I was in a busy coffee shop yesterday, when I noticed that 25% of the tables were empty. The empty tables were all along one side of the shop, which was saturated with brilliant sunshine.
The sun, magnified through the shop’s 20 foot high glass windows, made those tables impossible to use because it was just too dazzlingly bright. People were walking into the shop, seeing the only available places were in direct sunlight and leaving again for the coffee shop along the road.
As I left, I spoke with the owner about this obvious problem. His response was typical of the way many small business owners think about investing in their businesses.
“Yeah, no one ever sits there when the sun comes out, but it’s just too expensive to fit blinds along that side of the shop.” I asked him how much he had been quoted for the blinds. “I haven’t actually looked for any quotes, but it’s got to be really expensive, those windows are 20 feet high!”
When is a cost not a cost?
Forgetting the huge additional electricity bills he’s going to have this summer, because of his air conditioning being needlessly overworked – what about the loss of trade? Even if his customer’s average spend is only £5 per hour, the 24 seats rendered unusable will be losing up to £120 an hour, each day between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is, as he calls it, “in the wrong position.” Ironically, his busiest period is between 12 noon and 2pm – when those seats would be filled with people on their lunch breaks!
I wonder how many times he will have to watch those 6 empty tables, before realising the difference between a cost and an investment?