What’s Your “Signature Dish?”

Carving Your Niche — How to Become Known for Something

Gordon RamsayBy now, you’ve likely heard of Chef Gordon Ramsay. Many of us came to know him when his TV show, Hell’s Kitchen, began airing in America in 2005. Chef Ramsay is a world-renowned chef and restaurateur. While you may not agree with many of his tactics and his personal style, it’s difficult to argue with his level of business success.

One day, while flipping through the TV channels, I caught about five minutes of his newer show, Kitchen Nightmares. During those (valuable) five minutes, I heard Chef Ramsay ask a failing restaurant owner the following question:

“What is your signature dish?”

In other words, he was asking, “What is that one dish you have personally crafted and become known for?”

Lettuce WrapsI suddenly realized that all my favorite restaurants have a signature dish. Even our national chain restaurants have signature dishes. La Madeleine’s signature dish is its Tomato Basil Soup (they even sell it in pre-packaged to-go jars). Locally, Coastal Flats is known for its Ozzy Rolls, named after the chef who invented the donut-like appetizers. And at P.F. Chang’s it’s the Lettuce Wraps. The list goes on … .

This really got me thinking. Could this be the secret to these restaurants’ business success? Hear me out: These signature dishes create specific cravings that can only be satisfied by these businesses. Furthermore, even when we’re enjoying a similar dish elsewhere, we can’t help but think about and discuss … the originators; the creators; the masters.

It usually goes something like this, “This bread is pretty good, but have you ever had the Ozzy Rolls at Coastal Flats?” Or, “This appetizer is pretty unique, but it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps.” Or maybe, “Your mom makes a delicious tomato basil soup. Was her recipe inspired by La Madeleine’s by any chance?”

What’s YOUR signature dish?

A signature dish doesn’t always need to be food-related – or even tangible. Aside from the obvious Big Mac (or is it their fries?), the signature dish at McDonald’s is consistency, Fed Ex’s signature dish is reliability and Zappos.com’s signature dish is customer service. These are the things each business has become known for. When people use these companies as examples of impeccability in the business world, what they’re talking about is those specific signature traits: consistency, reliability and customer service, respectively.

Whether you’re a business owner, product/service provider, salaried/hourly employee or community leader, chances are good you already have your own “signature dish;” that one special thing you’re known for. If you aren’t quite sure what it is, just ask your friends, colleagues and clients. They’ll tell you. Often, it’s clearer to those around you than it is to you. Embrace your signature dish, evolve it, master it and be sure to talk about it. You have a unique ability and you should be leveraging it if you’re not already doing so.

Embrace it – I did!

Impeccability ChapterFor me, that signature dish is impeccability and the role it plays in the customer experience. Those around me knew this to be true even more than I once did. In fact, I used to resist the idea of making this my “personal brand.” I thought it might scare some people away; seem too buttoned up or unattainable in a world where no one is perfect. Then I let go of all that and began to embrace it. Now, I’m speaking and training individuals and groups, and writing a book on the topic. I’ve learned that we all have unique abilities and most of us already have a signature dish that is worth leveraging. What’s yours?

(To download a free chapter, CLICK HERE.)


  1. Great article/post – really makes you think. We all have a signature dish, knowing what it is, accepting it, and leaning into it will make a big difference in your client experience and/or your ROI!

  2. Agreed, Jeff. Well put.

  3. Phillip Johnson says

    Great thought Steve (and I have said that about the lettuce wraps @ P.F. Chang’s). It definitely makes sense when you think about those particular items that stand out. This reminded me of what John Maxwell said about working on your strengths/weaknesses. On a scale of 1 to 10, don’t concentrate on your 4’s and 5’s; take your 7’s or 8’s and make them a 10’s.

  4. Always sage advice from Mr. Maxwell. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Phillip.

  5. Steve, I love the fact that you LOVE you signature dish and that you have no doubt what it is! That is what makes it a “signature dish”. If you love that dish, people will notice that love, and know that you want to share your dish, because you care to….because you care about those you share your dish with.
    I love my dish as well, and I always remind myself to sharpen my saw daily to make the cut!

  6. Backatcha, Rick. You clearly love — and are the BEST at — what you do; your “signature dish.”

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