Opinions & Insights
5 Startup tips from Jon Favreau's movie "Chef"
Max Tiong, DBS Innovation Group Startup and Ecosystems Lead
Jon Favreau's latest movie centers on a frustrated but talented Chef, Carl Casper, who quit his job at a prominent LA restaurant and eventually started a food truck which turned his life around. While the trailer had us focused on the mouthwatering foodporn (and Scarlett Johannson), the movie was filled with useful takeaways for entrepreneurs. Here are five of them:
1. It's Going To Be A Journey
After leaving the head chef position at a prominent restaurant in LA, Carl was stuck trying to figure out what to do next till he decided to take a chance on an abandoned food truck. I assume running a scrappy food truck is far from what any head chef would consider a successful career, but who knew that this would be the path to having his own restaurants in the future? An even bigger twist of events is when Carl's "social media enemy" became his first investor. Entrepreneurship is a journey. New challenges and uncertainty will constantly hit you right in the face. Be ready for them and hustle on.
2. Validate With Actual Customers
Believing in what we do gives us strength for the tough times. However, blind belief will not be able to guarantee your business' success. Test your product with actual customers. Carl didn't just drive his food truck straight back from Miami to LA where he intended to be based out of. He tested his cuban sandwiches with actual customers along the way, and even made changes to cater to the varied local tastes. Constant testing is the only way for us to learn what our customers want, what they dislike and what they are willing to pay for. Most of your tests will fail, but this will just bring you closer to success – after all, there are only so many ways to make an awesome cuban sandwich.
3. Align Your Vision With Your Team
This is especially important during the early stages of your startup – everyone needs to be on the same page and believing in the same thing. When Carl's son, Percy, thought that it was alright to serve a slightly burnt cuban sandwich to the customer, Carl had a serious conversation with him. Carl's vision was to deliver the best cuban sandwich experience to his customers and he needed Percy to share the same vision. When your vision is aligned, your team is able to efficiently deliver on that shared vision without you having to check in on them consistently. A shared vision builds trust and efficiency.
4. Humanize Your Social Media
There is no doubt that Percy's tweets and vine posts played a huge role in Carl's food truck success. Carl's social media drama with an influential food blogger gathered many followers for him, and it was a genius move by Percy to leverage on that. However, what connects Carl and his crew to their followers was how Percy humanized the brand. By posting behind-the-scenes images, tweeting their next location and menu items, it is easy for their followers to feel like they are a part of the experience. So the next time you tweet something – ask yourself, how would a 10-year kid do it? Keep it simple and relatable.
While running your startup, it is common to wear multiple hats which means you'll have to pick up new skills and do things you've never done before. Although this lesson might not be obvious from the movie, to prepare for the role, Jon Favreau actually went for culinary lessons and worked in the line for food truck master Roy Choi. Why did he take lessons when he could have had a double perform those perfect slices of onions? That's because Jon believes in bringing out the authenticity of every character he portrays. The determination to learn and desire to do it as well as others who have mastered the craft is important when you start your own business. Eventually you'll have to hire a team and delegate responsibilities that you are weak in so that you can focus on your strengths, but until you are able to do that, keep learning. Constantly teach yourself new skills and refine your current repertoire. It'll be tough but worth it.
I ADMIT, IT'S STILL A MOVIE...
Yes, Hollywood isn't exactly the Harvard for startups. As a Hollywood movie, we expect a good ending despite the struggles throughout the show and everything is always clearer in hindsight. However, I still find myself being inspired by such a simple feel-good movie. If you have seen the movie, what do you think?
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