Vortex Blog Post

[Here’s the latest from our G. Robert Newhart Non-Value-Added Fellow, Gregory Kyte].

I’ve always been doughy. Different levels of doughiness, but always doughy.

My two best friends in college had full-ride swimming scholarships—not doughy. These guys swam six hours per day and could wash down a trip to Golden Corral with a bag of Double Stuf Oreos and loose two pounds from all the chewing.

I always thought it would be awesome to have the time (and willpower) to exercise so much that I didn’t have to worry about—or feel guilty about—eating things like the Coronary Bypass Burger served at The Vortex Bar & Grill in Atlanta.

I was there last week, performing at the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival, hosted by the Laughing Skull Lounge (I know—weird coincidence), which is located within The Vortex Bar & Grill. So when I got to the club 90 minutes before my show, having eaten little more than Southwest Airlines’ pretzels, I was ready to throw down.

Of course the Coronary Bypass Burger caught my eye (a big half-pound sirloin patty topped with a fried egg, three slices of American cheese, and four slices of bacon, with plenty of mayo), as did the Double Coronary Bypass Burger (double everything plus grilled cheese sandwiches used in place of normal hamburger buns), the Triple Coronary Bypass Burger (don’t ask), and the Carnivorgasm (seriously, don’t ask).

But what really caught my eye were their pricing disclosures. Obviously, The Vortex doesn’t bill by the hour like Bob’s Barbecue. The menu is (as all menus are) a type of fixed price agreement. If you want to eat the Carnivorgasm, it’s going to cost $16.25 which includes one side item and should be ready in approximately 20 minutes (as clearly explained on page one of the menu).

The thing that gave me a VeraSage boner, however, was a section of their menu titled “Special Orders & Extras.” It reads, “The Vortex is a true short-order kitchen. We will gladly prepare special orders whenever it is possible. If you order something that is not on our menu, and we do make it for you, we’ll charge you whatever damn price we want to, and you’ll thank us for it.” Hells, yes! A restaurant with a clearly stated change order policy!

To add even more punch, there’s another section titled “Read Our Menus” that says, “Everything you need to know about our food and beverage selection is printed somewhere within our menus. Please read them thoroughly. If you ask us stupid questions we will be forced to mock you, mercilessly.”

In addition, throughout the menu they make it clear that if you don’t like the way they do things, then get the hell out. For instance, “if you’re acting like an idiot, we’ll be sure to let you know, right before we toss your silly ass out,” and “The Vortex is not politically correct. If you are easily offended, there’s a good chance you’ll be offended here. Consider yourself warned.” The Vortex knows what it wants in a customer; they hope bad customers will weed themselves out, and if not, the Vortex will grab a bottle of Scotts Round Up® and do its own weeding.

Is it hard to implement value pricing? Is it hard to fire clients that aren’t a good fit? Yes. They’re probably some of the hardest things you’ll do at your firm. But a goddam bar did it beautifully. And I get it, menu pricing is different than value pricing. And charging “whatever damn price you want” for a change order is akin to “billing and ducking.”

But the biggest thing I’m taking away from the Vortex menu is how powerful upfront communication with your customers can be. Clearly define and communicate the scope of your work. Give them power by giving them choices. Make sure they know that they have the freedom to change their mind, and consequently you’ll have the freedom to change your price.

The second thing I’m taking away from the Vortex menu is that, when properly and thoughtfully executed, clearly defining how you do business (value pricing) and who you want to do business with will create the culture that you’ve always wanted. Communicate through as many channels as possible, “Here at Hayek Hayek & Nienbach we don’t bill by the hour. Mostly because hourly rates piss people off and make us want to blow our f***ing brains out. Rather, we’ll give you a custom fixed price agreement for every job we do, and you’ll thank us for it. But if you prefer that we bill you by the hour, then don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”

The customers that you want will be cheering. The ones you don’t want will have doors hitting them in the ass.

The last couple of takeaways: the Coronary Bypass Burger is the second best burger I’ve ever had in my whole damn life, and those two swimmers are now in their late thirties and doughy.


  1. Great article. The Verasage boner, however, is a little scary. Please let me pluck out my mind’s eye RIGHT NOW.

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