Food for Thought in Pembrokeshire

First published Friday, November 21, 2014

This post has a slightly different angle to it from our more regular posts, but bear with it! We’re starting with a story on this one, so make yourself comfortable and we’ll begin:

Are you a potato, egg or coffee bean?

Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn’t know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed. Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire.

Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot and ground coffee beans in the third pot. He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter. The daughter, moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup. Turning to her, he asked. “Daughter, what do you see?” “Potatoes, eggs and coffee,” she hastily replied. “Look closer”, he said, “and touch the potatoes.” She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face. “Father, what does this mean?” she asked. He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity-the boiling water. However, each one reacted differently. The potato went in strong, hard and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak. The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard. However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new. “Which one are you?” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

The nature of the tourism and visitor economy is such that it can swing from one extreme to another – from being extremely busy and trying to juggle the staffing rota to keep up, to being somewhat quieter and having concerns as to how the bills will be met. Obviously these are extremes, and for the majority of businesses, most of the time is a happy medium between the two.

That said, when the pressure does step up a gear or two, how do you respond? Do you let it get the better of you and get beaten by it, similar to the potato, or do you become hardened and difficult to engage with, somewhat like the egg? Or perhaps you take on some of the characteristics of the coffee beans, and allow the pressure to provide a means by which you can develop something new, something different, or to bring it to a slightly more realistic footing you do what you do differently.

The marketplace tourism businesses operate in is changing rapidly as customer expectation and demand shifts dependant on a number of factors, not least economic ones. It can be hard to keep up, let alone try and get ahead of the game in terms of delivering something that wows the visitor. However, thinking back to the coffee beans, challenges bring opportunities – take for example some well known local attractions such as Oakwood Theme Park and Folly Farm, both of which came into being as a result of diversification from the agricultural sector when the pressure within that sector lead to some difficult decisions needing to be made.

At present, the challenges come in the shape of continuing, if low level, economic uncertainty, and a backdrop of diminishing public sector resources amongst others. However, this provides a great opportunity for businesses to consider how they are operating and who they are working with and against. For example, each individual business will have a set amount for marketing, and that will only go so far. If they get together with colleagues in other businesses that compliment their offering, the pool of resources can enable a much larger marketing campaign to be undertaken that will provide benefit for each business over and above what could have been otherwise achieved.

Of course, different things work for different businesses, and sometimes it’s a case of trial and error to determine the best way forward. On that note, why not take a moment to grab a cup of coffee, and whilst doing so, think about how you react when the pressure reaches boiling point.


First posted on The Pembrokeshire Tourism Blog

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