Let’s contemplate green tea to begin our Foodie Friday Fun rant this week. Many folks – myself included – drink green tea because it’s chock full of really good stuff such as antioxidants. While it used to be that green tea was the specialty drink of Japanese and some Chinese restaurants, it really has become a mainstream drink here in the U.S. – 10 Billion servings a year by some estimates.
Because of the popularity of the drink, Consumer Labs did some research on bottled green teas as well as loose tea used to brew at home. Their research showed that brewed green tea can vary widely from one cup to the next even when prepared in the same way. Some bottled varieties appear to be little more than sugar-water, containing little of the good stuff that gives green tea its solid health reputation. Overall, the tea in bottles was far less healthy than tea made fresh. The bottles are more convenient but the product is of much lower quality. This, of course, got me thinking about business.
There is always a trade-off between convenience and quality. Look at “fast” food. I think most of us know we’re giving up a lot – flavor for one thing – when we choose to save time and patronize a quick-service restaurant. It’s the same when we buy prepackaged baked goods instead of taking the time to find a bakery where things are fresh-made (or make them ourselves – even better!).
Thoreau put it well. “The cost of a thing,” he wrote in Walden, “is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” People choose the convenient product because in their minds they’re getting back a little time, a commodity that’s becoming quite rare for most folks. The real secret to being successful in business is to strike that balance more in favor of quality while offering some cost-savings in terms of time. The green tea example shows up it’s not even a money thing – people pay more for the less healthful tea in bottles because it’s ready, not because it’s better for them. I’m not sure that’s even a conscious choice since the bottled teas position themselves as healthy in many cases.
How do you solve the time/quality/convenience equation? The answer to that might just be the key to your success.