Screen shot 2009-10-28 at 20.51.56Jamie Oliver doesn’t drink Coca Cola.  How do I know?

When visiting Jamie’s Italian in Kingston last spring, I ordered a Coca Cola with my Sausage Papardelle.  I know you’re supposed to drink wine with decent Italian food, but I’ve always liked the contrast between a salty, slightly spicy Italian sausage and that sweet, bubbly cola goodness.  Even more enticing was the fact I noticed the restaurant was serving proper Coca Cola glass bottles (not that evil fountain Coke).

The waiter arrived with that iconic bottle, and a glass filled with ice.  As he was pouring, I noticed the bottle had no condensation on the outside.  This is a bad signal for any cola connoisseur.  I could see the ice melting and bubbles disappearing quickly as the warm soda poured over it.   Once he was done, I had a sip.  Cola Water.  It probably turned to 70% Coca Cola, 30% Melted Ice Cubes within the first minute, and that ratio was going down fast.

I asked the waiter to kindly get me a cold Coke instead.  His reply: “We don’t have them cold.  There’s no room in the fridge so we keep them in crates near the fridge.”  Near the warm fridge fan actually.  I asked him was his Coca Cola representative thought of this, and whether the store had ever been trained in how to serve a perfect Coke.  The answer was no/I don’t know.

I tried to let them know how important it was to serve ice cold Coke over ice, to keep the ratios correct, and he said he would take my suggestion to the management.  Weeks later I tried again and I was disappointed that the technique was the same.

In typical brand thought mode, I checked Jamie’s closest competition in the two weeks that followed – Carluccio’s and Strada.  Sure enough, these guys do it right.  Have a look at the condensation on the Coke bottle at Carluccio’s:

Lovely wet outside of the bottle

Lovely wet outside of the bottle

It’s the little things that make the difference.  If a restaurant doesn’t think soft drinks are an important part of the menu, or that they would rather differentiate in quality / size of the wine list instead, think again!  If your direct competition is doing the small things right (the basics), then all potential beaters must AT LEAST copy those small things.  We’ve covered that tenet before, but that’s not what today’s blog is all about.

What we’re really talking about is Jamie Oliver (or at least his restaurant planners are) making Coke look bad. How can a supplier like Coca Cola ensure that their product gets to the end consumer in the desired state?  Free refrigerators are a mainstay in convenience stores.  Longer-than-a-bottle straws provide another method. Coke’s suppliers to Jamie might be afraid to offend.  I will ask them. It’s important for supplier brands to realize that they need to invest twice as much time driving home that “proper” experience because many retailers / intermediate customers are concerned about other things.

I could write 20 pages on how mobile phone operators can destroy a consumer experience by insisting on carrier-customized design modifications and carrier-customized user interface modifications on otherwise excellent mobile phones, but that’s for another post.

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Brand-obsessed! Great stuff.

    Dead right about getting the temperature and serving for Coke right. Where do you stand on the with or without lemon, or lime debate.

    Personally, it’s still all about the right Italian wine with food. And olive oil.

    Will we see a carrier-customization story or two soon?

  2. Lemon or lime is ok if added or requested by the drinker. Or provided on the side by the server. I’m not impressed with pre-mixed Coke with lime / Coke with lemon, it’s just sad.

  3. The lime-flavoured beers are just as bad or worse.

    But good catch/call on the Coke temp – just because it doesn’t cost as much as a bottle of Beringer Chardonnay (for example) doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated similarly. Imagine how the mighty Fosters would feel if it found out its whites (or reds, for that matter) were being so thoroughly neglected temperature-wise.

    That probably wouldn’t happen, of course (at least in as egregious a way as with the Coke), because wine is typically more carefully paired with food, and if Jamie found out things would not be easy-peasy.

    I wonder what kind of margins Jamie’s Italian would have on wine vs. Coke…

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Product Differentiation, Retail


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