I went to Amy’s Bread shop at the weekend, in Hell’s Kitchen, here, to pick up breakfast. I took a seat in the small cafe section of the shop, at the back. It was a great experience. Not just because of the great food – I had a walnut twist bread and a semolina twist with seeds, butter and jam which was delicious – but the vibe. It was tight for space, which helped to create a sense of friendly, chatty, almost familial intimacy, and the baristas/servers had this ongoing chat between themselves which maintained the feel of low level bustle, occasionally punctuated by the squeaks of delight as the most obviously gay server revealed which guests he would marry – the state law has recently changed – a few seconds after they had left.
If you tried to work out using research what worked about the Amy’s Bread breakfast experience I’m not sure you could. Say you wanted to create the ‘ideal’ breakfast experience – and Amy’s wasn’t far off it – and used research to establish the key drivers of the ‘restaurant’ style breakfast choice, I doubt if you would end up with a cluttered seating area (with no windows to look out from), noisy staff (commenting on which customers they fancied) or a ridiculously limited menu (bread).
It reminds me a little of Komar and Melamid’s ‘People’s Choice’ series which Jon Steel has spoken of. Komar and Melamid are Russian artists, now resident in New York, who commissioned research in 11 countries to find out what people wanted in their ideal work of art. This is the United States’ ‘most wanted’ work of art:
There is an outside scene, traditional in style. There are deer frolicking at the edge of the lake. There are three people, normal folk, in the picture and there proudly, in centre stage is George Washington.
I don’t think it even works as a picture in its own right, let alone something that inspires us like a great work of art should do. And perhaps it also shows us why market research is not likely to come up with an Amy’s Bread.