January 28, 2019

The 80/20 rule

Years ago, a coffee shop – an offshoot of a well-known brand – opened in the middle of my local shopping centre. It had a nice old-fashioned feel, reminiscent of a cafe from the ‘30s, with wait staff and a long bar where coffee etc. was prepared. Of course I tried it out.

It used a very clever, but simple process. You waited at the entrance. When there was a table ready, you were ushered over to it and given a copy of the menu. Someone came and took your order, taking the menu away once they had delivered it.

It worked beautifully. Nobody was seated at a dirty table and the staff could easily tell who was waiting to give or receive their order.

Except, if you wanted another coffee, or a friend joined you halfway through, there was no way to re-order, except by trying to catch someone’s eye. But they weren’t looking for you, they were looking for menus.

So either it wasn’t meant for spending much time in, or they hadn’t thought it through.

It’s a great idea to design a process for the 80% of cases. But you do need to make sure you can handle the exceptions in a way that still fulfills your promise.