The $100 Cheesesteak and How to Make Yourself Stand Out

At its heart, a cheesesteak is little more than a beautifully baked hoagie roll (you may need to Google that) with freshly sliced strips of steak grilled and forced between the two sides of this roll. Throw in a little cheese, maybe some caramelized onions, some mushroom, and BADA-BING! you've got yourself a classic. Not all that much to it, just quality ingredients simply prepared. Philadelphia is my home city and it is an incredible city. This may not come as a surprise if you've ever bumped into my timelapse film about the city called: "Philly is Ugly" In Philly we have a rich culture, amazing history, colorful characters, and an abundance of places to get pretty great food. In fact, it can sometimes feel like there is a place that will sell you a cheesesteak located on every corner.

So what's the business lesson we can learn from the humble cheesesteak? The answer lays in the story of the $100 cheesesteak. That's right, an upscale restaurant in Philadelphia had the gall to charge $100 for a sandwich for which others would charge a mere $6-8. The restaurant is called "Barclay Prime" it's an upscale, top-notch steakhouse in Philadelphia and the cheesesteak wasn't just ANY cheesesteak. See, Barclay Prime was setting up shop in Philadelphia and looking for a way to stick out, a way to make people talk about Barclay Prime and a way to compel people to come and visit the restaurant. Enter the $100 cheesesteak idea.

Of all the cheesesteaks out there, this is the master race version, they[Barclay Prime] have their own fancy roll it sits on, the steak is beautiful Kobe beef, the cheese is some fancy blend I can't pronounce, the onions are perfectly caramelized, I'm pretty sure truffles are involved in one or two ways as well, and there is a lobster tail plopped on top just because, you know, $100 cheesesteaks need a lobster tail too.

The fascinating thing about this whole story is that when Barclay Prime did this they were bold enough, fearless enough, and outside-the-box-thinking enough to break with the expected norms of a typical Philadelphian and their dearly-beloved cheesesteak. What happened next? Things went a little crazy. People couldn't stop, and people WOULDN'T stop talking about this cheesesteak. There was nothing quite like it, the food reviewers said it tasted amazing, it looked amazing, it was perfect. People went and paid $100 just to tell their friends they tried it, to share pictures on social media. All the while promoting and supporting and differentiating Barclay Prime as something different that you just had to go and try. Even now, when people go to Barclay Prime, they may not get the $100 cheesesteak, but you can bet your lunch that they know about it and are ready to brag to their friends about it.

In business, the norm, the expected, and the status quo are all yesterday. If you want to be huge, if you want to be great, set out with an eye toward tomorrow. Be fearless, risk everything, challenge expected norms, fly in the face of the status quo.

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." -Steve Jobs

If you can challenge what people expect when they think of something (a $100 cheesesteak is NOT expected) and provide some kind of emotional kick to the view of your content, your photography, or the potential client you're angling for, you will place yourself in a position where they remember you and even seek you out.

Think about the iPhone for a moment. It was different, it was beautiful, it was effective, and it was an absolute smash hit. Never let the status quo hold you down, there are worlds to discover and huge problems to be solved. Thinking outside the box has never been more valuable than it is today, you just can't be afraid to do it.