Managing

I’ve seen the coffee shop of the future, and it ain’t Starbucks

Jon Manning /

I’ve just returned from Bangkok, where I ran a two-day workshop called “Pricing Excellence”. On the Sunday before the workshop, I went down to Siam Square to do a bit of shopping, and stumbled across the coffee shop of the future.

Nestled up on the third or fourth floor of the Paragon Centre is True Urban Park. What attracted me to it, and I didn’t even feel like a coffee at the time, was the enormous red and black flap display (think of an airport departure board) that simply read “True”.

Upon entering the cafe, and in front of the flap display, there is a florist selling fresh oriental flowers. Turn to the left and there are PCs, lounge chairs and sofas where you can surf the internet and watch your tweets come up on a huge Tweetdeck “megawall”. In the back corner there’s a selection of books, CDs and DVDs that you can browse.

To get to the other end of the shop, you walk through a nicely laid-out ‘gadgets’ section, where you can browse and buy all the latest smartphones and tablets, with the assistance of plenty of attentive and helpful staff.

This takes you to the coffee bar, with a fairly extensive and affordable menu (a cappuccino and cake cost the equivalent of AU$5). Sit down in front of another Tweetdeck “megawall”, and you can either watch whatever is showing on HBO, enjoy the free wi-fi access, or plug your preferred Apple device into one of the leads on the coffee table, and listen to your choice of music as you sit under a “Sound Tube”.

Readers are probably thinking to themselves right now: what has this got to do with pricing? Shouldn’t this be appearing on Urbanspoon, or some other ratings and reviews website? Well maybe it should, but there are also some important lessons here for retailers and other industries.

Firstly, the flap display is impressive and enticing. It makes you want to walk into the store, and what retailer doesn’t want more traffic these days?

Furthermore, the one word that appears on the flap display is powerful, and chosen, I imagine, to reflect their beliefs, their value proposition.

Interestingly, you can’t experience True Urban Park online. It doesn’t have a website, although there is a Facebook and Twitter presence.

But most importantly, and what I liked the most, is the fact that the store has multiple revenue streams, offering products and services that appeal to different market segments (coffee lovers, book lovers, gadget lovers, flower buyers, etc).

There is only one True Urban Park store, and it wouldn’t have been there for six years if it weren’t doing something right. This is a location I would happily call my “third space”, and spend time and money in, much to the disappointment of Starbucks.

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