The characterization of today’s jobs as “only” being those at McDonald’s brings to mind the recent announcement by the Oak Brook giant that it may start selling breakfast all day long. The competitive force driving the possible change? Why, experience-staging Starbucks of course.
This reminds me of the joke (I’ve heard attributed to both David Brenner and Steven Wright) about the man who pulls up to a convenience store that has a sign outside reading, “Open 24 Hours”. But as he approaches the entry door, the store’s manager is locking up for the day. The man protests, “You’re sign says ‘Open 24 Hours'” — to which the worker replies, “Not in a row!”
Maybe the move to all-the-time breakfast will prove to be some help to McDonald’s. Who’s to know? I do know this, however: the move to a 24/7 world has a homogenizing effect on the perception of value by consumers. In retail, the very processes by which companies grow their businesses — establishing more and more outlets with more and more hours open — are the very same processes that kill brand, as Sameness creeps in. (Interestingly, Starbucks continues to forestall this happening by mass-customizing its decor and operating hours.)
To be available all the time destroys any sense of being exceptional, turning one’s offerings into mere utilities. I truly believe that not being available at every single moment may actually endear oneself to customers. Such accounts, for example, in the real appeal of Chick-fil-A (a past winner of FC Customers First award, btw) being closed on Sundays. It’s authentic in its walking away from eking out every last nickel from the enterprise.
Now, it would be interesting to see how my contention might play out online? Image a 24/6 online merchant? Or one that shuts down ordering each day at 8:00 p.m.? Well, I could see a local toy merchant’s website modifying its homepage each evening, saying it’s closed for the night and advising parents to go “Read to their bunnies” and tuck them in for the night. ( I don’t think Target would ever do that.)