Rule #76: No Excuses. Bake Like a Champion

Carol Tice at the BNET blog has a short post comparing and contrasting Panera and Cosi.

Two bakery-cafe chains have been in the news recently — Richmond, Mo.-based Panera Bread (PNRA) announced growing sales despite the downturn, while Cosi (COSI) of Deerfield, Ill., said its sinking sales have led to a delisting warning notice from the Nasdaq. Both chains began around the same time, and Cosi certainly got as much positive initial press and consumer raves. Some of the key differences that made Panera the winner:

The parallel with fraternity life should speak for itself:

Sticking with the concept. For years, Cosi toyed with being a bar by night and a bakery by day, or just selling liquor along with its food, possibly creating customer confusion and disappointment as they evolved. Panera just kept being a great bakery-cafe.

Chapters that “stick with the concept” of a brotherhood based on shared ideals and positive experiences will always outperform the chapters with a faux brotherhood based on unearned respect, personal servitude and partying.

I like this example because it also offers a lesson in not making excuses.  Cosi probably tried to tell their investors, “We’re in a recession, you know, so our plunging stock is just a reflection of the bigger economic climate.”  We often hear chapters rationalize poor performance with similar rhetoric.  “Our recruitment effort may appear like an utter failure but numbers were down for everyone this year.”

So what.  When their competitors’ stock was taking a nosedive, Panera embraced the environment and increased value despite the recession.  Next time campus recruitment numbers are at an all-time low, you be the chapter to defy the trend.

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