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January 15, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Drive-Thru is Hot in the Cold

Friday is "out to lunch Friday" for the ImpactWeather gang. The operational forecasters keep watch while the back office crew enjoys an opportunity to get out of the office for a bite. Except last Friday.

As I’m sure you remember, the coldest air of not only this 2010 season but of the past decade descended upon 2/3s of the country – including the Gulf Coast late last week. At ImpactWeather on Friday, the temperature dropped 30 degrees in less than 24 hours, bottoming in the middle 20s by Saturday morning. One by one, my thin-blooded colleagues backed out of our "out to lunch Friday" gathering. "Too cold!" they said. I zipped up and headed out alone.

It made me think about businesses that flourish when faced with adverse conditions. Studies have shown the restaurants with drive-thrus far out-pace similar restaurants without drive-thrus when the weather turns sour. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that folks don’t want to get out of their car (video) to face the cold and snow to trundle into a restaurant for a hamburger or a latte.



Image: Mountain Meadow Gifts

And it’s not just the drive-thru restaurants that score big when it comes to adverse weather. Companies who put their customers first continue to win in the long run: The supermarket that keeps the extra stockers on staff as the snow continues to fall, the mall that keeps its parking lots plowed, the drug store that opens first after a natural disaster, the home store that has the foresight to stock extra snowblowers or generators, the cell phone service provider that takes the extra steps to make sure their service is the last to go down and the first to come up as a hurricane passes by, or the bank that ensures their ATMs are fully stocked along hurricane evacuation routes. These actions are not by accident.



A Home Depot employee helps lift a snowblower into a customer’s truck. Source: AP/Mike Groll

Since 9/11, business continuity has come to the front lines of forward-thinking businesses. How to weather the storm while continuing to take care of the customer has been the question for business managers thinking outside the box. From the Business Continuity Institute comes this: 7 out of 10 businesses that experience a disruption of more than 3 days will fail in less than 2 years; 9 out of 10 of those businesses will be out of business in 5 years. And you have to look no further than Wednesday’s YWB blog to know that in 2009 there was nearly $60Billion in economic losses due to natural catastrophes. How many businesses were disrupted in 2009?



Keeping the lanes clear for the customers. Flickr Photo: HRH Laurel

Perhaps I’ve wandered a bit far from my original bemusement toward my thin-blooded co-workers with this blog post, but I’ll ask you to take a look around next time you’re out and about. Which of your favorite companies are going the extra mile for you? Conversely, which companies seem to care less about you (they’re not your favorite companies, I’ll bet)?

Our Friday forecast – today –  is wet, but not too cold. I wonder if I’ll be by myself again at lunch time…

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