I like the coffee from Take 5 Cafe. Beats Starbucks hands down. I mean, when all that the Starbucks “barista” has to do is press a button to brew a shot … well, I’m sure Starbucks was aiming for infallible consistency while maximizing throughput but they lost the plot when it comes to the ceremony and “romance” of the coffee shop. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz admitted as much in a leaked memo:
…when we went to automatic espresso machines, we solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency. At the same time, we overlooked the fact that we would remove much of the romance and theatre that was in play with the use of the La Marzocca machines. This specific decision became even more damaging when the height of the machines, which are now in thousands of stores, blocked the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made, and for the intimate experience with the barista.
The romance and theatre of a serious coffee parlour are core ingredients of the business, not last mile ingredients and Take 5 have got it right compared to Starbucks. A beautifully crafted espresso machine, a delight to behold, is used by the barista (occasionally a delight to behold) to brew espresso shots. The sounds of the production are classic espresso machines sounds. Coffee aromas are untrapped in their portafilters. European styling. Granite countertops to receive the coffee product. We have theatre. Delivered, finally, is your coffee order and we’re now at the last mile stage. To prevent the heat of the coffee from burning your hand and pissing you off so much you decide to sue because, ummmmm, you were never properly taught thermodynamics in high school, a sleeve is used to give you a comfortable, cool, area to hold the cup. Yep, the sleeve is one of those “last mile” items. Take 5 have screwed up at the last mile by using an ugly plastic sleeve that feels like you’ve grabbed hold of a squid.
So, it looks and feels like crap. Does Take 5 really want to have their carefully designed, eye pleasing, coffee cup adorned with such a sleeve? What are they saving per sleeve over the cardboard variety? 0.5 cents? 1 cent? Yes, it must be about money because I can’t believe the Take 5 management would vote for the plastic sleeve over the cardboard sleeve if the costs were the same. Or, maybe I’m wrong, and the plastic crap keeps the heat at bay better than the cardboard sleeves? If so, then give me the heat.
Headline news: “The Sleeve That Sunk Take 5 Cafe”. Not going to happen and that’s not what my herniated sleeve yarn is implying. But, no doubt, businesses loose custom beyond a sustainable level (i.e. they fail) because they’ve overlooked or ignored last mile aspects.
I’m a details guy. It’s the nature of my job in Information Technology. So “last mile” stuff is always on my radar and I’m continually miffed at how many people and companies don’t understand the importance of hitting the ball out of the park for those last mile items. Tom Peters wrote a book called “The Pursuit of WOW!” in which he explains how important it is for businesses to have pleasant, clean bathrooms. If memory serves, I believe he solidly drove home the point that you’re an idiot if you neglect your washrooms as a business owner in a competitive marketplace. You establish your business, plan your brand, build your brand, take care of all the core pieces, cut the ribbon, unveil the business …. and the “last mile” toilets, well, go down the toilet. Sure, a majority of new business starts don’t build hole-in-the-ground toilets; unless you’re starting a business in France or China. But there’s still a noticeable number of establishments that screw up either right out of the gate, or through neglect over time.
Speaking of washrooms, one of the premier examples of a business hitting it out of the park for their washrooms is Cactus Club Cafe. Talk about the pursuit of toilet WOW. The washrooms at the Cactus Club on the corner of Broadway and Ash are fantastic. Immaculate, spacious, beautifully designed and decorated, a leather couch, etc … basically a posh studio apartment with modern decor. People talk about the Cactus Club washrooms as part of the Cactus Club experience; they add value to the Cactus Club brand. Flush with style.
What aspects of your business operate in the last mile zone AND could serve as differentiators in a competitive marketplace? Find out, focus on them, and improve.