Why I walk a mile for a good Brötchen

An unawareness for the Theory of Constraints (and a few other models) has led to a massive decrease of service and quality in nearby bakeries. And when the demanding customer starts to walk a mile for a good Brötchen, your business will soon be in trouble.

Dear readers from abroad, in germany you start a sunny sunday with a good Brötchen (bun, baguette, croissants …). I’ve been quite lucky over the past years, because there is a bakery just one door away. Unfortunately, for a good Brötchen, I will have to walk a mile, now. Because all those basterds disrespect the Theory of Constraints — they just can not deliver what I need as a demanding customer anymore.

Now, what happened in the fist place is, that my local bakery served me a lousy Brötchen — again. You see, a good product is supposed to be rich, well-shaped and as delicious as it is charming to the eye. But during my last visits the friendly craftsmen hand-picked some ugly, flat and dead-like buns. Which is an insult to the german customer, especially on sundays. When I told them, they acknowledged that I was right and the product should have never been sold in the fist place and that I can have a second one, if I liked to. Of course there was no need to have another product that should have never been sold in the first place. How embarrassing.

Bad user experience will drive your customers away

So while the staff is friendly and insightfully, the products are lousy. And because that is having a negative impact on the customer’s experience, I will call that a bottleneck. So they need a process to improve their products, which obviously is a second bottleneck (because they did not know how to do that). But more on that, later. Since there are more bakeries around, let me try one of the competitors …

I tried a second bakery, a real hipster one, where they still make all their bread & brötchen by themselves (instead of just crisp them up, like the franchise businesses do). Real tasty manufactured products for a perfect start of my sunday? Oh boy, how could I be so wrong. Oh, they had cakes. And tea. And coffee “to go” (that is what germans call a cup of coffee to take away with you). But. No. Brötchen. So I had a bakery that could not sell any Brötchen on a sunday, which is definitely a huge bottleneck.

The third bakery I tried that day has been closed forever. Well, they had a spin-off in a nearby supermarket, but regular stores are closed on sundays, so … bottleneck.

The fourth bakery is about one mile away. Ok, they crisp-up their goods (bottleneck), but the starting product is of good quality and they take care of the process (solution). I have to stand in line for two or three minutes (bottleneck), because quite a lot of customers are looking for a good experience on sundays, but that is fine for me. There are about seven crew members serving fresh and warm Brötchen to their customers. These people are friendly and their smiles make me forget about waiting in line (solution). I am so happy to get my fresh Brötchen on a sunday morning (solution), that I even enjoy the one mile walk (and the second one to get back home — bottleneck). Sure, their bread & buns are expensive as everywhere else in this big city neighborhood, but that is ok to me and everyone else. And probably for that bakery, because they drive sales from all the lousy bakeries to themselves.


Focus on the needs of your customers and remove one bottleneck a time

Customers usually do not care much about your business. They have their own needs and it is up to you to offer a solution to these needs. Wether you are a bakery selling Brötchen on a sunday morning, or offering development services as a software company — you can do that, because someone out there needs your support. Especially when there is competition out there, you may want to make sure, your customers enjoy their stay. Basically, it is all about the one bottleneck, that is having the most negative impact of your business. Finding a solution to break up this bottleneck (and the other ones to follow) is supposed to improve your services up to a point, where customers will walk that extra mile to buy your Brötchen.

There are different systems to identify your bottlenecks and to develop your business in a way, were you can differentiate yourself from your competition and start offering a unique experience that will help to develop a leading role in your market segment. There is Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (to identify major bottlenecks one after another to improve, basically) or Mewes’ Engpasskonzentrierte Strategie (EKS: adding some theory, basic principles and actual recommendations on how to identify & get rid of your bottlenecks and to build up innovation on top of that, basically).


Make me a loyal customer

Based on that theories, what will it take to make me a loyal customer? If you would like to start up a new bakery, you need to know your competition and overall setting for your business. Following the EKS, there are seven steps to consider:

  • Identify your strengths
    You are a bakery and you know how to make a good and tasty product (obviously).
  • Pick your area of business
    Well, it will be a bakery, in this case (just to fit in context with this article, otherwise you may consider some bakery consulting services with all those lousy bakeries nearby …)
  • Pick your target audience
    The rent for businesses is high in this neighborhood, your customers should be able to pay the average prices of such a gentrified quarter. These people are demanding customers that value (and have already experienced) good service.
  • Find out the biggest challenge for your customers
    What do they expect from a great bakery and what is their biggest bottleneck to enjoy such an experience? How can you differentiate from our local competition? Lower prices will be hard to achieve (see Step 3). Better service? Most bakeries are quite good around here, so that is more like a challenge for you. What is missing are local products at superior quality. Selfmade, not crisped up, in less than a mile distance.
  • Innovate, once you can deliver
    How about some biological exotic grain compositions for your next line of products? Cakes and Coffee to go? There is always something to improve.
  • Keep your core capabilities in focus
    Are you still a bakery? Has that changed (for better or for worse)? Should you outsource part of your work that is out of focus (or cooperate with other businesses)?
  • Understand your customer’s basic needs
    Being able to constantly fulfill the regular needs of your customers is a key to keep your business on top of the line.

Now, please: Be that Brötchen expert and I might owe you a beer for not having to walk that extra mile anymore. Oh, and just in case you are one of the bakeries mentioned here: you definitely want to get in contact with me. :-)


Originally published in my personal blog, because I think Medium is fundamentally broken, since they rendered collections unusable. But hey, it’s all about the content, and you are free to choose to read my articles wherever you like:-)


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