Jilly: Inspired by Goodman

Inspired by GoodmanIt’s been a trying few days chez Jilly. We just completed week three of our home redecoration program, and while our builders couldn’t be more charming or hard-working, a serious problem outside their control meant they had to switch to twelve-hour days, so they’ve been arriving before 8 a.m. and leaving after 8 p.m. After ten days of not sleeping in our own bed, we’ve had a week without a functioning bathroom, and despite carefully taped plastic sheeting from floor to ceiling, everything – everything – that’s not boxed up and stored away is covered with a layer of fine dust. I have to do a major cleaning job each morning before I can put my contact lenses in.

I’ve been trying to write through the disruption, not with any great degree of success. Finally yesterday, as the team left for a well-earned day off and I sat cursing various abandoned attempts at a half-decent blog post, my husband said “Stuff it. Let’s go to Goodman.”

Four hours later here I am, equilibrium magically restored, full of quality calories and thoughts about what my favorite restaurant can teach me about romance writing.

When you visit Goodman’s website, one of the first things you see is their customer promise:

Great Steak. Great Wine. Great People. That’s Everything Covered.

It’s not the most glamorous game in town. It’s not a venue to see and be seen. But it quietly enjoys a large, loyal and smart clientele who repeatedly choose to spend their time and cash there. Which to my mind offers a lot of parallels with genre fiction. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Make sure your customers know what to expect
Their invitation couldn’t be clearer. If you’re in the mood for a steak, you’ve come to the right place and you can trust us to make sure you’ll have a great time. If you’re looking for sushi, or Michelin-starred dining, you won’t find it here.

Deliver a quality product
If you want to make a business out of something as familiar as steak and chips, you’d better have an outstanding product. The folks at Goodman are obsessive. They visit every producer they buy from – in places like Nebraska, Ireland, the Lake District, and Devon – dry-age and cut their purchases on the restaurant premises, and never, ever compromise on quality.

Everything on the menu is important
Goodman’s salads are fantastic. So are their vegetables. And their bread. The ice cream is out of this world. All those peripherals are there to support the core offering of steak and fries, but loving care and attention is lavished on each of them.

Don’t ever have an off day
Reputation is everything. No matter how many times you deliver the goods perfectly, the off day is the one everyone will remember. Don’t ever settle for less than your best.

Deliver value
Quality comes at a price. If you offer an excellent product, you don’t have to sell yourself cheap.

Build a community
Look after your staff, your suppliers, all the people you depend on to deliver a great end result. Get to know your customers and cherish them; they’ll be your best advocates, and they’ll keep a smile on your accountant’s face.

Rinse and repeat
We return to Goodman again and again, because it’s such a pleasurable experience. I’m not sure how much of their business comes from repeat customers, but I’ll bet it’s more than half – maybe much higher.

If I’m a little late with the comments today please bear with me, I’ll be catching up on some much-needed sleep. Then I’m planning to spend a nice, quiet builder-free Sunday with my new hero and heroine Cam and Mary, inspired by the good folks at Goodman.

Where did you find ideas, encouragement or inspiration this week?

17 thoughts on “Jilly: Inspired by Goodman

  1. Today my inspiration came from my back yard, which didn’t get pruned properly last fall/winter and now is running riot, blocking sidewalks, weeds everywhere, all the good stuff getting choked out by all the bad stuff. I whacked away all afternoon, chopped and trimmed and pruned and swept up all the trash and twigs and fallen leaves and general garbage. And then I came in and solved several problems, saw how those solutions created other problems, fixed those, too, while I was at it–generally chopped and pruned and then swept up—and then…I moved on! Felt great.

    What are you doing to your house? Sounds massive!

    • That sounds doubly satisfying, Kay!

      House – it’s nothing grand – a three-bed semi, built late 1800s. The interior walls are typical Victorian – patterned paper, painted over. Under the paper is plaster, under that is plasterboard, then wooden battens, then brick. The paper is saggy in places because the plaster underneath is old and crumbling, so in order to repaint the walls you have to steam the paper off, pull down the plaster, rip off the battens, update the woodwork, replace the plasterboard, re-plaster, re-paper, and finally paint. So a significant investment in time, mess and money just to get a newly-painted wall that looks pretty much like the old wall except in better condition. No wonder we’ve been putting it off for so long.

      I probably should have blogged about it – put the work in, do it properly and nobody will notice, try to take short cuts and it will show in an inferior end product – but I’d had enough house.

      • I had much less work done on my place several years ago—the mess from the plaster dust was unbelievable, as you say. Plastic sheets everywhere, the workmen swept up every day, and yet—many things got ruined. And then at the end…you can’t tell that much is different. So tiresome! But it will be grand when it’s over.

      • This is too true! We had linoleum — well, industrial strength flooring — put down about 10 years ago, and I asked the workmen why they didn’t pull up the old flooring (which was cracked). I was pooh-poohed. Well, anyway, my in-laws had bought it, and an uncle was installing it, so you can’t look a gift discount in the mouth. And it looks great still! Except there the old flooring was cracked and buckled — it’s bumpy and catches dirt right there.

        And stories do the same damn thing! Rip it all out and start with new words! The bones are there, after all, and you don’t want lumpy, bumpy stories from just patching up the sentences and paragraphs.

  2. I want to hear about the house, but I had to squee about the steak. Yay! I grew up in Nebraska, and they do very good steak there. I’m a little homesick . . . .

    I had 12 hours of sleep last night — first time in a very long time! I feel lovely, but a little dehydrated. You just take your time, and get your rest!

    Next on the list: see if all that sleep helped inspire me (-:.

    • The steaks are definitely Yay, Michaeline. The Goodman kitchen also does an ice-cream sundae called Anne-Marie’s Outrageous Cookie Dough Sundae. My understanding is that Anne-Marie is their hostess when they go to Nebraska to visit with their steak supplier. Even if they’re so full of steak they can’t move, she’ll leave out a plate of her home-baked cookies and they’re so incredibly good, resistance is futile. So the chef asked her for the recipe and now there are Anne-Marie’s cookies in the sundae and cookie dough in the ice cream. Manna from heaven. So double Yay! for Nebraska.

      Hope all that sleep helped to inspire you. I’m feeling slightly less fried today, but I think more sleep is on the agenda. Soon. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

  3. Okay, you know I’m an ice cream junkie…now I’ll have to cross the pond for Anne-Marie’s ice cream.

    My inspiration this week came from the 8 Ladies: Jeanne’s success with the Golden Heart gave me hope (and motivation); the way the 8 Ladies came together to cheer her on has directly impacted several scenes I’m working on right now. It’s wonderful to be part of such an outstanding group; more than that, I’ll leverage the unselfishness and support of our community as a model for Cheyenne’s. In the end, it will be the relationships she’s built in Dry Creek that will save the day.

    • Great answer, Kat – the last four days since Jeanne got the news have been something extra-special for all of us, and being able to celebrate together in New York (and raise a glass to Michaeline) will be even better. If you can capture even a fraction of that for Cheyenne, it will be a very powerful read.

  4. Yum, I’m off to Goodmans – sounds terrific! And have I missed Golden Heart news – I’m in Cornwall with no internet at the moment, so only able to check in periodically. How did everyone do?

    • Strongly recommended, Rachel 🙂 . Golden Heart news is that Jeanne finaled – cue champagne and fireworks and all manner of good things – and the rest of us are proud as punch and basking in her reflected glory.

  5. Congratulations Jeanne! And phooey to those judges for the rest of you (just Justine and Jilly, or did more of you enter?) – it’s so subjective. Of course it would have been a great thing to be able to say you’d got, but don’t let it dispirit you – I know your work is great 🙂

  6. Jilly, we ARE going to Goodman when I come in May, right? I’d be sorely devastated (that’s an understatement) if we don’t.

    Having dined there with Jilly and her husband the last time I was in England, I can say that everything Jilly mentioned above is spot-on. They’re such good friends with the owners there, too, that my husband and I got to meet the chef, see where the steaks are aged, and enjoy some spectacular service of the likes I’ve never seen. It was a fabulous experience and I look forward to repeating it.

    Now, if I could just deliver the same with my book…. 🙂

    • Oh, yes, Justine, we are most definitely going to Goodman when you come to the UK in May. It will be at the end of your road trip, when we get back to London. We’ll have earned it after a week of castles and coaching inns, country lanes and smugglers’ hideaways 🙂

  7. My inspiration came from the Eight Ladies, who were overwhelmingly and joyously thrilled at my good fortune. I can’t wait to return the favor as the rest of the group takes flight over the coming months. (And I’m thrilled that Cheyenne has found a community. From loner to woman-who-belongs–what a great character arc.)

  8. I found a plethora of ideas, encouragement, and inspiration this week. Biggest inspiration is our soon-to-be- famous-writer pal, Jeanne, and the recognition by her peers that she writes a good story, evidenced by being a finalist in the RWA Golden Heart contest – Woot!! The ideas and encouragement came from the Eight who critiqued my manuscript. I’ve gone through them all and got so much out of them. Now, I am banging my head on the keyboard over scenes 17 and 19 (and more after that).

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