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The marketing value of eating a restaurant’s garbage.

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I want to tell you a story today that has some intriguing implications.

It’s a story that starts with a quick weekend trip to Jackson Hole with a certain woman I love and the two children who didn’t want to do as much hiking as we hoped but luckily found a walking totem pole on the trail to carry them around.

The part of the story I want to highlight didn’t happen in the Tetons, but on the way in a little town called Afton, WY.

My brother-in-law had recommended a restaurant to us and, being a sucker for clam chowder, we took his advice and visited Rocky Mountain Seafood for dinner.

Rocky Mountain Seafood

Everything, but especially the clam chowder, was delicious. Too soon, the bowl was empty and my spoon could no longer scrape another drop from the sides.

But as the restaurant closed down and we finished our meal, one of the employees stopped me and said 10 little words only someone with my palette would truly appreciate:

“Would you like some extra clam chowder to take home?”

I, of course, said yes. And a minute later she emerged with two steaming cups of chowder.

My already wide smile only grew wider, just as it did when we had warm chowder with our takeout pizza the following night in our hotel room.

The Moral
Here’s the thing about this story.

Many restaurants are forced to throw away extra food at the end of the night. And even if they aren’t forced to, many employees are so tired of smelling/seeing/serving that food every day for years they wouldn’t take it home if they wanted to.

In other words, if I didn’t eat that clam chowder, it would have been thrown away. Tossed into a garbage can and forgotten.

What was garbage to the restaurant was a delightful, memorable moment for me.

Resort Garbage
One of the best stories in all of skiing is Polar Peak, a home-built hill just off the Taconic Parkway in New York. Created by Mark and Tom Herishko, I’ve been following their story for the better part of two decades.

Polar Peak

Interestingly, their tale has a similar twist. Instead of soup it was much-needed parts of their DIY ski area. And instead of a waitress it was the owners of Hunter Mountain. From a post on NYSkiBlog:

“Izzy became a mentor, first inviting the boys to tour Hunter Mountain in the early 1990s, showing them the snowmaking plant and sharing spare parts from their legendary arsenal.”

But it wasn’t just snowmaking, they actually got the rope for one of their original tow designs from the Slutzky’s as well:

“Israel and Orville Slutzky, the late brothers who built Hunter Mountain, befriended them, providing advice and key parts such as the rope for the tow.”

And where did those snowmaking parts and spare rope come from? Not the fleet keeping the resort open, but the pile of discarded equipment that was no longer being used.

To Hunter, it was garbage. But to a Heriskho bothers, it was gold.

Got garbage?
As I’ve wandered through resorts over the years, I’ve seen dozens of these boneyards. Likely, every resort has one it’s just a matter of being visible to wanderers like myself.

Out there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Tom and Mark Herishkos. People who can only dream of a dented up snowgun or rusted bullwheel. Maybe they come in the form of smaller ski hills, maybe they’re kids dreaming of turning their backyard into a ski hill, maybe they are a struggling business in town looking for some decor. My advice? Follow the Slutzky’s lead and find them. Befriend them. Help them.

Because if a couple bowls of clam chowder or a soggy old 1″ rope are any indicator, there may be a ton of value locked in what you’ve long since thrown away.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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