Consider the following.
You live in a neighborhood in a city. Your neighborhood may have three (3) restaurants. No more, no less.
When you are tired / hung-over / lazy / inspired / hungry you may visit one (1) of these three (3) restaurants.
This is not to say that there aren't other restaurants you *could* go to. But they're *far away* and it's too early / too late / you're busy. You want to go someplace familiar / close by / convenient.
And so. You must choose.
For your neighborhood, you must choose three (3) restaurants that are within stumbling distance from your abode.
They may serve any of the three traditional daily meals.
They can belong to any ethnic group.
They may be as cheap or expensive as you wish. Money is no object in this gedanken experiment.
And they can have any menu which would be typical of the sort of restaurant you select. Please note that a "serve everything" restaurant is patently not fair.
The most significant requirement is that they must suit *you* - day in, day out - on those occasions when you decide to eat out.
For purposes of illustration, here are my three choices:
1. A traditional American breakfast joint. Eggs, toast, corned beef hash, and gallons of excellent coffee served in chipped porcelain mugs. And orange juice of impeccable provenance. Oh, and more coffee: black, like my heart. Waitresses who have seen too much and yet still find time to smile and remember your name. You must over-tip them religiously.
2. A French bistro. Steak frites, onion soup, blanquette de veau, choucroute garnie, cheese, cheap wine that is still pretty good. Baguette sandwiches with good butter and ham. Diffident waiters. Black and white tile floors. The occasional confit du canard and cassoulet. Zinc bar. A blue haze of Gitanes smoke. Mismatched cutlery and checkerboard-style tablecloths.
3. A ramen-ya. Tall stools wrapped around a workman-like counter behind a flappy set of frayed black half-curtains. Enough said. Here's a wonderful post about the sort of experience I'm describing.
Why is this an exercise? Because it forces you to think about what it will take to delight you *consistently*. It connects you to a part of your psyche that you don't connect with often - the part that appreciates unsophisticated, everyday pleasure. Because you don't go out to eat unless you need to - and if you need to, you want to eat something you can't make yourself. You want to be wrapped in an experience that speaks to you intimately.
Now consider that you have the opportunity to create this sort of experience for your customers.
It's a heady responsibility.
BONUS EXTRA CREDIT OPPORTUNITY: Share your three restaurants in the comments or send them to me on twitter @bobcorrigan