Big brands, small service

Article published on 3 September 2016

By Steve Walsh

I was fortunate enough to be in Beijing seven years ago, where our English guide then native to China made eating arrangements clear with a sound piece of advice: ‘only ever eat in the back street restaurants – the hotels will be the worst meal you eat here’.

‘Eh?’, was my reaction. The established international hotels in the capital can’t compete with the men and women down the back alley’s? He was right. The hotel chicken and rice was the worst thing I ate all trip.

Print

My point here is, it’s a paradox. The most established, profitable brands should surely be able to smash the start-ups and opportunists when it comes to quality and experience. The more I venture in to the big wide world, the more I find that idea to be utter poppycock.

Venturing to Disneyland Paris recently, I was reminded of my Beijing experience. The food across Disneyland, was, quite frankly, bloody awful. And, of course, all for an extortionate price.

The price I can handle – it’s a slightly depressing reflection on capitalist culture that I expect to be exploited when a lack of alternatives are available. The quality though, there’s no excuse. I was close to calling another conglomerate, UPS, to send vegetables. And something fresh. Just anything that wasn’t a burger, fries or some kind of dense cheesey doughy mess. It was the dietary equivalent of being transported back to 1995. Five a day? Five kilograms?

If you’ve got kids, it would seriously put you off taking them, knowing that for however long you’re there, they won’t be getting any kind of decent meal. Or vitamin. Massive brand, massive let down.

I had a similar experience at Vue cinemas a few weeks previous. Two scoops of ice cream, a bottle of larger and a glass of prosecco? That’ll be £19 please, sir. Of course it will. Thanks. Lovely.

And of course being the way things work at the cinema, we’d eaten our ice cream and drank our beer and prosecco before the film had even started. And that was after we’d had to go to one place to order, another point to pay, before having to walk back and forth to the ice cream stand that was at the other end of the counter to point to the flavours we wanted.

From a service point of view, you couldn’t make it up. We’ll go and see a film there again, sure, but it’ll be refreshment-free. Were the service better and cheaper, we’d buy drinks all year. It’s a false economy.

Can you imagine what a pop-up, start-up cinema would look like? Sofas for seats, a bar at the back of the screen, meaning you can order while not missing any of the film. Locally sourced craft beers and ice cream that actually taste like beer and ice cream. Prices you’re happy to pay. Staff that couldn’t do enough for you. *start’s prep to set-up cinema*

You can see where I’m going with this…. The big brand experience is becoming the big brand let down.

For a shameless plug, it’s something we try to keep in mind at JUMP. We’re not a big brand and we’d don’t deliver the big let down. The more brands think of themselves as small, the better they’ll start to serve up an experience worth paying for.