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The old banana in the tailpipe trick

Apologies to the Big Bopper

We have a bakery near me, that, for the past who-knows-how-many-years, has made the best Napoleon I've ever had in my life. This dessert is so good that when my Mom visits from Florida, the bakery is our first stop. Every person I've introduced to this pastry is obsessed. It became a staple as a birthday cake. It's the reason I'll never fit into my skinny jeans. In other words, it was truly life-changing.

I mean is this the definition of perfection or what?

Don't mess with perfection

The reason this Napoleon was so amazing comes down to the Chantilly cream. This Napoleon, like so many you might find in an Italian bakery, doesn't have that awful icing layer on the top and isn't filled with custard. This is heavy whipping cream, vanilla and sugar. That's it. It's light. It's sinful. It's like eating a fine work of art. This was a dessert to savor. If we had self-control, we'd often cut it in half just to be able to have it two nights in row. I'm not saying this restraint was something that happened frequently, mind you.

Change isn't always a good thing

My Mom came to visit over the summer and we made our pilgrimage to bakery mecca. As we're admiring the cases and cases of desserts, I noticed that the color of the Napoleon cream looked much yellower than normal. Before we placed our order, we asked if they changed the recipe. The manager happened to be the person helping us and she told us that yes, the recipe had been changed FOR ALL THEIR LOCATIONS. As I clutched my chest in horror, we asked what was different. It's a banana-based custard, she said. BANANA! (cue Gwen Stefani). What the actual &%*$. That's not an ingredient for a Napoleon in any cookbook.

We asked why they would do such a thing. Were people saying they wanted something different? Is it a cost-savings measure (this slice costs about $7, so not exactly a bargain)? What was the reason?

We don't know, she said. The baker that supplies the cream just changed the recipe. And to make matters worse, she said that the filling was actually more expensive. My head exploded.

Time to throw tomatoes

So, no one asked for this, this item was one of their most popular and now it costs more to produce, while not even being able to truly be called a Napoleon. In other words, this was changed not because they wanted to meet the needs of their customers, but because someone felt it was important to try something new. That no one asked for. Someone at the bakery supplier, who probably isn't customer-facing decided to make a change without thinking about how it might affect their audience. Does that sound like good business to you? And while my skinny jeans might fit one day because I'd never waste my calories on this Napoleon knock-off, it blows my mind that in a place that maintains the same menu and the same level of consistency, this is the area they decided to try and innovate. Necessity is the mother of invention. Not boredom.

And while, of course, trying new things is important for businesses and adapting to the changing needs and desires of your audience is vital, this is a case of forced adaptation to something no one wanted. (The manager even mentioned how this used to be her favorite dessert too.) In other words, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

The next new thing

As business owners, it's important to stay fresh. To be somewhat adventurous and test the market. To constantly be thinking about how to improve. But that needs to be done in service of your clients and customers. If they aren't happy with what you're trying, you need to recognize that and go back to what they were happy with. Repeat business is the holy grail for any organization or owner. The best way to ensure that is to reward your loyal customers by keeping their favorite item available to them. Once you lose them, you've likely lost your business. And that sounds like a tough lesson to learn for some unwanted innovation.

Of course, the best way to stay in touch with your audience (besides surveys, feedback and poling) is to give them more you. I got you...


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