Nice anecdote from a former line chef at the French Laundry about Eric Ziebold, then the sous-chef there.
He was TFL's first ever sous chef and to this day I have never seen any one person work so many hours. (He, Thomas & Laura all put in 17-19 hour days, 7 days a week.) Everyone knows The French Laundry is an amazing restaurant, but few know why. It's easy to blame or praise one person, but the truth is that it takes a village.
For Pixar, the making of Ratatouille included some time in real kitchens and restaurants, complete with a stop at the French Laundry for some face-time with Thomas Keller.
Church of the Customer takes a look at how a Northern California restaurant called Cyrus competes with The French Laundry in attracting local customers, particularly those from wineries with big expense accounts for entertaining clients:
1. Match your competitor's exceptional quality.
The food at both restaurants was cooked perfectly and beautifully presented. Both delivered flawless service. By matching the quality of its better-known competitor, Cyrus removes the primary barriers of opposition.
2. Allow your customers to customize.
The French Laundry offers three prix-fixe menus of nine courses each. Cyrus allows its customers to choose their number of courses and the dishes.
Local competition still matters. You usually think of restaurants like The French Laundry as competing on a national or international level. Over the years, Keller's flagship has made several short lists of the best restaurants in the world. But as this article demonstrates, having to compete for the same pool of local customers can drive competitors to achieve a high level of excellence, higher perhaps than they would have achieved without that competition, and that excellence could lead to wider recognition. Even companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon who compete on a global level and don't interact with their customers face-to-face still have to vie with each other for local resources, particularly employees.
Thomas Keller gets the butter for his restaurants from 6 cows in Vermont. The woman who owns them sells more than 80% of her butter to Keller: "When you're small you can have a relationship with the people who buy your food. The reason I'm not big is because I'm a perfectionist. I've got to sell to someone who is the same way."