Loyalty Through The Storm

Columbus was rocked by a wicked-bad windstorm this week (remnants of Hurricane Ike). The whole city looks like a war zone, where the enemy focused mainly on trees and power lines. 2 million people in Central Ohio were without power for at least a few days. As of writing this, many have been restored, but many are still without power. Our local power company is forecasting several more days of repair.

Where do people go when the power is out and they need some comfort, socialization, and a good internet connection? PANERA!

I’m sitting in my favorite Panera right now. You should see the line, it is literally out the door. And almost every table is full. AND every outlet is taken with someone charging a cell phone or computer.

Many other businesses in the area have power, including Starbucks and Caribou Coffee. I passed both of those shops on the way here. Neither of them had a line out the door.

Here’s why Panera is rocking to the rafters today and the others are not: they’ve simply done a better job providing a great product, great service, and a great environment (including free Wi-Fi…the largest free Wi-Fi provider in the country from what I’ve heard) all day, every day. It’s consistency, consistency, consistency. And that has created an amazing sense of loyalty that’s really cool to see.

I just heard the manager say they will probably run out of everything today. Can you imagine that? What a great problem to have!

The lesson I’m taking from this is to make sure that my product is high quality, my service is world-class, the environment I create is inviting and welcoming, and most importantly, that I consistently deliver all of those things.

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