Friday, September 28, 2012

Starbucks in France

I've previously written about the counter-intuitive success of MacDo in France. I recently read an interesting New York times article about Starbucks and their lack of success in Europe. Remember that I cited keen market insight as the resason for MacDo's success (not biased!) and that knowing deeply the French eating habits helped them tailor their offer to the French economy? Starbucks, on the other hand, tried to bring 'american coffee habits' to French people. Which is just absurd. The French may not be as crazy as the Italians when it comes to coffee, but they certainly have strong opinions on the subject (quel surprise!).

Cafe Culture is huge in Paris. It's what you dream about as a tourist, sitting in a cafe, people watching, sipping endless espressos and trying to look cool and calm reading a newspaper. Parisians excel at this sport and it requires a few things. 1) A place to sit 2) Cheap, but good espresso 3) things to read (even my 'quick' lunch places has free magazines). Starbucks has been in France for a decade and is seemingly just starting to understand this. Starbucks in the US makes most of it's money from to-go coffee and, in fact, until recently they all but discouraged the cafe hanging out culture. People just do not walk around with a coffee in Paris. Taking a coffee break is sacred business and no matter how rushed, stressed, or busy you are, you sit and you drink the coffee. PERIOD. Changing habits are hard and it's more effort than most companies have time and patience for.

So what is Starbucks doing? They are giving a lot of their outlets a facelift for a sleeker, cool neighborhood feel. They are expanding to have places to sit. They probably should consider re-formulating the 'char' taste (fine-line since Americans didn't like the taste of Starbucks to start either...but then again they were used to shit coffee). And they need to appeal emotionally to the French consumer to differentiate themselves from the bajillion cafes. The only thing differentiating Starbucks from every other cafe is the 'starbucks' experience seen in the movies and TV shows. Starbucks is hip and they need to exploit that. But they need to exploit it while fitting into cultural norms. Perhaps they should hire some ex-mcdonalds market researchers :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Paris vs NY in Video

If you haven't noticed, I have an obsession with the Paris Vs New York website, which is now a book, which is now an animated video!!

It's a fun little thing -- take a look :) Link here.  Thanks to one of my favorite paris blogs Pret-A-Voyager for pointing it out.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Big Pet Peeve in France

Over the weekend I decided what my biggest 'pet peeve' is of living in France. (Tangent: I had to explain what a pet peeve was the other day to a colleague. It took me like 10 minutes to figure out how to say it's a minor annoyance..another tangent, in the UK apparently they are called pet hates. Which I think is a bit harsh).

Anywho, I was walking to Gare De Lyon to visit Andrew (more on that later) a man was peeing against a building. Let me set the scene: It was around noon. This street was fairly busy. The man was normally dressed (read: not homeless). It was just out in the open (not in alcove or something) on a bright and sunny day.... and did I mention it was noon?  AND THEN when I got off the train in andrew's town I was driving to his house and when I pulled out of the parking lot there was another man just peeing as well. Are there no bathrooms in this country? And thus, you have now been introduced to y least favorite part of living in France: Men who think this beautiful country is their toilet.

This unfortunately is not an isolated incident. I see this all the time (granted, it's usually later at night, presumably, after people have been drinking). I just don't understand how and when it became OK to use a side of a building as a toilet. According to "Stuff Parisians Like," (the expert in all things Parisians, obviously),  peeing with friends on the street is a long time habit and  "the defining moment of a Parisian friendship." And apparently, if a policeman catches you on the street peeing (oh it IS illegal), they will just give you a warning. Because afterall, they are Parisian men who like to pee on the street too.

There you have it. Living in France isn't always baguettes and croissants :)