What A Parking Lot Full Of Meat Lovers Teaches Us About Strategic Innovation

By wooing families, Zaycon Foods is able to cut prices by 50% and improve freshness by 15 to 20 times. Oh, and also: flash mob wholesale meat markets.

While preparing for a keynote I delivered last week for the National Restaurant Association, I came across the craziest business model: flash mob wholesale meat markets. Its success is evidence of broader trends we see transforming industry sectors, from high-end technology to basic commodities.

What we see happening is that old mindset that suggests you should own and control things has given way to a new one that says you should coordinate the uncoordinated. Consider Washington state-based Zaycon Foods. Founded in 2010 when J.C. Conrad, a former grocery store meat department manager, started buying meat in bulk to economize for his family and figured others would want to do the same, Zaycon foods has, in just a few years, blossomed into delivering to 150,000 registered users in over 1,000 locations across 48 states.

Imagine a parking lot empty on an early morning. A truck pulls up and the back door rolls open. Then a car appears, followed by another, and another, nearly 500 vehicles per hour. Each car lines up and when they reach the truck, they open the trunk and load up with pre-ordered packages of meat—like a 40-pound case of chicken breast—for 50% less than grocery-store prices. The meat is also fresher.

“Our chicken is in customers’ homes within just a few days after it is slaughtered, compared to 15 to 20 days for the typical grocery store,” Mike Conrad, J.C.’s brother and a Zaycon cofounder, told me.

By coordinating the uncoordinated—families who would otherwise buy meat from grocery stores—Zaycon is able to cut prices by 50% and improve freshness 15 to 20 times. It may seem crazy, but the model seems to be working.

How does Zaycon do it?
This video from Good Morning America lays out their model succinctly. Customers register at the Zaycon Foods website. When a critical mass of people in one area registers, Zaycon schedules an event. Users get an email notifying them of the upcoming event. Users order chicken, ground beef, ham, bacon, and fish in cases of 15 to 40 pounds. On the specified date and time period, users drive to a parking lot, line up their cars, and pick up their orders, which they usually freeze for storage.

The Zaycon case inspired some exciting breakthrough thinking for the restaurant marketing executives we presented to. Maybe it can inspire some exciting opportunities for you too. If you can coordinate meat deliveries, you can coordinate anything! Get ahead of your competition, ahead of the coordination wave.

Ask yourself:

  1. Looking around at the system that is your market, what agents are uncoordinated?
  2. If you could somehow coordinate each, would this create power or an advantage for you?
  3. What two to three strategies might you consider for coordinating them?
  4. What three things can you do this week to either (a) validate that your coordination idea could work or (b) execute your idea?

[Image: Flickr user Rev Stan]

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