What can a pharmacy learn from a donut shop?

This article, written by Bruce Kneeland, was originally published in a Kneeland’s Notes email in 2019.

Donut shops are everywhere and the template is pretty well established. Find a good location, feature a variety of freshly made donuts displayed on cooking sheets in a clear glass case. Then sell them for about a buck a piece. People come in, point and tell the clerk which donuts they want.

The clerk puts them in a bag or a box depending on how many you buy. The customer pays at a non-descript cash register and leaves. If the shop is lucky customers will also purchase a cup of coffee, carton of milk or a soda. It happens millions of times every day.

Well, the owners of Blue Star Donuts decided, if done right, that some consumers would be willing to pay $3.50 for a donut. Yes, that’s right $3.50 each. And, if you want to buy any at their downtown Portland, Oregon, location one morning, you need to be prepared to stand in line.

Now the people who started Blue Star Donuts knew that charging $3.50 for a donut would be a challenge. So, they crafted a story line, designed a nicer looking store and built their donut shops around the idea of Quality over Quantity.

One of the first things you see when you walk into their shop is the Quality over Quantity sign that also fully explains why their donuts are worth the extra cost.

To justify the price, they knew they needed to offer better ingredients, unique flavors and present them in a totally different manner. Instead of hundreds of donuts cramped together on a pan in the display case, each Blue Star donut is put on a fancy looking paper liner before being put on display. A simple but effective way to enhance the donut’s appearance.

They have conjured up flavors not found in other donut shops, such as; Blueberry Bourbon Basil, Passion Fruit Cocoa Nibs or Hard Apple Cider Fritter. And, yes, the sugary glaze on the apple fritter actually has real hard apple cider. You can check them out at: www.bluestardonuts.com

So, what’s the lesson for a community pharmacy?

If you want to improve your profit margins perhaps you can find a way to charge for your unique services, such as professional grade supplements, nutritional programs or smoking cessation classes. To do this, you will need to think about how you present these services so they stand out as special, and convey their value to the consumer and justify the cost.

For example, many people don’t automatically understand the complications of drug nutrient depletion. You may want to do what Ed Snell, of Ed Snell’s Pharmacy in Pocatello, Idaho is doing. He has a well-trained staff member sitting in a special kiosk to help customers with their nutritional questions.

If you have a weight loss program, you might want to do what Vic Allen did in Vic’s Pharmacy in Nampa, Idaho. He enrolled in a commercial program that provides training, technology, professionally packaged foods and supplements; all coupled with a well thought out marketing materials. Then he created a professional room where customers meet with their specially trained consultant and they charge for the service.    

So, here’s the takeaway. Give some serious thought to an enhanced care service you can provide. (Here are 14 clinical services you might consider, as of summer 2022.)

Discuss with your staff the physical changes you should make to your pharmacy to reinforce the value of this new service. Then, carefully craft marketing materials – perhaps you can work with a professional firm – that explains why the services is helpful in a such a way that consumers can understand. It’s a good idea to Introduce the new service to a handful of carefully targeted patients to work out all the bugs. 

You’ll also want to explain the program to family caregivers and to the patient’s prescriber. Finally, make sure that when the service is presented in a totally professional manner. Presentation matters, and that means body language and vocal tone must be done right if you plan to charge for the enhanced care service you are providing. 

Will this work? Yes, I have seen this type of thing being done in many pharmacies. Here’s hoping this short essay helps you improve your pharmacy, both professionally and profitably.