Creating Fans

Ali BabaWhat makes a business build a strong following?  Here’s one great example

If you live in Knoxville, by now you have heard about Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli and hopefully you were able to experience it before the owners decided to close the deli.  Every visit was an experience and no two visits were alike.  The two men who ran the establishment had a passion for what they did.  They loved talking to people, took pride in their work; and it created a strong fan base.  Here are three basic rules the owners of Ali Baba’s stood by:

Create a Great Product

Sounds simple, but many businesses fail because their product is too bland.  In the case of Ali Baba’s, they decided to have a menu that offered different items.

  • Traditional Deli Sandwiches: Pastrami sandwiches, roast beef and many more deli sliced awesome sandwiches.
  • Burgers and Such:  The Vol Burger, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches.
  • Middle Eastern Dishes: Falafel options, hummus and the infamous King Solomon Chicken plate.

By no means did I try everything on the menu, but the items I did eat, I loved.  They made the best pastrami sandwich in town and the King Solomon Chicken was a great dinner any day of the week.

Provide Excellent Service

A company can have the offer the best product every made, but without focusing on service, it is destined for failure.  The two men who worked at Ali Baba’s were always happy to see customers and went out of their way to show their appreciation.  They never made their customers feel like an inconvenience and were always willing to share suggestions to customers when customers were debating what they wanted to eat.

While waiting for the meals to be prepared, the guys would either be going on with some kind of banter, make you laugh at a quick joke or would have a conversation about what was on their television. There were a few winter nights I would walk in there tired and cold, but because of their warm personalities, I always walked out happy and feeling good.

Be Different

Ali Baba’s wasn’t for everybody.  It was a vibe that was all its own.  They didn’t try to be all things to all people.  It was a deli in East Tennessee with a Middle Eastern twist.  You couldn’t order a beer with you Vol Burger; though you could purchase a hookah.  They didn’t have fountain drinks with unlimited refills, but you could purchase exotic canned sodas.  People chose to eat at Ali Baba’s because they knew it was something they couldn’t get anywhere else in town.

These three basic principles helped sustain Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli for 40 years. It created a loyal fan base of people who flocked there on a regular basis.  For those loyal individuals who lived outside of Knoxville, they would always make sure to stop by when passing through town.  It was a deli, but more importantly it was an experience.

What was your experience at Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli?

Never been, then what experience have you had with a business that left you wanting more?

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About Jeremy M. Price
For twelve years, I had the pleasure of working in community banking. Starting in customer service, I worked my way up to a senior level marketing and human resources director. It was great leading teams that improved strategic initiatives including, but not limited to brand awareness, digital communication, employee development and product development. This experience has now led to an exciting role with CRS Data. As the Product Marketing Analyst, I am currently reviewing the company's banker suite product. This product is able to help community banks reach their fullest potential in real estate lending. I am extremely fortunate to share time with my son while enjoying life in East Tennessee. The two of us enjoy the views of the Smokey Mountains, eating good food and having fun. During my free time, I enjoy running races, traveling and listening to great live music.

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