Jet Tila

The odds are not in your favor when it comes to breaking out and becoming the next shining star.

To make it happen, you need to use every tool in your arsenal. I’ve come up with a checklist that I’ve used to create five successful brands, including my own, in the food/culinary/hospitality industry space.

Side note: The hardest part about being successful is balancing confidence with arrogance. The latter usually causes one to look at the brand with unrealistic goggles. But without confidence, most don’t have the guts to take the long, hard steps necessary to be successful. Be cautiously optimistic, but realistic about your brand. And consider whether these three steps can help you determine the difference between success and failure.

What’s the opportunity? What's your niche? 

Always ask, “What is the opportunity?” Is there a need for this brand I am creating? For me, I saw early on that there weren’t that many chefs regarded as the national voice for Asian food. That told me there was a need, because Asian food will always be very popular at every level. At the same time, I would not be a needle in a stack of needles. There are tons of American, European and even Latin cuisine chefs, but very few Asian-American chefs.

Are you authentic? What do you stand for? 

Consumers want brands that they trust, that are authentic and have a story. People inherently want to support great brands. The story of the brand is almost as important as the offering itself.  It creates an emotional tie and aids in the consumer’s desire to support the brand. Once I analyzed the market and saw the opportunity for my brand, I took a look back at my story.

I was the son of the “first Thai food family” in America, from humble beginnings/raised by hardworking immigrant parents who helped to create and establish the Thai food industry.

Everything about lineage made sense to be the spokesperson for Thai food in America. My Chinese ethnicity also made sense to talk and teach about Chinese food. So I went to some journalist friends to put my story on paper, creating bios and refreshing them as necessary.

What can you do to gain a competitive advantage?

Like writing any good business plan, it’s important to go through the exercise of analyzing your competitive set. Know who else is out there doing what you want to do. Are they doing it better? You better hope not.

Quantify your findings and put them on paper. Get a factual sense of how your brand compares. That will also help you realize what your competitive advantages are. Or they could help cultivate ideas on how to gain the competitive advantage. 

With all my brands, I’m constantly monitoring my competitive set and identifying strengths and weaknesses. The flipside to this is also simultaneously monitoring consumers’ needs. Ten years ago fusion was the trend, and now it’s all about micro-regional cuisine and authenticity. If I never monitored the competitive set and the changing consumer landscape, I could have faded out of popularity.

There are a lot of intricacies to creating successful brands. It takes hard work and thousands of decisions, but it always begins with these three questions.

Jet Tila is a world-renowned chef and entrepreneur. He has been called the country’s first “Thai Culinary Ambassador.” Tila has been featured on the Food Network and in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. He also holds five Guinness World Records. For more information, visit www.chefjet.com.