Archive for August, 2010

Turning complaints into marketing advantages – Sticks’n’Sushi

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Sticks’n’Sushi was one of the first restaurants in Copenhagen that specialized in sushi and yakitori-sticks. The chain opened in 1994 and was founded by Jens Rahbek Hansen, Thor Andersen and Kim Rahbek Hansen. Today the chain consists of nine restaurants in Copenhagen and has more than 400 employees. Expansion plans include London.

At Sticks’n’Sushi they do not use the word “service design” – they call it service architecture). Sticks’n’Sushi is a company with a very dedicated attitude to the nature and development service; the managers work keenly and continously with service processes, value chains and multi-dimensional service.

A paramount element in Sticks’n’Sushi’s service strategy is always and without exception to hire the right employees. The CEO is often asked by his competitors why he is such a focus on employees. His answer is that he is not hiring good employees – he is hiring good people. And after hiring new employees, considerable resources are spend on training them. The company established the “Sticks’n’Sushi Academy” with 32 different internal courses. A number of different and very precise manuals are elaborated for the various job-functions. And Sticks’n’Sushi has created a career program which means that the right employee during 10 years can move from runner to partner at Sticks’n’Sushi.

Kim Rahbek Hansen in convinced that ‘decent people’ combined with insight creates the foundation for “the good mindset”, which for Kim Rahbek Hansen summarizes what good service is, and what he wants Sticks’n’Sushi to stand for. “Decent people” know how to behave in social settings, they are not afraid of addressing the guests etc. Adequate competences – knowledge of sushi, yakitori-sticks and sake – make the employees feel on top of the situation. And they are therefore not afraid of meeting the guests and answering their questions to the menu, drinks etc. This kind of self-confidence creates space for creativity in the service delivery, and it give the courage to improvise.

When visiting a restaurant the customer could get the impression that Sticks’n’Sushi have a very ‘loose’ organisation. This is not the case. At Sticks’n’Sushi each employee have strict  job functions and behavioral limits; if an employee for some reason wants to compensate a guest, approval from the management is needed. Complaints is received by any employee but only handled by the restaurants’ management.

Sticks’n’Sushi have a clear and strategically well-considered complaint policy: If a guest returns home from Sticks’n’Sushi with take-away sushi and discovers that e.g. soya is missing, a taxi is immediately sent to the guest’s house with whatever is missing. Sticks’n’Sushi envisages that the guest is always right in his/her complaint and must be compensated. This policy solves the immediate problem for the guest, but in addition, most guests are transformed into extremely loyal ambassadors. A saying goes that each restaurant can measure quality and precision of its services by the number of taxi bills.

Kim Rahbek Hansen has clear prospect for Sticks’n’Sushi’s further development. He is surrounded by competent advisors, and he encourages his guests to bring good ideas forward. However Kim Rahbek Hansen raises a critique on the intensive use focus groups for innovation purposes. In his opinion the most interesting ‘edges’ will often be removed, if a number of people have to agree on a concept. It is not always possible to successful concept with logical analysis. Thinking differently and taking chances are still essential for those who work on creating business successes.

See more about the sustainability policy on

This innovation case has been submitted by Søren Bechmann. You can find other cases and description of the service design discipline in the book “Servicedesign” by Søren Bechmann published by Gyldendal Akademisk (2010 in Danish). See also

Never-ending taste experiences attract and retain customers at Hr. Skov gourmet shop

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Hr. Skov is a gourmet universe with delicious ingredients, exciting products and a knowledge and passion for good food from good ingredients which dates back to family roots. Strategic portfolio development based on customer behaviour and their own specific experience from previous business activities are the driving forces behind the concept.

Hr. Skov Gourmet Shop is located in Blåvand on west coast of Jutland, close to the sea, beaches and breathtaking scenery. The shop is owned and operated by Claus Skov and his wife Henny Skov. Besides the gourmet shop Hr. Skovs also offers:

-delicious food in the adjoining café

-an exquisite wine bar

-accommodation in one of three rooms


The shop offers specialties and delicacies of the finest quality. On the shelves are everything from fine chocolates and jams to organic drinks, exciting wines, ice cream, cheeses and sausages, and a host of other specialties.The delicatessen offers everything from homemade soups and fonder, fois gras, freshly caught fish from Hanstholm, fresh pork, beef, lamb and venison and more. In addition, the shop offers delicious wines, cognacs and champagnes. All products are hand selected by the owner. Pure ingredients and great taste are celebrated. The owners are most proud of their homemade signature products sold under the Hr. Skov brand. Ingredients for these products are sought, wherever possible, locally in the Wadden Sea area.

In addition to ensuring high quality products and raw materials, it is important for the owners to give their customers an experience when they visit the store. They are constantly trying to provide customers with new experiences that they cannot get anywhere else, by offering specialized products. Interestingly, the owners focus on the customers getting a new experience every time they come. Therefore they constantly look for new exciting products they can add to their range, or even develop new delicious products themselves. Evolution and adding new flavours are essential for the shops existence.

To attract and retain customers the owners follow a particular strategy.  They use the scarcity factor to make their shop and wares more attractive. They choose suppliers whose products are seasonal and therefore only available for a limited period. In addition, they produce their own products based on seasonal ingredients, which also leads to a limited sales period. For example, Hr. Skovs self brewed beer made from local produce. There is an all year round beer that is always in stock, but there is also a summer beer with crab apples and a winter beer brewed with late blooming herbs. This strategy allows the owners to offer core products to regular consumers but also create new experiences with seasonal products for those customers who visit the store at different times of the year. It is a conscious choice that several of the homemade products are not available throughout the year. Once they offered a cognac cheese for New Years, which sold out in no time. The cheese became so popular that customers demanded that it be available the whole year round. But although this would offer the opportunity to create high sales year round, they chose only to sell it at New Years so as to create an expectation of joy, to retain customer interest and to ensure that they come back.

The inspiration for the purchase of new, and development of own, products is generated partly through visits to trade fairs, and by keeping up-to-date through knowledge networks. The actors in these networks are good at helping each other and at sharing new knowledge and approaches. Furthermore, several players in the gourmet field work together on events and Hr. Skov has plans to collaborate with other stakeholders to create a common gourmet event. Networking is important for the owners of Hr. Skov because they can quickly identify interesting vendors and easily share experiences with other players in the gourmet market. They are proponents of knowledge sharing and don’t see other gourmet players as competitors. Rather, they believe that developments in gourmet establishments where more and more focus is on quality and ingredients are extremely positive. This means that it will constantly be evolving and making the area around the Wadden Sea more interesting. Guests do not want the same taste experiences every day therefore they drive around and explore what the area has to offer. With more quality-conscious gourmet shops and restaurants in the area, we can ensure a high quality level with new, powerful and exciting experiences. It is, according to the owners of Hr. Skov, knowledge sharing and interaction that create a strong destination.