A Savage Tale of Long Lines, Endurance, and the Best French Toast in Western Civilization

Deb and I spent a couple days in San Francisco this week. And we found ourselves kicking around North Beach.

Of course, that meant we just had to visit City Lights Books, one of my favorite city landmarks and the birthplace of the Beat movement in the ’50s.

And for the very first time we decided to join the intimidating line of people in front of Mama’s at Washington Square to have breakfast and see what all the fuss is about.

Great decision, as it turns out.

For more than 50 years, Mama’s has been famous for its French toast. So I ordered a “sampler” that included banana nut, chocolate cinnamon, and orange-cranberry. It was uneffinbelievable. (Deb loved her breakfast, too, but I couldn’t tell you what she had. I was too engrossed in my own meal.)

But Mama’s is also well known for its long lines.

If you’re not in front of the restaurant when its doors open at eight, you’re gonna be in line for, like, forever, or until…well, until they let you inside to stand in another long line to order, get seated, and finally served.

But you know what?

The long line is as important to Mama’s success is its spectacular food.

Both add up to the Mama’s “experience.”

No one talks just about the food. And no one talks just about the line to get in.

The two go hand in hand.

Without the great breakfast as payoff, the long line’s just a pain in the ass.

And without the long line, you can’t crow to your friends about the exhausting time you endured waiting for the greatest breakfast of your life.

Mama’s could probably move to a larger location and add a half-dozen more chefs.

But that’d be real stupid.

They’d lose their specialness. They’d lose their unique brand.

And probably most of their customers, too.

What if you followed Mama’s example and made not just your product or service top-notch but the very act of doing business with you memorable?

Do you offer your customers or clients an “experience”?

Think about it.

And if you ever find yourself in San Francisco’s North Beach area, drop in early at Mama’s.

There’ll be a long line, but it’s worth it.

P.S. I list 16 unique ways to brand yourself and your business — just like Mama’s does — in Chapter 7 of The Quick Start Guide to Fearless Freelancing. Check it out.

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