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Love or Money: Looking at the Ingredients of Business

If you ask most people about love, they'll talk about family. Almost as often, you'll hear about home-cooked food served with devotion by a doting parent perhaps. Meanwhile, in the United States at least, you may also end up talking about business and, almost always, money. There's an inherent belief that, with the right amount of money, you could buy anything—maybe even the experience of mother love served in the form of a wonderfully simple and succulent favorite dessert.

I'm skeptical. My mom knows what I like best, is worried about my health, and pays attention to all my little idiosyncrasies. Food cooked by your mom especially for you and served affectionately by her with lots of motherly love is the best food ever. No amount of money can replicate that.

My grandmother made my favorite Indian sweets, especially fresh and hot mysorepaks, filled with ghee, and sugar, and love. Nothing was better.

And yet, here in the United States, where people are always pushing the boundaries of what's been done, at least one retailer is trying to trade on an clear understanding of that heart/stomach connection in order to build success. With its focus on technology, ambition, competition and differentiation, the United States may be the place where it can happen.

I'm talking about Starbucks. Starbucks is very smartly applying that notion that a way to one's heart is through the stomach. Recently, the company announced that it was investing in the Princi Group of bakery and restaurants, with an eye toward expanding the number of standalone Princi locations worldwide as well as making Princi the exclusive food purveyor at the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Rooms in Shanghai and New York.

"We have never baked in our stores in 45 years. But all of that will change with the creation of this unique partnership," said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and ceo. "Rocco and his team at Princi possess a passion for handcrafted food and artisanal baked goods that mirrors how I feel about our coffee. The attention to detail, the care invested in selecting the ingredients and the artistry of preparation is second only to the service Rocco offers customers inside his Princi stores. I can think of no better pairing for our most premium coffee experience and am excited by the possibilities we envision in Princi food elevating every daypart – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – in Starbucks Roasteries and Reserve Stores."

Now, Starbucks is not an electronics manufacturer but I chose Starbucks for this discussion because I believe we can learn a lot by understanding what makes great companies great. I have asked the baristas at Starbucks multiple times at different locations, "What is that makes Starbucks so great and what are you expected to do as part of your job?" They say they are expected to make a great coffee, and give the customer whatever they want until that customer is completely satisfied. If the customer is not completely satisfied, they don't hesitate to make another drink for him or her to win over that person. In the end, they build a personal relationship.

It starts with the product, and then it extends to the customer experience. The aroma of coffee and the delectable array of pastries add to the customer experience. The baristas are trained to remember the customer, and provide a personal touch by remembering their favorite drinks and desired special tweaks. It all adds up producing a stunning overall experience at the end, which makes people come back again and again. And for this Starbucks has convinced consumers that the coffee is worth $5.

And now, Starbucks iconic CEO is expanding the success that he has created so far into the food business to recreate that magic. And like any visionary entrepreneur, he is clearly betting on the product first and foremost for successful business. Without a solid product, whatever sizzle that is applied around the product, around the core experience of what the customer is buying is not going to succeed. That is exactly what he is focused on, as he explains in an interview with Popsugar. The bakery founder of Princi is absolutely love with this process of making food and serving the customer. That love gets passed to the product, to the customer finally to the entire food consumption experience. If the partnership is successful, nobody is going to count the dollars that they are spending at the store, but will keep coming back for the same experience.

It will be interesting to see how Panera, Au Bon Pain and other similar bakeries react after Princi is launched. In the meantime, it makes me wonder if Rocco Princi will be able to deliver love through his business. What do you think?

More importantly, what can we learn and apply in our industry? Let us know in the comments section below about what you do to ensure your product is the best and that it addresses the core of what your customer wants.


Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology consisting of Smart Gladiator Wearable Scanguns, Tablets, Mobile Tech & Apps for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. So far, Smart Gladiator Wearables have been used to ship, receive, and scan more than 100 million boxes. Users love them for the lightweight, easy-to-use soft overlay keyboard, texting&video chatting ability, data collection ability etc. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 17 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at or visit the company at Also follow him at

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