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The anatomy of a lost sale

February 18th, 2010

It’s 11:50 a.m. and you have yet to eat breakfast. After sitting through two consecutive lectures, all you really want is a bagel and a coffee, yet the line at Einstein’s extends beyond the newspaper stand. 

Surely, there is not enough time to get your fuel for the day and make it to class in time. No bagel or coffee for you today. Yet again, you’ll have to settle for a Diet Pepsi and Snickers from the vending machine. How often does this occur? More often than one might expect.

In a non-scientific study, I spent a few hours outside of Einstein’s during the morning rush to find out just how many half-awake students were left without a bagel.  The result was frightening, and even more alarming is the amount of sales Einstein’s losses.  

While lost-sales varied by day, mostly due to the breakup of class schedules, I found that an average of 25 students each day decided to skip the wait and head to class instead. While it was uncommon to see someone already waiting in line exit due to an upcoming class, I regularly witnessed numerous students stop and turn around after seeing a long-line protruding from Einstein’s.  

Some expressed their frustration vocally, while others quietly turned away in dismay. 

So a few kids walk away hungry – their loss. But what does Einstein’s have to lose? Plenty, if my assumption is correct. Twenty five hungry students each day is 125 hungry students a week, 1875 hungry students a semester, and 3750 hungry students during a school year. Obviously, each of those students’ orders would differ dramatically, but for the sake of the assessment we’ll presume a single homogenous order. 

I normally order a large coffee (it’s usually a $1 refill in my paisley Einstein Bros. coffee mug, but let’s ignore that for now) and an everything bagel with cream cheese; total cost: $4.28.  Assuming all 3750 hungry students have the same appetite as me, that’s $16,050 in sales Einstein’s left on the table. Yes, $16,050 a year in lost sales – enough to put a student through one semester of classes or buy them 162 kegs of Bud Light.

So, why the bottleneck?  

I’m not a logistics major, but I presume the general layout of Einstein’s itself causes the backups. I hope this article opens a broader discussion as to why so many students are left without a bagel and coffee each morning.