I’ve been sitting for 25 minutes at Soho Coffee Co in Bristol Airport. And here’s the thing: every single empty table is filthy.

Covered in the crumbs, unidentified liquids and waste packaging of the previous occupants.

I was surprised that the upscale-looking franchise (sandwich = £5.10) did not jump on this — after all it takes seconds to run a cloth over the table — and then I observed something.

Customers sitting down were so appalled by the mess that they were cleaning up before enjoying their own purchases.

And Soho had realised this was happening and figured out they did not need to hire someone on clean-up. The customers would do it for free as a result of horror/good citizenship.

Now …

There is a valid argument that it is not Soho Coffee’s job to clean up after lazy, messy, entitled consumers. After all, a self-service environment includes self-clean-up, right? Those who refuse to clean up after themselves are not really living in a civilisation.

But what happens when the behaviour of customers leads to a dirty food service environment? That’s when you have to weigh the moral high ground with food safety and customer experience.

So here’s the math:

Brand equity resides in the experience. Marketers call it the second moment of truth.

We can educate customers about how we’d like them to behave: McDonalds manages this. But in the long run, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the job of consumers or the job of the restaurant. If clean-up isn’t happening then you’re the filthy café. For a coffee franchise, clean-up is not an expense, it’s a marketing investment.

Extrapolate to all other under-the-bonnet jobs that add to the customer experience.

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