Want to know how to tell if someone’s a native Coloradoan? Don’t bother asking whether they drive a Jeep or if they ski. Stop inspecting their clothing for pine needles and Broncos logos.
Instead, just say these two words: Casa Bonita. A non-Coloradoan will look at you blankly. A real one? Expect a lot of excitement.
To every current and former Colorado kid, Casa Bonita is a sort of Mecca, a spot all children must visit annually (at least) for a birthday party. The pink-domed Mexican food restaurant is home to an indoor waterfall, fire jugglers, rope bridges, cliff divers, piñatas, an arcade and a bandana’d character named Black Bart, whose “scary” cave is open for exploration. Growing up, I used to befriend kids just so I would have more opportunities to go to Casa Bonita for their birthday parties.
So, of course, when my aunt, her son and his children visited Colorado last weekend, we insisted they see this beloved institution. We fought a traffic jam on I-25 to get there. We paid $15 a plate for lukewarm food that came straight from a can. We shelled out $50 for arcade game tokens that earned us tickets for prizes worth roughly 92 cents.
And it was all totally worth it.
But why? Casa Bonita has been hugely popular and successful for decades, even though it’s kind of robbing parents blind. What keeps people coming back?
Three important points stood out to me, and I think they’re valuable lessons for insurance agents, too. If you want to keep customers around, or even serve multiple generations, consider these lessons:
- Pay attention to atmosphere. Ask any kid if he’d rather go to a regular, table-and-chairs restaurant or one with its own lagoon, a roaming mariachi band and a Tootsie Roll-filled treasure chest. Which one do you think he’ll pick? Do I even need to ask? Casa Bonita knows who its target market is — kids —and it acts accordingly, right down to the décor.
Who’s your target market? Does your office space fit that market’s expectations? If you’re trying to woo high net-worth prospects on a frayed, Brady Bunch-era davenport, you might want to hire a decorator.
- Hook ‘em when they’re young. I am 27 years old and have no kids. I’m picky about what I eat, and I’m a notorious cheapskate. And yet, I experience Christmas Eve levels of excitement every time I go to Casa Bonita, despite its too-expensive, too-bland food meant for the children and parents that I’m not. It’s nostalgic to go back; it feels like a tradition I have to uphold, even if I’m starting to outgrow it.