Cafe Witness

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Screw the Latte; Where Are the Hand Towels?

I was at a Starbucks last night, overhearing the barista (who may have been an assistant manager) loudly discussing her method for getting into the flow of the workday. She was lamenting the ways customers can then derail her flow when they mention pesky needs like, "Oh, the washroom is out of hand towels." As she explained, when she's in "the zone," the customers need to wipe their hands on their pants and stay out of her way.

But here's what's funny about that: I don't care how well-managed or slickly-operated a cafe appears to be on the front end; if the back end is broken, it ruins my experience. And if you, as a cafe manager, can't be bothered to ensure that your customers have (for example) a pleasant washroom experience, then no amount of effort expended on the front-end facade will make up for the back-end derailment of THEIR "zone."

Generalized moral of the story: are YOU focusing on the right priorities to ensure YOUR audience is having a great experience, or are you mismanaging your time and effort, leaving your customers with shoddy memories and chapped hands?

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  • The same goes for websites. The front page can be beautiful, but if it takes 3 minutes to load, or has a flash open that you can't skip, or the whole site is so clunky it makes an AMC Pinto look good, you're in trouble.

    It's what's the back that holds up the front.

    Great post. :O)

    By Blogger Ophelia Chong, at 2:37 PM  

  • here, here! A clean washroom denotes a well-run, generally well-delegated operation.

    And...uh... the Pinto was Ford. ;-)

    By Blogger Alex Landefeld, at 3:39 PM  

  • Great post.

    I wonder how this can apply to more basic websites, such as blogs. Should the author invest time and money into their design, even if their content is so great that readers can't stay away? Is the coffee so good that, despite a terrible atmosphere, you'll stop in to grab some to drink in your car?

    By Blogger Rachel, at 1:58 PM  

  • Rachel: If a blog has such great content that readers can't stay away, they'll forgive the occasional design mess -- just like coffee drinkers will occasionally look past an ill-stocked restroom if the daily blend is divine.

    But if you're NOT already a devotee of Blog X (or Starbucks), and your first trip to that site involves broken links, bad design, and / or no toilet paper in the washroom, will you come back?

    I wouldn't advise OVERinvesting in design for a blogger -- or in micromanaging cleaning tasks for a cafe -- but I do think everyone needs to pay attention to what their ENTIRE operation says about them. Not all of your customers (or readers) are regulars with the capacity to take your shortcomings into context.

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 5:26 PM  

  • Justin! My thoughts exactly!

    I am relating to two posts on your blog: starting a business in these economic times AND the washroom experience! We live in a tiny rural village, Australia, and are about to open a pie shop & metal gallery. A discussion that has been ongoing, amongst MANY things are the toilets. We prefer paper towels. You can actually feel your hands are dry when you leave Most travellers will visit them and later wax philosophical..

    Oh, the details, darling. The details..

    By Blogger Helen, at 2:52 PM  

  • By Anonymous Isaac, at 8:02 AM  

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