Home' Border Enterprise : Winter-Spring 2010 Contents 40 enterprise
ILEFT New York city last year with a brain
full of new ideas, a bag full of business
books and a suitcase full of shopping.
One of the lessons I learnt came from
an unexpected experience --- at Katz's
Delicatessen, which was made infamous by that
scene with Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.
I can assure you my experience did not even
come close to Meg Ryan's. Although visitors
may be hoping for a scene reminiscent of that
movie, on the day I visited it was more like a
riot scene from Prison Break, with inmates
(patrons) surging 10 deep to get their fill of
Katz's signature pastrami and corned-beef
To order a generous serving of their famous
sandwich, you are packed like sardines and
herded into queues by the staff who no doubt
have qualifications in riot control. The number
of people --- tourists and locals --- visiting the
place is phenomenal.
As soon as a couple of people leave, there's
a clear instruction from the prison warden
--- I mean, staff member --- at the door. "Two
out," he says to the staffer at the entry door,
who then carefully allows two people into the
At Katz's, they know how to manage a
capacity crowd. There's even a queue to get out
Valerie Khoo learns
an altogether different
lesson for small
HOW TO GET YOUR
15 MINUTES OF FAME
of the joint --- you join it and then slowly shuffle
out, waiting for the people in front of you to pay
before they leave.
All in all, it was a thoroughly unpleasant
experience. It's amazing what an infamous
scene in a movie can do for a deli. Of course,
it's also listed in guidebooks and is, no doubt,
a haunt for pastrami and corned-beef lovers
--- not to mention movie trivia buffs.
So what can you learn about business from
this iconic institution?
1. Make the most of your brush with fame
associated with a celebrity --- make the most of
it. According to Wikipedia: "The table at which
[Meg Ryan] and Billy Crystal sat, is marked with
a sign that says: 'Where Harry Met Sally ... hope
you have what she had!"'
I didn't see it myself because my face was
planted into the back of the coat of the person
in front of me while I was in the queue, after
which I practically plunged headfirst to grab
the only available table in my vicinity in order to
There was no opportunity to check out any
OK, most businesses aren't going to get a
chance to feature in a hit movie. But there are
other ways you can brush with fame. Do you
have a product you think certain celebrities will
love? Send it to them. Don't know where to
send it? Use logic.
If they are singers, contact the publicist who
looks after them at their recording company. If
they are on TV, contact the publicist who looks
after their show at the television station. Is it a
famous author? Contact the agent or publicist via
the publishing house listed in the front of the book.
You often read about how (Name of Major
International Celebrity) left Australia with a bag
full of gorgeous clothes from (Name of Fledgling
Designer). Well, chances are that Fledgling
Designer sent that bag of gorgeous clothes to
the star's hotel room, via the star's publicist or
manager. If the celebrity likes the clothes and
has good manners, you may even get a thank
2. Get listed
Another reason Katz's Deli is so popular is it's
listed in so many guidebooks.
Think of what directories or resources your
target audience refers to when looking for
a business such as yours. Get listed. It's
worthwhile. But make listing your business easy
for these directories.
Don't just send the name of your business and
some contact details. Write a short description
of the products and services you offer. Think
of it as a little advertisement --- so make sure
the words you choose are tantalising and make
people want to find out more about you.
3. Systemise everything
Although Katz's Deli is very successful, in some
ways it has become a victim of its own success.
The dining experience is not quaint or quiet --- as
it is in the movie. It's more like hell. Well, it was on
the day I visited (about 3pm on a Saturday).
In order to cope with the huge crowds, there
is a clear system for everything in the place.
There's a system for the way you order, how the
amount you have to pay is recorded and how
the sandwiches and hot dogs are assembled.
There is also a clear traffic system to ensure
a safe --- albeit slow --- movement of people
throughout the deli. It all goes in one direction.
Ultimately, whether or not I had a pleasant
dining experience, Katz's Deli is a very
successful operation. The key would be to try
to maintain some of its original charm while
keeping the crowds coming. But doing this is a
One thing's for sure, I think the atmosphere is
now making it pretty unlikely for anyone to have
a fake (or real) orgasm there ever again.
● Basking in fame, Katz's Delicatessen (above) is the site of that famous scene in When Harry Met Sally.
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