Economic downturns freak us out - the need for comfort is more deeply felt than ever. This is something operators must know.
We get comfort from two main sources, by pampering ourselves with scarce pleasures ( the drive for luxury) and indulging in familiar things ( the drive to Mom's house).
Luxury can quickly become cost prohibitive, from both the operator and customer’s point of view. Providing an experience that is purely familiar also won't do either. By going 'back to the future' we can end up with something that dangerously approaches parody, whether it’s old school ingredients, menus and portioning, or old school, out of synch company values. This can work for a while, of course, but only to a point. History doesn’t run backwards - as operators trying to reconcile the cost of cheese with the demand for nachos have found out.
One solution model: value added comfort foods. Take simple (relatively inexpensive) comfort foods and reinvent them as specialty foods. The unit cost remains low, while the experiential value (taste, presentation and familiar ring-with-a-twist) is high. Sometimes it's useful to absorb some success stories, in hopes of applying them to one's own situation.
with its cupcakes, and PbLoco,
with its Adult peanut butter, are cases in point. They’ve taken simple comfort foods and have placed them in a relatively low priced, but specialty category.
Sprinkles offers simple escapism for three or four dollars – a high value experience for a low price, the taste equivalent to happy wallpaper covering an uncertain world. With a cherry on top. Like Starbucks, Sprinkles offers a premium experience, with an everyday product – and almost anyone can afford it. And PB loco offers an upscale twist on the most economical of home tastes - the “adult” peanut butter it manufacturers and its (four) peanut butter themed cafes.
Both companies, so far, are expanding. My eyes are on them and, of course, on Starbucks. Any other examples of this value add model?