There's often a line out the door.
It's not surprising. The ice cream is really good, the portions are enormous, and a waffle cone costs less than three Canadian dollars. And it's served with a smile, almost a grin.
Of course, once you finish the cone, you'll stroll around, hang out by the water and maybe start to make plans about where to spend a week on next year's vacation.
The Opinicon, a lovely little resort near Ottawa, could charge a lot more for an ice cream cone. A team of MBAs doing a market analysis and a P&L would probably pin the value at about $8. That's where the ROI would be at its peak.
But they're not in the business of selling ice cream cones. The ice cream cones are a symbol, a beacon, a chance to engage.
If you run everything through a spreadsheet, you might end up with a rational plan, but the rational plan isn't what creates energy or magic or memories.
Stew Leonard's was a small supermarket with a big footprint. They were profiled by Tom Peters and had the highest sales per square foot of any store of its kind. As they grew to a few more stores, a new generation took over, one that seems more intent on ROI and less focused on magic. As a result, profits went up. For a while. But now, year after year, it's a bit less crowded, a bit less energetic, a bit less interesting. So when new store options open nearby, they lose a few more customers, then a few more, and finally, people begin to wonder, "why do I even bother coming here?"
It might not be about being cheaper. It's tricky to define better. But without a doubt, the heart and soul of a thriving enterprise is the irrational pursuit of becoming irresistible.