Office Mystery . . .

Like AT&T, Isle Concierge is raising the bar.

Generally, usually, mostly . . . we like to keep our office in good standing order. Sitting in the office late last week Friday though, I finally noticed that all our staplers in the office had been sitting on our counter all nicely together for pretty much the entire week… a week that was anything but orderly. Now there are several things that are pre-determined or planned in our office, but then there are moments like these… completely random moments of order amongst the insanity. It’s a mystery.

We learned a lot this week… not fun learnings… it was the growing kind. It was pandemonium, a madhouse, re-donk-ulous or that’s how I felt it was. When I revisit this week, I think of explosions and headaches… but amongst that, our three little staplers ended up in complete order? What does it mean? Perhaps it is a reminder that though we may think everything is in disarray, it’s not so…. there were no explosions, no riots, and certainly no wounds. Or are these three little staplers a reference to AT&T’s ever so famous slogan “Raising the bar” and in that sense, this week we have raised the bar through the different experiences and craziness? This could be a possibility too because all this learning has led to upgrades in our system… hmmmmm…

Blame it on one of our OCD staff members (which one? we don’t know… we’re all a little OCD) or on coincidence or on the fact that I am truly exhausted, but these little staplers have led me to realize something about us this week.  Our team has somehow established control and focus amongst our chaos… maybe it was always there and we never paid attention to it, but now it has my full attention. We are also raising the bar everyday through the many random things we help people do. Today it was tying bows on boxes (which is not as easy as you think) that were much too small. Next week it could be folding 1,000 origami cranes for a wedding. Whatever it may be, we will learn to do it and perfect it… that’s how we’re raising the bar.

You marinade on that… and if it doesn’t make any sense don’t worry, you’re not alone.

. . . burning the midnight oil, after hours.

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Custom Chocolate Creations

About two months ago I heard about Chocomize, an online company that allows you custom create your own chocolate bars. Being a concierge company, I thought a little research into these custom creations was in order. You know, so that we can offer our clients something different (what can I say, I’m a dedicated guy).

Just log on to their website and you’ll be guided through the step by step process of creating your bar. You start off by picking what chocolate you want to have for your bar (dark, milk, white) then choose up to five ingredients (or toppings) to go on your bar from about 100 different options. They have almost anything you can think of to put on a candy bar; nuts & seeds, fruit, herbs & spices, candy, decorations, and more! One bar can run you anywhere from  $5-$15, depending on your selections (and not including shipping). While this may seem like a lot to pay for a candy bar, you have to remember that what you’re paying for is the customization. And at less than $20, I definitely think you’re getting a deal.

So what did I end up with when I finally got my delicious goodies, er, I mean research? Take a look:

The bars are packaged beautifully and securely in their shipping boxes. Check out the sticker indicating that the contents of the box should be protected from heat.

Opening up the box yields a tightly packed insulated bubble wrap bag.

Inside the padded bag the bars are packed between two ice packs.

Once everything is unwrapped you finally get the the nicely packaged bars of your order and ice packs.

Flipping the packing over gives you information on just how much care went into creating your order.

For the health conscious there is nutritional information on the back also listing possible allergies.

To really get a good feel for what Chocomize could do, I decided to order two bars.

The first was a white chocolate bar (pictured above). What goes good with white chocolate? What else other than Oreo cookies. As for the rest of the ingredients, I decided to add some color to the bar so I threw on M&Ms and rainbow sprinkles. I have to say, when you take it out of the box for the first time, you are blown away by the visual presentation of what you just got.

For my second bar (pictured below), I went with the traditional milk chocolate. The milk chocolate bar had more of my favorites: toffee, graham crackers, and hazelnuts. As you can see from the pictures the milk chocolate bar wasn’t as flashy as the white chocolate, but I definitely liked it better.

So how did the bars taste? They’re pretty good. The quality of chocolate they use is pretty good on it’s own. And while I can’t speak for the tons of different ingredients on the site, the ones that I did get on my bars were on par with how they would taste if you had bought them separately in the store. Though, it all depends of what combination you go for.

Half the fun though is simply trying to figure out what kind of bar you’re going to make and then seeing it for the first time when you open up your package. If you want party favors or giveaways that are a bit more different and unique, then Chocomize might be the answer.

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We’re Official

A new sign under our long standing logo declares that our office is the "Concierge & Information Center" for Waterfront Plaza.

“What do you do here?” That’s a question we frequently get at our office at Waterfront Plaza (the complex formerly known as Restaurant Row). With our office being on the ground floor and relatively high foot traffic that passes us by on a daily basis, each of us that works in the office usually has a stock response prepared for just such questions.

While answering this question comes with the territory of being a concierge, there are times when I just wish people understood that what we do is similar to services provided by the concierge at any hotel or resort you would stay at while on vacation . . . we provide help, information, and special expertise to the tenants, employees, and visitors to the property.

Well, to give passers by a better idea of what we do, we decided to have a new sign installed in our window. Though not as big as originally conceived, we hope that our new “Waterfront Plaza Concierge & Information Center” sign helps convey the message to everyone that we’re here to provide help and service.

And let me tell you something, it seems to be working. During the installation of the sign (the sign wasn’t even fully up yet), people started looking at it and came in to ask for directions for a tenant on property. YAHTZEE! The sign started paying for itself immediately! They saw the sign, understood it, and came in to ask for directions. Once the sign was finally up we did see a higher amount of walk in traffic the rest of the day.

Here’s hoping that in the coming days and weeks we have to answer less “What do you do here” questions.

Our sign guy Tim from TLT Designs installing our new window sign.

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My Life . . . In Little Itty Bitty Cups

You’ve seen them. You know, those people at the store. Hell, you may even look forward to seeing them . . . people giving out samples.

In January we took on a special marketing job for two mainland clients sampling their products in Kmart and Sam’s Club. In broad terms we were going to be the face of our clients in the marketplace since they could not be here themselves. Believe it or not, this is a fairly common practice since I hear that stores that do provide this type of service to vendors tend to charge a lot of money for the store to do it. Enter Isle Concierge.

Before I get any further let me tell you a little about the products we were sampling:

The first was mix1 (@mix1), a protein and anti-oxidant drink that comes in five different flavors and is packaged in brightly colored bottles. For those that may not know, it’s protein based so it has it’s own distinct taste if you haven’t had protein based products. This is something you would drink as a meal on the go or would be good to drink after work outs. The second product was Bora Bora (@BoraBoraFoods) bars which are nutritional bars made up of all organic ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, and grains. While they come in seven different varieties, we were only going to be sampling two types: Exotic Coconut Almond and Wild Pomegranate Pecan.

Believe it or not putting on a sampling, or ‘roadshow’ as it is sometimes called, takes more work than you would think.

Prep Work Involved:

  1. Knowledge :: Since this wasn’t our product we had to learn about it and even try the product before we could go into stores and sample it. There’s no worse situation to be in than being out on the floor when someone comes up to you and asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have the company that we’re sampling for provide us with information, brochures, handouts, or talking points for us to go over. Sometimes we don’t have this luxury and have to do research about a product on the company’s website. Whatever the case may be, knowing about the product being sampled is probably the most essential component of the whole operation.
  2. Logistics :: This involves knowing how much product you are going to have on hand to sample, knowing who store contacts are, knowing what kind of manpower you have, knowing what the timeline and dates for sampling are, supplies you are going to need on hand, and everything that goes with planning an event is all taken into account to make sure things run smoothly. Ideally you would like to just show up when required, pass out samples, and call it a day when done–no muss, no fuss.
  3. Presentation/Decor :: Perhaps you didn’t notice it at the time, but everything has a look. Any brand or product worth a grain of salt has a way that they want their product to be portrayed. Whether it’s a big tent or banners with the product’s name on it or, just the way the table is dressed, how the product is presented can sometimes be just as important as the product itself. Having whatever you need to present your product can be key to sampling.

Table presentation for Bora Bora was pretty extensive with having to convey a tropical feel at the table, hence the skirt, tropical table cloth, and faux lei.

Then we have the actual sampling itself. Now in my humble opinion, the goal of a sampling isn’t so much to sell the product to people (although that is a very important secondary goal) as it is to educate people about the product. Let’s face it, aside from those impulse buys near the checkout stand, how many of us actually buy food that we’ve never tried before? That is why samplings are so important–if you can have someone try out the product before buying it, and they like it, it’s not going to be a stretch for a customer to pick it up and throw it in their cart.

Prime location near the front of Sam's Club Ke‘eaumoku.

Of course the thing that will make or break any sampling is same as in real estate: location, location, location. A good location will give you two things: 1) high traffic and 2) high visibility. Near the store entrance, high traffic aisles, and near the registers are the preferred sampling spots. The further away you get from these kinds of areas, the longer your day is going to be.

Not so great table location in Kmart--far away from the front of the store.

Now just because you put food out in little cups for people take, doesn’t mean your job is over. It’s anything but. Here’s a list of people you need to be aware of when you’re behind that sampling table:

  1. The Average Customer :: The average customer is willing to stop at your table, try out the sample, possibly ask a question or two, and continue on their merry way. Let it be known I like average customers. Why? They’re bold enough to come up to the table and be open minded enough to at least try the product. Boldness + Open Mind = GOOD.
  2. The Strong Silent Type :: These customers are the ones that pass you by without looking at you or acknowledging you. It’s not that they’re mean, in fact they might be perfectly hospitable under other circumstances, but on the battlefield in store aisles–it’s war. The key is acknowledging them and inviting them over. Just offer up the courtesy ‘Hello, good morning/afternoon. Would you like to try some _____,’ is sometimes all you need. You might get them to open up, you might not, but anything stronger than this and you’ll lose every time.
  3. The Inquisitive Customer :: You’ll know these customers when you start to get a barrage of questions about the product. These customers could just be really curious or have legitimate health concerns about the product. Whatever the case may be, this is when knowing the product as well as being able to think quickly on your feet is essential. What happens when there’s a question that we can’t answer? That’s impossible because we have an answer for every question. Seriously though, when we are posed a question that we do not know the specific answer to, the follow up answer is generally ‘I’m not sure about that, but you can probably get the answer (here). ‘Here,’ in this case meaning a company website about the product, consulting with a doctor or nutritionist, or some other avenue where a customer can find out that answer. You never want to end with a simple ‘I don’t know.’
  4. Children :: Kids provide their own unique challenges during sampling. Most of the time they tend not to care what they’re trying, they’ll go through multiple samples, and the worst part–they don’t have purchasing power. I always suggest erring on the side of caution when children want to try samples by asking them if it’s ok with their parents (or whoever they’re with) if they can try the samples.
  5. Sample Pirates :: I’m not talking Captain Jack Sparrow here. These customers are the ones that raid your table, but it’s not gold or treasure their after, it’s booty of a different kind . . . in those little cups! It may come in the form of showing up and eating/taking more than two or three samples and continuing on, stopping and pretending to talk with you while they eat multiple cups, or trying to disguise their raid by coming around several times to make it seem like they haven’t taken that many (or even a combination of these tactics). Whatever the case may be, rest assured that they will relieve you of samples. The most you can do is remain vigilant and be aware of them. A good tactic to slow things down is to just to let the samples run out and wait till they move on before restocking.

In any case, giving out samples in little itty bitty cups isn’t something for the faint of heart. It takes time, careful planning, and some comfortable insoles. Remember that next time you go to the store.

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Filed under Thought Process

Tis the Season–Right Now

Life comes at you pretty fast, especially this time of year when there’s parties and celebrations of all types to go to, family gatherings, and don’t forget the Christmas shopping while you’re at it. December has to be the busiest time of year for us here at Isle. This week alone we have three rather large parties that we’re coordinating. Add to that a few meetings, a bump in deliveries, two markets and you have a perfect storm. Don’t believe me? Here’s what we have on our palate for the rest of our week:

If I hadn’t erased Monday and Tuesday already (I was so excited we survived I wanted to ERASE the memory<–see what I did there) there'd be a lot more dry erase ink on our boards. Suffice it to say, I think we might rival Jolly Old St. Nick.

So how do we do it? That is truly where the magic happens. It really comes down to two things: scheduling and manpower. Our scheduling is crucial in making sure everything in our day is possible. Things like a simple delivery to making baskets–everything gets logged somewhere on our calendar. From there, tasks are assigned but most of the time our staff pretty much knows who is responsible for what. Then there's the manpower. Luckily with UH in finals week, most of our part time staff is available to work extra hours.

Here's a few glimpses from the past week and what's been keeping us busy:

Set up from yesterday's tenant appreciation celebration at the Bank of Hawaii Waikiki Center

Our 50 basket pick up from Kapuakea today.

And here are all the Angel Tree donations we've been collecting at Waterfront Plaza as well as gift basket orders.

Of course I could go on . . . but I hear the prancing and pawing of little hoofs.

Happy holidays everyone!

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Filed under Out & About, Thought Process

November Nom Noms

Oh November… I’m so excited you’re here. Though Hawaii locals don’t feel the seasons, I always know when the Holidays are nearing. It’s not the overcast skies or the sun setting sooner, it’s food. For some reason, once Halloween is over I feel like I start to consume more food… Maybe it’s just me?

I think it’s because we know the biggest food fare of all is upon us this month… yes, Thanksgiving.

*happy dance*

In honor of November and the feasts to come, let me get your appetites going with my 2 favorite foodie sites…. WARNING: proceeding past this point will make you hungry. If you are on a diet, please close your window. Thank you.

Tastespotting.com & Foodgawker.com

Tastespotting Screen Shot

I discovered Tastespotting.com in the Fall of 2007 while I was hungry :) The site was stunning. Beautifully composed pictures of culinary treats that made me wish I could 1) cook something so delicious and 2) take such beautiful photos. This is one of those great accomplishments of the social media! It has brought together people from all over the world who love food and photography and given them a platform to display their works of art. The even better part is Tastespotting.com’s tagline… “A Community Driven Visual Potluck”. Snaps to you Tastespotting…. that was a good one.

Tastespotting is addicting… Thus, in June of 2008 when a note was put up on their site saying it would be shut down, the online foodie community died a little inside. People were shocked, others were extremely sad… I personally was going through withdrawals. Where were we going to get our fix?

Food Gawker Screen Shot

A day later Foodgawker.com was born. Foodgawker is an almost exact replica of Tastespotting… delicious looking food photographed like supermodels (or as other bloggers have put it “Food Porn”). Our foodie lives were saved and the community returned to its contributions of foodie pics, and people like me visually feasted. Everything started to feel normal again, but then another surprise!! Tastespotting was resurrected a few weeks later! *sigh* Long story short, we now have two equally fabulous foodie sites allowing everyday people to share their beautiful food with fans of all culinary creations. Do I have a favorite? Not really. I don’t discriminate when it comes to food :)

So if you feel yourself having a case of the Mondays, don’t fret… stroll on over to Tastespotting or Foodgawker and take a visual bite. You’re bound to stumble across something that will lift your spirits and get you through the work week. Something like this…

Food Gawker Doggie Shaped Cookies

Have a great week!

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Filed under Chit Chat, Foodie, Thought Process

Baby Cake Boom

love_cupcake

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Cupcakes that make people crazy happy. They’re such happy looking baked goods that are in the perfect portion for indulging without going overboard. What’s not to love?

Though cupcakes have been found at bakeries all over, there is one company that truly put baby cakes on the map. It began in Beverly Hills when Candace Nelson and her husband set out to make a shop specifically for cupcakes and cupcakes alone. Partner the cuteness of these little cups of joy with the high profile location of Beverly Hills, a slew of celebrities, and Oprah… Boom! goes the dynamite. Cupcake nation was born.

Hokulani Cupcake Film

While Sprinkles took over the cupcake scene in the mainland, a similar husband and wife team was bringing the cupcake craze to Honolulu. Ana & Tushar Dubey opened Hokulani Bakeshop in 2005 and have been cranking out decadent morsels ever since. I’m sure you’ve heard about their infamous red velvet that has brought many island locals to their knees… or you’ve been one of those lucky people that have been taken a back by their amazing cream cheese frosting.

Well cupcake fans that work in Downtown Honolulu, indulgence is coming to your neighborhood. This week opens a new chapter for Hokulani Bakeshop as they open their second location at Pioneer Plaza (in the former San Francisco Salad Company space). I can hear all you downtown workers doing a little dance and getting all giddy. Don’t freak out… that’s natural…. it’s one of those cupcake side effects.

Be sure to see what their Grand Opening week at Pioneer Plaza has in store. I’m sure you’ll walk away with a smile on your face :)

Hokulani Bakeshop at Pioneer Plaza
808-537-CAKE
http://www.hokulanibakeshop.com

p.s.- This isn’t the end of cupcake news in the downtown area… another cupcake shop is coming to your neck of the woods, but that post is for another day.

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