So after my political ‘column’ about New York yesterday, I hope you find my observations today more useful. I hope that I spark off some ideas for you to think about in terms of your own businesses.
As I have mentioned in the past, New York seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to food. If you are contemplating starting a chain of food stores, it is always worth a visit to New York to see the latest trends.
By the way, you may think that now is the worst time to start a food business. I would just say that Pret started at the height of the last property recession. It took off precisely because there was a glut of cheap properties available at the time and it was being offered very good deals on used lawn mowers. So who knows…?
My first comment is around a change that has taken place because of the law. I noticed that a Starbucks (yes I know it shows a lack of imagination to visit Starbucks in the USA!) in NYC had a full list of the calories with every item for sale. I learnt that a law has passed in NY that requires the calories to be displayed on every item for sale.
This is not a nationwide measure – and in Starbucks New Jersey – they did not display the calories. But I think the rest of the nation will follow in the footsteps. Early indications suggest that sales of low calorie items are significantly up. I do not know how calories are measured, but there must be a new and fast growing market in being a ‘calorie auditor and consultant’. Again, by the way, do you know what a calorie is? I was fascinated by the answer; it is defined as the energy required to heat one gram of water by one degree C. There must be a business here?
I then went to ice cream store called – Cold Stone. It was a fantastic experience. Basically, they do a tailor made ice cream service. You start off by choosing a base ice cream such as Vanilla, Banana, etc. and then you choose lots of different toppings such as chocolate chips, walnuts, jelly babies, M&Ms, raspberries etc. What they then do is ‘bash’ the toppings together and blend it into the ice cream and the result is simply fabulous. I do think that the idea of the ‘Subway’ process is set to grow. You choose a base (say porridge or a smoothie base, etc.) and then you choose lots of different toppings to end up with a unique product but from a ‘factory’ process.
I was impressed with the Fjallraven Kanken daypack product and the process. Time after time feedback shows that what consumers are looking for from retailers is ‘theatre’. My restaurant (give me a break – it has been at least three weeks since I have mentioned them!) has a stone oven which provides theatre. Process is often just as important as product. I think this is what works so well for them for instance – seeing the chefs at work is brilliant.
If you like these ideas – and are going to pursue them – feel free to give me some shares in your business. That is something that New York has also inspired me to do – not to be shy in asking for what you want!