You Can Differentiate on Anything!
By Bonnie Knutson Professor, The School of Hospitality Business/MSU | December 04, 2011
Imagine that you are driving along on a quick trip from the office to a meeting when suddenly you crave some coffee. Would you pull into Dunkin' Donuts for a steaming Latte? Or would you slip through Starbuck's drive-thru for a hot, strong Espresso? Maybe you would stop by your favorite little neighborhood coffee cafe where you can sip your beloved sweet Mocha Cappuccino topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a swirl of chocolate syrup. But then there is always a convenient C-store with its quick vending options.
Well, if you were in Seattle, where the coffee experience is an obsession, you may just decide to swing into one of the new generation of coffee shops -- the Sweet Spot Cafe, the Natte Latte, the Cowgirls Espresso, the Moka Girls, or the Bikini Espresso. And instead of buying a Latte, an Espresso, or a Mocha Cappuccino, you might order a Wet Dream or a Sexual Mix. Welcome to the world of "sexeprsso" shops, as they are called. They are "sort of like a Hooters for coffee," explained a spokesperson for the sheriff's department, but they are not against the law. And the truth be told, a lot of them are doing a land-office business.
Sarah Araugo, owner of the Sweet Spot, supposedly started the trend in 2005 after looking for a way to differentiate her business in an over-crowded and ferociously competitive Seattle coffee market. She started by having theme days, such as Tube Top Tuesdays, Wet T-Shirt Wednesdays, and Fantasy Fridays. She renamed the drinks and, inevitably, new job titles developed, such as "bikini baristas." Business skyrocketed. Ditto for the Cowgirls Espresso. When they launched Bikini Wednesdays, their business doubled…as did the baristas' tips.
So what is the moral of this story?