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“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference”. Robert Frost

As an entrepreneur for over 15 years, I recognize that truer words have never been said but, while I attribute much of my entrepreneurial success and longevity to subscribing to these wise words from Mr. Frost, as a 21st century guy I’ve written them out a little bit differently. My version goes like this, “I Zag While Others Zig” … and boy have I been taken on a ride!  As my sister Susan puts it, “Hey Rivers Frost – not overly impressed with your poetry skills but your ability to put your philosophy into action, now that’s a different story!” and she’s right – words are great but real success comes from action!

I have always been a zagger – always embraced being different. I don’t know why this was (it could have something to do with having a name like Rivers), but I know that I never wanted to be a follower. As I grew up, I maintained my zagging essence and eventually applied it to my businesses, The Chef Group and the Relish Gourmet Burgers franchise system. By doing so, I pioneered a new approach to doing business in a traditional marketplace.

Essentially a chef talent agency of which I hold the position of “chef-pimp”, The Chef Group has truly zagged over the past 11 years. It’s taken the very traditional job of being a chef and re-invented it by bringing it out on stage. With the goal of being the “Disney World of culinary adventures”, it’s made the chef an integral part of the client’s dining experience.

Just as Disney encourages its guests to push the limits of their imagination, we encourage our clients in the same way. Our focus on imagination and pushing boundaries has allowed our team to participate in some truly incredible experiences; including adventurous catering gigs on ships, in tree houses, and in backs of trucks, as well as cooking classes and television appearances. Whatever it is, each experience involves taking our clients on a culinary adventure. They love the fact that our chefs are so involved in the experience and our chefs love that they get to be right in the action as opposed to behind the scenes – we truly are the Ford Model Agency of chefs!

And then, there’s Relish Gourmet Burgers, my newest child. Eating at Relish Gourmet Burgers goes well beyond the uniquely designed burgers – it’s all about the experience! In such a traditional business as burgers it’s definitely about the zag, or the road not taken. Rather than considering relish as a noun, we see it as a verb and we make sure to live by it! The moment that a customer walks through the door of one of our locations, they are met with a big group welcome from all of our “burger ambassadors” – it’s like a big, warm, family greeting!

When ordering, customers are asked what they “relish,”, and when their order is ready our “burger ambassadors” announce each customer’s name by saying “We relish (insert name)”.  With the ordering process, Relish allows customers to choose their preferred patty and provides an option of nine themed topping combinations ranging from the “Big Texas” to “L.A. is my Lady”. Each of these combos are imagined and created by our Director of Burgers (and my partner) Chef Ray Henry. The “relishing”, our play on words with the restaurant’s name, continues throughout each interaction, right up until the customer leaves.

We make a concentrated effort to connect with each local market while still developing our national brand and so each franchise location has its own unique burger special to that location. In Fredericton it’s the Brad Burger, named after the city’s Mayor, Brad Woodside. In Oromocto it’s the Base Commander because of the nearby Canadian Forces Base. Saint John, NB has The Great Fire, named after a historical event, and  Halifax will have the Halifax Explosion.

We strive to make Relish Gourmet Burgers a chosen destination rather than a convenience and so we zag in order to make each burger experience completely unique, giving our customers the same sense of feeling special each time they visit. The zag philosophy is in everything that we do and, considering that (to date) over seventy percent of our customers are repeat customers, we truly attribute the success of our brand to it.

Wondering how YOU can adopt a culture of zagging in your business? Follow these simple steps:

  1. Read Seth Godin’s The Purple Cow
  2. Just DECIDE to incorporate zagging as a philosophy in your business – it’s that simple to start
  3. Live a zagging culture every day
  4. Look for zagging examples outside of your industry and incorporate them into your own business
  5. Most times, zagging is very simple… like yelling “Welcome” to your guests when they visit your business!

Join the ZAG revolution and help us make Mr. Frost proud!

Image courtesy of Relish Gourmet Burgers