Bright lights, a western name, noisy music and a location at or close to the corner of other restuarants and facilities, will ensure success for any cafe or restuarant in China. In the west itself, ‘Skoob’ would have done alright; a little bookshop cum cafe, with decent ice cream and good coffee. However, the Chinese flock to the fairly run down ‘Starbucks’ that is almost next door without even acknowledging ‘Skoob’s’ existence. The coffee in ‘Skoob’ is better but they will never get to know that and there isn’t really any ice cream in ‘Starbucks’ but ice cream with no “re4 nao4” isn’t really ice cream and anyway there is now a new arrival in town.
‘Cold Stone Creamery’ has opened on Singa Plaza at the corner of Jin Ji Hu Lu and Xin Han Jie across the road from the Starbucks in Suzhou Industrial Park and they are doing a roaring trade. Is this going to be the final nail in the coffin for ‘Skoob’? Would be a shame if it was; I was in the ‘Cold Stone Creamery’ and it is, to put it mildly, rubbish. Having pointed to a strawberry ice cream on the card, I was a trifle surprised that he gave me vanilla and then went to mix it with banana before I stopped him. Now you might think that this was a simple confusion, however, you would be wrong. In front of me I watched him give two Chinese a dfferent ice cream from the one they pointed to. They, unlike me though, just accepted it. Of course, they were happy anyway, they were getting everything they had come for; the ‘re4 nao4’, the bright lights and the brand name.
If there is a conclusion to this story, it would have to be that this is another example of where the Chinese care even less than we do in the west about what actually inhabits the brand. If Munich’s ‘Tambosi’ or Vienna’s ‘Demel’ or Venice’s ‘Caffe Florian’ were to open a branch in Suzhou Industrial Park they would probably have to make way for a ‘Costa Coffee’ or ‘Starbucks’ within a year.
The picture above is of the ‘brand’ new ‘Cold Stone Creamery’.