Lessons from the Coffee Cart


Ruthanne Terrero
Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero

In New York City, we frequently get our food in the morning from little trucks parked on the sidewalks. These guys often have the best coffee and a good array of donuts and Danish, although the freshness of these baked goods can vary wildly. And even though they get a ton of transient business, with hundreds of people walking up to them on the Manhattan streets, they also have their fiercely loyal regulars. That’s because here in New York, many of us like to do exactly the same thing every day on our way to work, either because we’re still sleeping, or because we’re on automatic pilot, having tuned out reality as we dodge all sorts of obstacles before reaching our offices.

The coffee truck I get my brew from has gotten especially enterprising; the owner now also makes bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. This has required him to get a partner to assist; I think it also means he now has to wear a hair net, and that this is the Department of Health talking and not something he decided to start doing one morning when he woke up.

What’s best about my guy is that he always remembers my order: small coffee with half and half, no sugar. I am almost certain he can see me crossing Third Avenue and that he’s pouring it out as I’m stepping up to the curb. Gets me every time. I’m reciting my order and he’s already handing me a cup of hot java. (Does it get any more civilized than this?)

The problem is, on certain days, I want an iced coffee, but I can’t get this from him because he’s already made my usual order. So I go elsewhere.

How Does This Relate?

So, where am I going with this? Is it possible that you anticipate the needs of your clients so well that they don’t come to you when they want something out of the box? Are they wary of broaching the topic of their travel dreams with you because they fear you’ll automatically push a vacation toward them that’s made up of the same ingredients as their typical trips?

I’m not saying it’s not good to know your clients’ needs. In most cases, it’s a luxury to have a turn-key service provided so that you don’t have to even be concerned about it; someone else has done the thinking for you. But leave this to the very basics of travel, such as booking vacation insurance, airline tickets, transfers and car rental. Fill in the in-between with some amazing adventures. How do you know which adventures to create? Ask you client. Then be sure to listen to them. As they’re speaking, don’t automatically shoehorn them into a package that provides just some of what they’re discussing. Do some research to find travel partners who can help you build them a great FIT.

If you don’t know where to find such vendors, call your representative at your consortium. If they can’t find one that works for you, consider finding another consortium. Having a strong group to support you, to whom you pay a membership fee, is a situation that should indeed be turn-key.

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