt to brainwash us with far-reaching marketing copy.

    ...And please do find a thesaurus!


The truth is this: No matter how much we spend on getting our copy nailed (and a lot of Ruby's copy is written quite well), it's still the window dressing of the experience. When we go too far with copy and over bill the brand, we find ourselves teetering on the edge of ridiculous!

Selecting words is important. Personally, when I think of the word "handcrafted", I think of my brother-in-law, who is a carpenter and a true craftsman. I think of my husband, who builds truly hand-constructed engines that go very, very fast. I also think of Etsy, a site that sells handmade items that are truly unique and special.

When I think of handcrafted, I also think of one of my small, local clients, Rug & Relic (link forthcoming, site in development). This client is a combination of an art gallery, a showroom for totally exquisite rugs a hand an import house for fascinating Turkish antiques.

Everything they sell is totally unique...from handmade bird houses that were used to keep Partridges, to huge hand-carved wooden yogurt churns, designed to swing from trees. I love listening to the owners tell the unique story of each individual piece. They've got gigantic, hand-thrown ceramic vases that are hundreds of years old, sitting upon hand-wrought iron stands, and hand-hammered antique copper cauldrons big enough to bathe in. From the art to the custom-made lighting....everything they sell is truly hand-constructed. Because most of it is recycled, it's also green. The place is just cool!

With Rug & Relic, the product, the interface, the customer interaction drive the experience. They never over bill themselves ... they are driven by word-of-mouth, and they don't mind being an exclusive, best-kept secret. Their customers are their greatest evangelists.

Going back to Ruby's... I think it's very possible to find new language and still communicate a message of craftsmanship without wearing it out. Our experience was otherwise good. My turkey burger was great. The service was very good, and the environment was pleasant. The experience was solid enough to stand on its own without the marketeers pounding us with over-reaching messages.

Like I've said before. Sometimes it's just better not to push things too far.


Anonymous said...

That's pretty funny. Thanks for the handcrafted post!

- April

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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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