If you have ever eaten at Epi’s Basque Restaurant in Meridian, Idaho, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the experience is like none other. The food, ambiance, and service may be down home and arguably “unsophisticated,” but the charm and simple elegance of the friendly staff in combination with delicious Pyrenees-style cuisine are enough for me to make the 40-minute trek out to suburban Meridian.
As a native to the Treasure Valley, I have grown up surrounded by the Basque culture so Epi’s appeals to me from an emotional, nostalgic standpoint. However, Epi’s offers those unfamiliar with Basque culture and cuisine a fantastic venue to try exotic entrees of fish, mutton, beef, and pork along with a large selection of complementary wines that will certainly keep the curious and adventurous giddy with culinary excitement. Oh yeah, no Basque meal is complete without a generous appetizer serving of fried croquettes, absolutely delightful!
Although I’d love to continue on in regards to the wonderful attributes of Epi’s food, I’d like to devote the remainder of this post to how the restaurant thrives without having to advertise on television, radio, or print media.
In this day and age, just about everyone knows about word-of-mouth, referral, and guerilla marketing … but what so few achieve to comprehend is the fuel that drives these concepts. Although I could exercise my theoretical MBA brain and rattle off a litany of fancy words to impress you as to how Epi’s is conquering the universe through a 15-step approach, I will spare you the pain and narrow it down to these three simple principals:
1) Hard Work – Epi’s staff, from owner to line cook, go the extra mile to ensure the customer enjoys the ultimate Basque dining experience. This is accomplished by serving top quality food, complimented by outstanding staff members who bend over backwards to make sure you’re happy. On a side note, the restaurant is spotless in the sanitary department, which scores points with the wife.
2) Being Different – As I mentioned earlier, there is no dining experience quite like Epi’s. Not only is the customer treated to a unique and tasty menu, but the ambiance of the venue can only be described as comfortable and inviting. The facility and décor rush you back to a different Idaho era that existed long before Flying-Wyes, Cheesecake Factories, and sky-rise condominium projects. Without a doubt, Epi’s has become a one-of-a-kind Idaho establishment.
3) Making Meaning – Along with being different, it’s easy to tell within minutes of entering the establishment that owners, Chris Ansotegui and Gina Urquidi, sisters by the way, truly desire the opportunity to serve you not as a customer, but as a family member or a close friend. Entering Epi’s is like going back to your grandmother’s home where she always had that wonderful food prepared on the table, waiting there just the way you liked it. It’s not uncommon to be waited on by either Ansotequi or Urquidi, and if you’re blessed to meet their acquaintance, you will be treated to an evening you won’t soon forget.
It is my best estimation that Epi’s has established itself as a successful restaurant simply by employing these three principals; which in turn fuel customer loyalty and testimonial activity like this blog. Over the past six years, I would guess that I’ve referred at least 50 people to Epi’s as a premier Boise-area eatery. I know I’m not alone in this referral effort, as it is a good idea to call ahead and/or make reservations to secure a table before driving to downtown Meridian.
In conclusion, Epi’s has succeeded where so many have failed and they haven’t had to rely on gimmicks, promotions, advertising, or compromise to do so. As business owners, we must continually strive to work hard, differentiate, and make meaning so as to build a fortress around the heart of our customers. If you own a startup or a small to medium sized business, please take these principals to heart … and don’t forget to try the croquettes!