Bread time stories – pull marketing & corporate storytelling

On a recent visit to London I happened upon the wonderful Le Pain Quotidien (PQ) café/restaurant. It’s a memorable experience – something worth talking about (evidently!).

The food is superb, the service excellent and the environment simply draws you in. Wooden tables exude warmth and naturalness, cakes, pastries and bread are displayed to make the mouth water and the open kitchen shows chefs at work and having fun.

But the thing that intrigued me most was the PQ story. On each table is a fold-out card with a cartoon strip charting the origins of this international phenomenon. Like many entrepreneurial tales it was borne of an experience – in this case the founder Alain Coumont’s frustration at not being able to find decent bread for the restaurant he worked at in Brussels. Quite by chance, he found suitable premises, opened his own bakery and started supplying the most magnificent bread and pastries to his former employer (and other restaurants too). PQ now has branches around the world and, having sampled 2 of them in London, I can vouch for their quality. They are remark-able and Coumont’s story is a great piece of pull marketing.

There was one disappointment though – a salutary tale for anyone looking to develop their own corporate story. We were served by a charming young woman and when I mentioned the cartoon story she confessed she wasn’t really familiar with it. This surprised me. I assumed this would form a fundamental part of her induction, but perhaps like so many inductions it focused on the practicalities – in this case, how the till works, what’s on the menu and how to clock in and off.

Your corporate story is only as good as the people living it and delivering it. This includes your staff and your clients (I’m an example here – spreading the word about PQ). The philosophy of a strong business is the very foundation of its success, but every member of staff should be able to articulate it (and believe in it)…from the inside.

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