Genuine game changers in the cafe scene are pretty rare these days.
Which is exactly why Silo is worth checking out. Broadsheet has already done a review so read that for detail. Suffice to say that you could visit ten times and still miss many of the clever details and ideas that have been incorporated into this place. Plus a bunch of cool people tend to hang out there – Oskar behind the counter, Danny and Siany floating in between, Dr Mitch allegedly obsessing over the porridge and Breece allegedly visiting for 5+ coffees a day. It’s worth a visit just to check out the automatic milk dispenser, which detects the size of the jug and meters an exact dose – meaning no milk waste. Nerdtastic.
Check it out: 123 Hardware St, City
Don’t read on if you find analysis boring….
From a commercial perspective, it’s an interesting case study in the monitization of environmentalism. Admittedly, the latter phrase invites skepticism. Shouldn’t we be suspicious of businesses that seek to leverage green ideals for commercial gain? I would argue no. Besides being inherently less evil than plundering our planet for monetary gain, the commercialization of green is the only realistic way to achieve meaningful economic transformation. Besides which, those who’ve met Joost know he isn’t one to chase money.
Having only been open for a week, it’s obvious that Silo faced the classic start-up dilemma: you can throw cash at initial capital costs in an effort to achieve differentiation (ie giving Six Degrees a blank cheque and praying that you can service the debt until you are reviewed by The Thousands and hordes of hipsters come a knockin’) but you will eventually reach a point of diminishing returns; unless you have a truly innovative idea. No doubt the fitout cost a bundle (the waste dehydrator alone represents > 5-10% of an equivalent cafe fitout cost), yet the way in which money was allocated to Silo’s fitout demonstrates a desire to transcend the normal pursuit of aesthetics. Hardly anyone will actually see the waste dehydrator; it is tucked in the alleyway. Yet the knowledge of its existence adds value to the final product and appeals to the consumers underlying sense of social responsibility – a largely untapped motivator of buying behaviour.
Silo’s points of difference means Roger’s Bell Curve of Technology Diffusion has some relevance, explaining how market uptake may occur amongst product adopting groups in society. It’s also a useful way of modeling how other cafes will (and they will) eventually adopt the technologies/processes of Silo.
I suspect it’s no accident that the barriers to adoption are designed to be very low in Silo: minimal or no price difference to competitors, simple trialability, almost no behavioural modification required for consumption and a ‘bonus’ perception of contributing to a societal good through personal consumption (a rare combination when consumption is normally an exclusively selfish act). Arguably, brands like Silo shouldn’t devote undue effort in attracting the back half of the bell curve, because the population of that market segment are so conservative/traditional that they are unlikely to place a value on the wider social implications & externalities that the business seeks to address.
Luckily, the pursuit of diffusion for the Silo brand is occurring concurrently with a wider, societal level diffusion of waste minimisation and environmental ideas, giving Silo an underlying social legitimacy that most commercial entities lack. That is GOOD business.