Content Marketing, Social Media Case Studies

What I Learned About Humanity From a Steakhouse

Last week, in the post “Why Your Special Offer Isn’t” we talked about the importance of humanization. Faced with an invitation avalanche, consumers will respond to the stories that resonate with them on a personal level. And those stories don’t just have to live in social media.

Myril Arch’s Story — Humanizing a T-Bone

Recently, I was in Pierre, South Dakota giving a presentation at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, and ate dinner at the Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse – which I found via iPhone’s Yelp application. It’s a small place, casual and charming with a friendly staff, and damn good steaks. But that’s not the point.

photo e1296160318377 300x224 What I Learned About Humanity From a Steakhouse

The placemat at Cattleman's Club

At my seat was a placemat. Instead of a generic one, or something with a logo, or even a placemat with a menu on it (a steakhouse staple), Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse takes the opportunity to convey to a captive dining audience one hell of a story. It goes like this (transcribed from the placemat):

I guess some people are just born liking to cook. We had a ranch in the Big Bend area a few miles down river from what was then De Grey. I remember cooking for the hay crew of four men when I was twelve.

After buying the ranch in 1954 we butchered our own beef and did a lot of outdoor cooking. Everyone seemed to really like the way I seasoned the steaks.

In 1974 I purchased the Little Chef in Pierre at auction. It was just a little 10-stool place and I got the feeling I’d like to have a bigger place where I could do mainly steaks. Running the ranch and farming along with the Cafe got to be a little too much, so a guy wanted it pretty bad, so I sold it for a good profit.

Myril Arch What I Learned About Humanity From a SteakhouseI saw where the state of South Dakota had declared a house they owned surplus. Bids were opened at 10am November 16, 1981, and I got it for $3000.

I had a piece of land in the corner of the ranch that had a beautiful view of Lake Sharpe and I thought that would be a great location for a steakhosue.

I thought that it would ber an easy deal to get the six acres it was going to sit on released from the FHA loan I had on the ranch. It wasn’t that easy. I finally had to write to a Congressman to finally get it done.

That done, I found out that the city of Pierre had joint jurisdiction with Hughes County and I had to have the approval of both boards to have it rezoned from residential to commercial. I ended up fighting with the city for 3 1/2 years before they decided they shouldn’t have been out that far and the joint jurisdiction line was moved back closer to Pierre by 12,000 acres. Now it is 1986 and the farming and ranching business had gone sour and I was about broke.

My son Myril II and I finally got it open as a bar in February 1986 with sawdust on the floor because we couldn’t afford carpet. I couldn’t borrow any money to get the kitchen started until August when a very good friend loaned me $10,000. We started serving steaks in September and that’s when it took of. I think living here all my life and having a lot of friends really made the difference, along with the steaks everyone thought were great.

The men changed as time went on from prime rib twice a week to every night.

My daughter Cindy now runs the steakhouse and provides the same food and service that we started with.

We have had people from practically all over the world in the last 15 years. We serve about 50,000 – 55,000 people a year and go through an average of 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year.

We have many loyal customers and have made friends with people from all over the country.

It has been a great experience and I thank you for your patronage.

Wow. Myril’s story has a lot of twists and turns, and reads like a Coen brothers’ script. Although he wasn’t in the night I ate there, I feel like I know Myril. At the very least, I feel like I know something about him and what he’s been through, and how much he cares about his restaurant. And that will stick with me for a very, very long time.

What the owner of a small steakhouse in South Dakota can teach all of us about social media is that your story – whatever it is – has humanizing value. You just need to realize that what you think is boring or routine, your customers just might find fascinating.

Related
  • http://twitter.com/katpinke Katie Lukens Pinke

    What a fabulous story and connection! Humanizing and telling your authentic story connects people and builds a sense of trust and understanding. After reading this story, my husband and I will take a road trip on the prairie to Pierre to check out Cattlemen’s Club. But the next time you get remotely near our corner of the prairie, Jay, you better let us know ahead of time.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Yep, I should have called you. I had a ton of free time too. I didn’t realize you were close-ish to Pierre. My fault!

      • http://twitter.com/katpinke Katie Lukens Pinke

        Yep we are located in the heart of the middle of nowhere, straight north. We’ll connect…next time you have an event in Pierre…which I can’t imagine but…you never know.

  • http://www.info2dw.com Menisa Lindra

    oh wow.. what a sweet and inspiring steakhouse story… just loved it Jay… loved it :)

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks very much. Good steaks too!

  • http://twitter.com/C_Pappas Christina Pappas

    We don’t buy from companies, we buy from people. This is exactly right in line with that age-old mantra. This is a really great offline example of a steak house (and thanks for making me crave a steak by the way even at 10am) making the experience about people and not just a transactional meal. We all have a story (individuals, brands and even our furniture) and maybe we are tired of telling it, but it is a story and this is one characteristic that keeps us maintain that human connection.

  • http://twitter.com/C_Pappas Christina Pappas

    We don’t buy from companies, we buy from people. This is exactly right in line with that age-old mantra. This is a really great offline example of a steak house (and thanks for making me crave a steak by the way even at 10am) making the experience about people and not just a transactional meal. We all have a story (individuals, brands and even our furniture) and maybe we are tired of telling it, but it is a story and this is one characteristic that keeps us maintain that human connection.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      The reason we get tired of telling our story is because WE have heard it a thousand times. But customers and prospects haven’t. You think Modern English isn’t sick of playing “Melt With You” every night for 25 years? Sure they are. But it’s still awesome when you see it live because the audience hasn’t seen it every day for 25 years.

  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    It’s funny how easy it really is, to be human I mean. Nothing flashy, just a good story told like Myril was sitting at your table. Yet I think so many businesses still believe they have to be hip and different and slick and… No, just be honest. But if your business isn’t acting authentic, perhaps being human is one of the hardest things of all to be.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I find it’s usually one of three problems:

      1. Don’t put the effort into storytelling
      2. Tell an inauthentic story that doesn’t actually match up with reality (the slickness issue you mention)
      3. Don’t believe they have anything worth telling (the most common)

      • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

        I hear you. Businesses need to think more like restaurants. Every person and therefore every business owner has a story. And likely they have hundreds, not just one. You just need to know where to look.

  • http://www.tlchome.ca tlchome

    Everyone loves a ‘feel good story’….and especially a success story. What a genuine guy with no pretense and good ol fashioned chutzpah! Cements my belief that people want to feel connected ~ in life and business.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      People, not logos!

  • http://twitter.com/redslice Maria Ross

    Thanks Jay! This is fundamentally what I talk to clients about when building their brands: What is your unique brand story? Showing an authentic and human side – regardless of what industry you play in – is what gets customers to connect and more importantly, spread the word for you (as you did here!) That is what a brand story is all about.

  • http://twitter.com/bobnunn bob nunn

    So excited to see this great post Jay and the conversation. Been working on this myself. Anyone else interested in brand storytelling may want to check out the research buried in this post on PawnStars. http://bit.ly/esjUHj Great stuff Jay! Working on one for rum right now.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Fantastic post! I’m going to check out the research too.

      If you’d be interested in running your rum post here as a guest, let me know.

  • http://twitter.com/nickroshon Nick Roshon

    Not to be a debbie-downer or the crazy vegetarian guy, but it is the same power of humanizing, or rather de-humanizing in this case, that makes American society so okay with eating a very loving, 400+ lb mammal (the cow) that is chock-full of personality in the first place. If they gave an equally as poetic story about the cow and its human-like qualities such as its strong bond with its mother, its social structure within the herd, its cute first steps, and its terror as it was being herded into the slaughterhouse, no one would ever want to eat it.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Fair point.

  • http://twitter.com/explosivecomm Explosive Commerce

    Fun article Jay. I commend you on your tongue biting ability from the previous comment. Hope to see you at Digital Marketing Forum in Austin if you are able to make it.

  • Lisa Wester

    Nice story Jay and reinforced a recent discussion with a client.

  • http://www.social-media-design.com/ Lori Randall Stradtman

    Hi Jay! Thanks for this timely post! Everything’s such a balance, you know? My basic orientation is that appeals have to grab the reader’s attention by talking about them. I guess I’m so clued into that perspective that I’ve let my narrative slide somewhat for fear that it’s just too mundane. I’m no celebrity, so who cares? Any pointers to help determine when we’ve stepped into overshare territory? Thanks!!!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I actually use my wife and mother for trial ballooning that. If they think it’s boring, it is.

    • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

      It’s all well and good to “talk about them,” but they want to know who’s talking, too… not the featureset of the product that you’re hawking, but the ‘why” and the ‘how did it happen’ and ‘what was the big idea’ and the ‘give me context’ and the ‘show me the passionate people involved’.

  • jmthorner

    Love this Jay! Pure human connection. So easy to get caught up in the mktg hype, tools, and real time frenetics instead of remembering the human engagement piece. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://daycareprofessor.com Bonnieomccormick

    Makes me want to find this little restaurant and order a steak! I think his campy little marketing story is working! Who doesn’t like a little camp now and then? Real stories are refreshing.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      This one time, at steak camp.

  • Megan Mckeon

    Jay – Super awesome post, my uncle was the governer of SD in the early 90′s so it hit a sweet spot for me. You posted the 3 problems earlier about telling a human story. One that struck was not feeling like they have a story worth telling – like a hotel. Make one up? Any further words of wisdom for that??

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Find them from your customers.

  • Jlay

    How can you make a story like that more appealing in the social media or business world? I understand that that is for a restaurant and customers can sit down and read it, but would this translate into a mission statement for a business? http://www.protisei.com

  • Jlay

    How can you make a story like that more appealing in the social media or business world? I understand that that is for a restaurant and customers can sit down and read it, but would this translate into a mission statement for a business? http://www.protisei.com

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      A mission statement, no. I guess you could pull out the lesson about perseverance and revolve around that.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      A mission statement, no. I guess you could pull out the lesson about perseverance and revolve around that.

    • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

      How about the mission statement is to be the kind of business that would make someone spend the time reading the story?

  • http://twitter.com/CamberNoren Camber Noren

    Thank you for this post. I am currently taking an internet marketing course #mkt3730 #in with @dr4ward and I found this post very interesting. My family owns a small business and I’m always curious to know what it was like before we owned it. I think sharing the history of a business is an important way to reach out and connect to your customers.

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    If you’re looking for webinar software, then check out Evergreen Business System. Its perfect for marketers and let’s you automate the scheduling of your webinars, build your list, and even follow up with your webinar registrants. If you’re going to buy Evergreen Business System, then you might as well get a free bonus! So check out http://www.mikelmurphy.com/evergreen-business-system-bonus-webinar-software/ and you’ll get a great bonus that tells you how to create a webinar, what is a webinar, and a blueprint for making a successful one. None of the other people offering bonuses are offering this. Hurry in case the guy (some dude that worked on Lord of the RIngs) offering the bonus decides to pull it down.