Is there a part of you that wishes you didn’t have to constantly compete for business?  Do you ever daydream about what it would be like to be the only player in a limitless marketplace? Here’s what you need to know: competition is good.

I recently had cause to ponder just how good competition is after a visit to a small regional town.  After a long day I was desperate for a beverage so I popped into the solitary pub in town to buy a bottle of wine.  I entered the pub and was struck by its dilapidated interior.  The owner kept chatting with local barflies and I waited … and waited.  Eventually the publican begrudgingly got off his stool to serve me.  No smile. He gave me a greasy wine list and I selected a surprisingly nice bottle of merlot.  I was dourly informed that the merlot was in the back.  No offer to get it for me.  I was given the impression that I had asked far too much so not wishing to be unpleasant I just settled for the shiraz.  Of course I never have cash so proffered my credit card for paywave.  No paywave.  It took me a sec to remember all the steps on a retro eftpos machine.  After I paid I noticed the torn piece of paper over the cash register (a cash register!) written in black texta saying that there was a surcharge for credit card payments.  On my way out I saw that the pub advertised a burger and chips for $7.  Never.  Ever.

As I walked away I wondered if I’d become soft.  Were my expectations too high? Am I a spoiled brat?  Later that night as I sipped my second glass of wine and perused I saw the pub listed for a startlingly low price, half the cost of the homes in the town.  It was then that I realised the value of competition.  Without competition the pub had stagnated.  It was under the erroneous belief that it did not need to invest in modernisation to stay relevant. It had become a dinosaur … and had lost its value as a going concern.  When chatting to locals the next day I found out that for a good meal they would drive 20 km to other town pubs or restaurants.  I went to one of those other pubs the next night for dinner and the service, food and conveniences were par none, despite being nearly three hours from the city.  Competition is cool.

I realise that I am spoiled by all the wonderful customer service experiences I have had.  And I do have high expectations.  That’s because I have spent my life revelling in a mixed market capitalist economy.  Maybe I’m brainwashed but no one could argue that competition drives excellence.  In western economies it’s the consumer who dictates market trends.  As consumers we have a need or demand and we make choices among a range of options.  The choices we make dictate trends or supply.  Businesses can innovate to create demand or they can improve to stay abreast of the market place.  Ultimately, it’s all about the quality of the experiences you are giving your customers.  The customer literally is king in our economy. The message is clear … hospitality businesses should never stop competing for business.  How will your venue stay relevant?