Category Archives: Self-Service

Working @ Starbucks — the other way…

No, this is not about making the perfect frappuccino. Nor about being member of a union.
 
It is about the observation at my favourite Starbucks outlet that more and more creative class freelance professionals seem to discover the cozy local coffee shop as a convenient replacement for working alone or in home office.
There is lots of well-brewn and affordable “cheap-refill” coffee available throughout the day, enough space and stylish interior to host client conversations, as well as large-enough tables for team-meetings. And free wifi along with your cellphone ready on the table makes sure, nobody needs to notice you’re not, well, “at work”.
 
While the ability to check your e-mail at the coffee shop isn’t exactly new, the idea of regularly going there for work, just as you would normally to an office (read: from early morning just until the late afternoon, when she location starts to get occupied by the more noisy “private” coffee-sippers) at least for me seems put new perspective on it.
 
As an interesting alternative/supplement to the contemporary co-working movement with probably somewhat less cross-pollination intended, working at Starbucks however doesn’t come without benefits on the house:
The coffee shop gets its rooms filled at times of the day when commonly “to go” is the appreciated bestseller. Fortunately, at the same time, the new guest group won’t alienate the more traditional customers by staring a their laptops with a shining blue glare spread over all their surroundings (as common in the early days of free wi-fi offered in cafes). The aforementioned screen-workers just by their nature flee from more lively visiors during the afternoon hours, who regard the coffee outlet more as their favourite Third Place, rather than a work enviroment.
 
And even though Starbucks management by now may as well not have fully gotten the actual business potential coming with providing public co-working space — their prospects definitely have.
 

Checkout Re-Visited: Step 3 — Entering Your Shipping Information

 
Does any online vendor need to know where you live and when you move and who you would like to send a present to ?
 
Isn’t that you having to pay the shipping anyway !??
 
Furthermore with every new online shop one buys from, a new transmission risk is brought up; even less in terms of loosing or unwillingly leaking the data, as much more in the forms of typos and misspellings going to prevent successful execution of the order itself.
 

Well, admittedly, as of this writing, in most parts of the world the seller needs to know where to ship the items you ordered alongside with the obligatory invoice — and he likes it that way.
 
Especially, as this will also make sure that all his colorful prospectuses will reach you reliably as well.
 

Nevertheless: From all orders made over the web, most deliveries are likely to be executed by no more than a fistful of forwarding agencies.
 

So why shouldn’t you simply tell them the shipping details ?  This would both protect your privacy and likely reduce errors in address transmission (a common cause of failed delivery) to a minimum. If they get your address right once, it is secured they have it until you decide to move for the next time or ask for deletion.
 
Or you may even make shipping providers subscribe to a machine-readable address profile of you on the web (as you probably may already have one with online social networks such as LinkedIN or XING) to make sure their information is always up to date. Want to send a present for a colleague ?  Just drag in you buddy’s address card from Facebook.
 

Reliable information exchange has never been easier and more secure.
 

The outcome concerning the shipping process now could be, just to stick an RFID tag or old-fashioned barcode label (as both are already quite common today) to the parcel and let you forward its identifier to the corresponding delivery service from right inside the checkout process. Approved transmission of your shipping information as being required by either the shop owner or the shipping provider can then be securely handled browser-based via a traditional web form (for instance, using the mentioned OpenID approach).
 

Too complex an idea to hope for a commercially reasonable adoption rate and timeframe ?
 

4 Dabbawalas @ work delivering tiffins

Then please take a look at Mumbai’s Dabbawala Association for instance. For more than a century now, this cooperative has delivered home-cooked food; first to the British colonial rulers and from mid-twentieth century then to Mumbai’s business people, building right from the beginning on exactly the before mentioned cooperative distribution model, where you tell the shipping provider instead of the producer, which destination you want the final product to be delivered.
   Dabbawalas may use colors and symbols instead of fashionable barcode or RFID tags, but the delivery concept has been the same for more than a hundred years now — so it can indeed be considered a ‘proven’ business model. As every single of the peer-to-peer deliverer knows his or her local district like the back of his hand, the cooperative delivers at a so sensationally low error rate, that any western parcel service may quite well take a leaf out of their book. Continuously rating at a full “Six Sigma” reliability with renowned consultancies, the association lately began to take online orders via their website or even via SMS from mobile phones. They also started opening their P2P delivery network e.g. to grocery businesses, so you can now get your daily dose of fresh veggies shipped directly to your cubicle as well.To the customers’ delight,
   Ordering via Dabbawalas also comes with a very transparent pricing model: The daily services are traditionally being provided at a monthly flat rate of around 300 rupees, locally perceived as something like € 6 (a de-facto even cheaper real price of around € 5 at current exchange rates). Newly additional services like delivering banking receipts or address confirmation of contract partners are being added to the traditional offerings as well — at reasonable surcharges.
 

An example for how deploying these concepts of ‘cooperative logistics’ (if you come up with a more suitable term for it, please let me know…) for short range to-your-door distribution in other parts of the world may spur entirely new business concepts (probably riding on the current growing demand for customized goods with its often numerous ‘long tail’-biz actors) while empowering the more traditional models with better service at their endpoints.
 

Too bad, we just paid a whopping € 2.60 handling fee on our two pizzas ordered to the office today…

Vapiano: New Self-Service Italian in Frankfurt

A Franchise “Italian” — can this work ?   It can.
 
Earlier this month I heard of this brandnew restaurant right is the center of frankfurt’s city as an unconventional, though delicious alternative to the established Italian restaurants.
 
When entering the location through its only entrance, I was suprised by the number of people who obviously had already made Vapiano a crowded ‘In-Location’.
 
After receiving my RFID-card from a very friendly hostess at the cashier’s desk, I passed by the bar and lounge area, which let me into a large room with long tables (somewhat similiar to a beer garden) and several counters where a dozen chefs were busy preparing fresh italian food on customer’s demands. Though the speed clearly makes the service suffer.
 
For the newcomer orientation is somewhat difficult here, since there are no guides helping you out on where to order which one of the offered specialties; an the cooks are way too busy for long explanations.
 
The food itself is as hummy as you would expect, after having watched its lively preparation, though some herbs like oregano or thyme may not have hurt the pasta’s taste and my assigned cook could not really keep his own promise of a ‘medium’-cooked tuna on my pasta.
 
But that’s all been corrected by the fresh basil and rosemary growing on literally every table, awaiting a demanding customer to pick their leaves off.
 
While queueing for the next portion it hit me, that it my not be bad to have access to the data that had been stored on my RFID-card’s account so far, to avoid trouble with probable booking accidents, when finally paying at the restaurant’s exit.
 
Aside all that I have to admit being convinced by the concept’s success and – in most cases – the high quality of the freshly prepared food and ingredients either.
 
I’ll surely pay them a visit again at my next trip to frankfurt or one of the other locations they are currently expanding to.
 
The one I visited is located at Goetheplatz in Frankfurt/Main.
 

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