A Quick Guide to Table Stakes in Business

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship Funding Marketing / April 6, 2023
A Quick Guide to Table Stakes in Business

Staying ahead of the competition is crucial. To be a viable player in the market, companies must meet certain minimum requirements known as “table stakes.” Just like in a game of poker, where players must contribute a minimum amount of chips to participate, businesses must possess essential resources and capabilities to enter a product market. However, table stakes alone do not confer a competitive advantage. To outperform competitors, companies need to possess additional resources that provide a distinctive edge.

Read this quick guide to the meaning of table stakes in the business and understand how to use it best for your company.

What Are Table Stakes?

Table stakes focus on one key factor regarding branding. Which is, meeting just the bare minimum for customer expectations. This term comes from the game of poker. Because table stakes are the bare minimum to be considered a player. The same can be said in the business world.

So, what are table stakes when it comes to business? Table stakes refer to the base offering on some part of a product before it is possibly bought by a customer.

For example, press-to-start cars are now table stakes to compete in car markets. At one point it was considered a luxury. Now, some people who seek to buy a car will not consider it without having a press-to-start button.

Table stakes have so many examples that it becomes a common thing throughout the various markets and industries out there. For some, it could be the maximum price, a service time, or the special feature of a product.

For example, the presence of cameras in mobile phones has become a table stake in today’s smartphone market. Without a camera, a phone would be considered outdated and unappealing to consumers. Similarly, in the e-commerce industry, fast and reliable home delivery has become a table stake. Customers expect their online purchases to arrive within a day or two, and some grocery startups even offer delivery within a few hours. Failing to meet these expectations can lead to a significant disadvantage in the market.

It can also be noted that parts of your product can be table stakes while other aspects may be regarding branding to make your product more appropriate. In time, almost any factor to a product and service becomes table stakes.

Table stakes can also take on slightly different meanings. For example, it can be used as a shorthand for the base offering when working out products and/or services. Some people interchange table stakes with other terms such as “points of parity” or “cost of entry”.

That is why it is important to have great table stakes. If not, then you will see your brand fall because it’s worse than the table stakes of that specific market. An example of this would be a movie theater with poor screens. If you can’t maintain the most basic parts of the business, why are you there?

Table Stakes in Business

The Different Types

Table stakes meanings come in many forms in the business world. Many overlap with one another. However, one can find key factors that separate them from the rest of the market.

Some table stakes include:

  • Maximum or Minimum Price
  • Technology Used
  • Delivery Time
  • Warranties
  • Terms Regarding Payment
  • ¬†How it Works with Other Products
  • And More

If you have a product or service, don’t feel boxed in with just these examples. Depending on your industry, you could have niche table stakes that put you above the rest of the competition.

Synonyms of Table Stakes

As stated earlier in the article, table stakes have several interchangeable meanings. However, their meaning remains the same even if there are a couple of slight differences.

Besides “points of parity” and “cost of entry” there are also:

  • Fundamental Expectations
  • Setting the Bar

Table Stakes and Differentiators

When it comes to table stakes, there are parts of the product where you need to be at the base level to meet expectations for the customer. There is never a large benefit to either you or the customers for making it bigger and better.

However, there are such things as differentiators that customers will pay attention to if your brand has a way better offering.

For example, a computer with a lot of storage capabilities is table stakes for those in the professional business. They need its storage to be good enough for those interested to get on with their day. People searching for these laptops are not interested in having a lot of storage space, they probably want something lighter or have huge changes that make it different from the rest.

While meeting table stakes is essential for market entry, it is not enough to stand out from the competition. To attract and retain customers, companies must also focus on differentiating factors that set them apart. These differentiators go beyond the basic requirements and provide a unique value proposition. They need to be bold because that should be the main focus of the advertisement for the product.

For instance, in the restaurant industry, quick food delivery has become a table stake. However, Domino’s Pizza took it a step further by introducing a guarantee of free food if the delivery took longer than 30 minutes. This marketing tactic became a differentiator for Domino’s, attracting customers who valued fast delivery. Other restaurants then had to innovate and find new differentiators to compete effectively.

Attracting Top Talent through a Strong Recruitment Strategy

A strong recruitment strategy is vital for attracting top talent and ensuring a competitive advantage in the market. Companies must go beyond meeting basic requirements and develop strategies to stand out and attract the best candidates.

To create a successful recruitment strategy, consider the following elements:

  1. Detailed Job Description: Craft a comprehensive job description that highlights the skills and competencies necessary for the role. Identify must-have and nice-to-have qualifications to attract the right candidates.
  2. Identifying Skill Gaps: Conduct a skill-gap assessment to identify areas of weakness or blind spots within the organization. This knowledge will help tailor the recruitment strategy and identify the specific skills needed for success.
  3. Multi-Platform Posting: Share job postings across various platforms to reach a wide audience. Consider using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to streamline the application and interview process.
  4. Networking: Actively engage in networking activities to proactively search for top talent. Attend virtual networking events, seminars, and leverage platforms like LinkedIn to connect with potential candidates.
  5. Engaging Application and Interview Process: Create an engaging and human-centric application and interview process. Ensure clear instructions and ask open-ended, thoughtful interview questions.
  6. Thoughtful Feedback: Provide thoughtful feedback to candidates after the interview process. This not only helps candidates understand their strengths and areas for improvement but also demonstrates professionalism and respect.

Building a Positive Culture through Quality Feedback

Feedback plays a crucial role in performance management and fostering a positive company culture. Regular and quality feedback helps employees grow, improve, and feel valued. It is a critical component of HRM and an important differentiator for businesses.

While traditional annual performance reviews are common, many companies are shifting towards more frequent and regular feedback sessions. This shift allows organizations to focus on building the workforce needed for long-term competitiveness.

By providing continuous feedback through one-on-one meetings and formal performance reviews, companies can create a culture of positivity and growth. This feedback should be constructive, actionable, and tailored to each individual’s needs and goals.


Table stakes should always be on the table when you are meeting customer expectations. It is key to success, but not the focus. As long as the business does not cut corners on it or let it slip, there should be little to no problems.

A good brand builder knows when and what is best for the company regarding table stakes because there is a certain ecology to the competitors and the customers. You want to be the apex predator of that ecosystem.

When it comes to table stakes, successful brands often meet or exceed in those areas, but what really makes them work is going up and beyond in things that customers care about.


Q: What are table stakes in business? A: Table stakes in business refer to the minimum requirements a product or service must meet to be considered competitive in the market. These requirements vary across industries and represent the baseline standards customers expect.

Q: How do table stakes differ from differentiators? A: Table stakes are the minimum requirements for market entry, while differentiators are unique factors that set a company apart from its competitors. Meeting table stakes is necessary, but differentiators provide a competitive edge and attract customers.

Q: How can HRM be a differentiating resource? A: HRM can be a differentiating resource by fostering a positive work environment, providing clear growth opportunities, and having an open-door policy for employees to express their concerns. HR professionals play a crucial role in enabling employees to be successful and satisfied in their work.

Q: What is the role of a strong recruitment strategy in attracting top talent? A: A strong recruitment strategy helps attract top talent by going beyond meeting basic requirements. It involves crafting detailed job descriptions, identifying skill gaps, posting on multiple platforms, networking, creating engaging application and interview processes, and providing thoughtful feedback.

Q: How does quality feedback contribute to a positive company culture? A: Quality feedback contributes to a positive company culture by helping employees grow, improve, and feel valued. Regular feedback sessions, both formal and informal, create an environment of continuous improvement and enhance employee engagement.

About The Author

Tristan Anderson

Hello! My name is Tristan Anderson and I live in Manhattan, Kansas. I enjoy being in nature and animals. I am also a huge geek who loves Star Wars and has a growing collection.