Please, Give Others a Chance at Crumble & Flake
How savvy was Marie Antoinette after all. “Let them eat cake” turns out to be the filigreed way to entrepreneurial success in our modern world. After a cupcake shop, and a pie shop, Seattle’s Capitol Hill has welcomed Neil Robertson’s Crumble & Flake patisserie with bulging cheeks and buttery lips.
That’s given Robertson reason to write this line, which I think would leave most entrepreneurs slightly agog with a potent blend of envy and amazement: “Unfortunately due to our tiny size and all the positive press, we’ve been selling out early every day, so we may not be open when you get here.” Would-be patrons are advised to follow @crumbleandflake on Twitter to learn when the shelves are bare.
Poor Robertson–everything he touches turns to golden flakes. His pre-opening was breathlessly covered; now his unwanted popularity is news.
Even The Economist‘s Babbage blog has taken up the story, thanks in part to Robertson’s friendship with contributor “G.F.,” Seattle tech journalist Glenn Fleishman. While Robertson has much-larger-shop chops (“formerly of Canlis, Mistral Kitchen, and the Bellagio in Las Vegas,” notes Megan Seling), Crumble & Flake is his passion project, and he’s intent on being a small, hand-crafted, neighborhood patisserie–not scaling up to become a pastry colossus.
So what to do about the outsized demand? Robertson told Fleishman he tried raising prices, but to no apparent dent in the public appetite. He’s constrained by both physical realities and strategic goals. Perhaps the best suggestion came from commenter Jouris on the Babbage blog:
Ratchet up the prices to whatever the market clearing rate turns out to be. But give a discount (a well-advertised discount) back to a reasonable price to anyone who can show an ID with a local/neighborhood address. He gets to be a neighborhood bakery like he wants.
Maybe simpler still is the time-honored “club card” model. Checking ID seems a bit intrusive for a pastry purchase. But what about awarding club membership to anyone with five purchases? About the time that they are getting tired of queueing up at all hours, they are rewarded for their regular custom with a discount and perhaps the ability to keep a standing order for croissants. As Robertson well knows, all good buzz comes to an end, and when that time comes, much better to have built a strong relationship with a happy band of regular customers.
Ultimately, the market can solve this problem, without Robertson compromising on his vision. Somewhere out there, I suspect, another pastry chef is scouting larger locations.