The Ultimate Theme Experience

This week, I was at the APWA and SWANA shows in Boston and had the good fortune of taking my family along to experience the history of this great city. After the show, we went sightseeing and ended up in Quincy market right around lunchtime. Naturally, we began looking for a place to eat. We walked by the famous Cheers Café and all the local seafood places and ended up at Dick’s Last Resort. I know, it’s a chain, but it was hot – and this appeared to be the only café with air conditioning.

Often times, we talk with clients about show promotions and making sure the theme of the promotion is carried out and believable, not only in print ads and direct mail, but also in the booth experience. After all, one of the key goals of any tradeshow exhibit is to be memorable. Dick’s Last Resort was the ultimate theme experience – and definitely one that won’t be forgotten! We were greeted by an unfriendly hostess and seated at a table where a waiter tied bibs around each of us. (My kids found mom and dad wearing bibs to be quite amusing.) Our waiter then came over to the table and literally threw our utensils, napkins and placemats in a heap on the table. He then said, “We’re a theme restaurant. We’re loud. We’re rowdy and we like to have fun. If you don’t like that, this is not the place for you. Try the Cheers bar.” He got laughs from the surrounding tables and us. When taking our drink orders, he went to the kids first. My oldest was having trouble deciding so I said I wanted a Diet Coke. He yelled at me. “I didn’t ask you. It’s not your turn so be quiet!” Again, laughs from our table. As the kids waited for their food, they had tears in their eyes, laughing at the hats placed on other guests – things like, “I eat the little chocolate bars in litter boxes.” And, “Will fart for a dollar.” Later they got their own hats. As we finished dinner, Anna asked me to take a photo of our waiter. I should note here that none of the various wait staff ever cracked a smile – not even when the rest of the place was rolling with laughter. They stayed in character perfectly! You’d think they were trained by the guards at Buckingham Palace. Anyway, as I took the photo of our waiter taking an order at the next table, he stopped taking their order and screamed “No taking photos!” I egged him on by saying it was going on Facebook, to which he exclaimed, “I hate Facebook! It was good before when it was just college kids. Now they let old moms on it and snotty kids like these.” I tried to reply but he cut me off saying, “Who asked you? I don’t care what you think.” From the moment we entered up until the last second when we walked out of the restaurant, the staff carried out the theme masterfully – and as such, it will be a very memorable experience for our family.

Are there lessons you can learn from this theme restaurant and apply them to tradeshow promotions? What do you do at your tradeshow exhibit to make it memorable?

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