The table lacked butter and olive oil, purposefully. So began my meal Saturday night in Orlando Florida at Seasons 52, a fresh dining concept from Darden Restaurants, parent company to Olive Garden and other restaurant chains.
Nothing on the Seasons 52 menu has over 475 calories, a requirement that leads to guiltless mini-desserts. The upscale menu changes every three months (I ate from the Fall menu), and includes weekly specials that capture a food in its best season. Brussels sprouts – a rare restaurant find except in gourmet restaurants – caught my eye.
Attractive presentation, brick ovens and a terrific wine list (including wines “soon to be famous”) added to the dining experience. An inviting stone and wood décor complete with a fireplace and a welcoming piano bar will draw repeat visitors for sure.
I’m writing about Seasons 52 as it contains the seeds that could birth a lifestyle company, the subject of this week’s blog. Lifestyle companies serve a unique and encompassing role in their target market’s lives (what I called strategic role for non-profits in last week’s blog). Lifestyle companies compete on the basis of the benefits across the range of their offerings. Unlike the Krafts and P&Gs of the world, they do not compete product category by product category.
Harley Davidson is a great example if a lifestyle company. Other companies offer better motorcycle features and benefits, but the sum total of Harley’s offerings creates a rebel experience and badge of honor that confers pride, confidence and belonging to a tribe. Harley took this experience into many categories one might not usually associate with a motorcycle company– furniture, charity events and baby clothing.
Lifestyle companies are focused first and foremost on the value promise they offer to their target customers. They then align offering, advantages, channels, customer experiences and processes to profitably deliver on this value promise in ways competitors cannot easily copy.
There are risks to lifestyle companies. Will Harley be able to reverse the aging of its customers before it becomes the Plymouth of its category? Will its experience and badge become passé, following the Gap generation’s exit from the brand? Will its reach get so broad that the experience is lost, a trap Dior and other designers fell into at the tail end of the last century?
Seasons 52 could extend its high-taste, low calorie, sensual cuisine experience to other categories: snacks, home-cooked prepared ingredients, delivered meals, solutions for selecting the right wine when company comes, cookbooks, etc. My guess is that the chain will not expand this way, given the parent’s core business. But I can imagine a company that might build a lifestyle company around many of the brand attributes of Seasons 52.
My prediction is that we’ll see more lifestyle companies and not fewer in our copycat economy in which data now reveals that consumers want less and not more choice. Apple’s a lifestyle when it comes to the electronics side of many consumers’ lives. Driving this trend is the growing limit to how marketers can differentiate individual products in an economy in which offerings are increasingly mature and a global supply chain exists to copy anyone’s widget.
Over on the B2B side, a similar trend is happening, although the lifestyle label does not fit the B2B world. Businesses are purchasing more from fewer suppliers. Again, the issue is, “What can the whole of your offering do for us?” Clayton Christensen’s “job” focus is no longer linked to one product or category, but to the whole of a company’s offering.
Too many companies look at business model innovation through the lens of individual products and their features and benefits. It’s time to think about the value promise for the entirety of your unit or company, letting products be the means for delivering benefits that customers will gladly pay premiums to obtain.