Local Flavor is Infused into Local Restaurants

I traveled to Orlando this past week for the International Builder's Show. On the flight down, I was reading a book called Small Giants by Bo Burlingham. The subtitle is "Companies that choose to be great instead of big". It's like Good to Great for privately-held companies, like our business, WhistlePig Press. Anyway, I ran across an interesting few paragraphs in a chapter called The Mona Lisa Principal. Burlingham writes about a restaurant in Ann Arbor Michigain called Zingerman's Deli and quotes one of the owners, Ari Weinzweig, talking about the relationship between company and community.

"You're talking about something like what that the French call terroir. It has to do with the way the soil and climate in a given region contribute to the flavor of the food. That's because the soil's mineral content, the amount of sun and rainfall it gets, the local vegetation, and so on -- all that is different in each region. So lets say you're going to make cheese or wine using the same recipe in two different places. The animals in one place will be grazing on different vegetation from those in the other, and the grape vines will be growing in different soil and getting different amounts of sun and rain. Because the terroir is different, the cheese will be different, and the wine will be different, even if you follow the same process for making them. It's the same with some businesses. Every community has its own character, which is sort of a spiritual terroir".

The author then explains that the opposite is also true, that when a business is hermetically separated from a community, you can taste that too: "When you mass-produce food, you strive to take the terroir out. The whole idea is to remove any variations due to climate, soil, or season, much as companies that are spread out geographically strive to reduce variation and develop a common culture.

That's why it is so much better to eat at local restaurants than chain restaurants. Yes, we recommend Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel is great for driving because it's close to the highway, there's plenty of parking, the food is fast, family-style, and the atmosphere is kid-friendly (you can eat breakfast any time). And they have great gift shops for after supper (or breakfast as the case may be). We recommend Cracker Barrel as a matter of convenience; it's a predictable experience. As it turns out, there is wonderful regional variation in the food as well -- don't order fried catfish with beans and greens in New England, skip the clam chowder in the south, try the meatloaf in both places).

There must be some Tennessee terroir in the corporate culture at Cracker Barrel.

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