If you walk into a Panera location (and there are a lot of them) and squint, it’s easy to imagine that you’re at a McDonald's from a few years back. There’s the counter with the menu board, the bright colors and the family atmosphere. Then when you open your eyes, you see the differences: muted lighting, more pleasing surfaces and materials, and of course, a far different menu. But make no mistake a lot of the credit for the attractive “sticky” quality of Panera and similar Fast Casual chains goes to McDonald’s, which first made them acceptable.
However, Panera’s management did the rest. This is a brand that took the simple bakery business to new heights. How could a simple staple like bread be improved upon? That’s the beauty of Fast Casual: because the consumer has come to expect a more sensory, pleasurable experience from brands in this space, it is easier to take something simple and make it elegant and memorable. The best brands in the marketplace do more than deliver food. They create experiences and environments where customers want to spend time. Shifting the consumer culture and experience can redefine an entire industry. Starbucks is the perfect example.
Starbucks success in changing the way people think about a local coffee shop is nothing short of tremendous. They have become a household name, a power retail brand and synonymous with the word coffee. The key to their growth history has remained innovation. Howard Schultz, CEO has continued to ask the tough questions while demanding that the execution of new ideas be on par with the idea itself. What are his tough questions?
- How can you re-create and improve the store experience while staying true to the foundation of the brand’s identity?
- How can you expand on your value proposition? In the case of Starbucks this was always about emotional and human connection.
- What methods can be implemented to strengthen your voice to better tell your story?
- How can you extend your company beyond its storefront?
Like Schultz, you need not fear failure.
“I have always taken pride in the fact that Starbucks chases the unexpected, and part of my role as chief executive officer is to instill in the organization the same excitement about and courage for developing new products that has gripped me since Starbucks' earliest days. It is a responsibility that I try to live up to by pushing people further than they think they can go, yet not further than I believe they are capable of going.” ~Howard Schultz, Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul
Take a moment to envision the ultimate experience and environment for your ideal customer base. How will you shift your consumer’s customer experience? Remember that it takes vision to create massive change, dare to dream big!