WSU MUP Student’s remarks about the changes that occurred over the years at Starbucks, reminded me of a similar situation in the fast food industry. There once was a chain which originated in Kalamazoo called “Hot ‘n Now”. It started as a single store back in the mid 80’s and over the next decade expanded rapidly to a 150 store chain. It began as a double-lane drive-through only restaurant that offered 39 cent hamburgers (and cheeseburgers for 49 cents), fries, and soft drinks. The food was never what one would consider quality but the extreme low price, menu simplicity, and comparatively rapid service (featuring only four basic items on the menu) were the engines that drove the chain’s success initially. During the 90’s the chain was acquired by Pepsi Co. and began offering more numerous and more elaborate menu items at different prices, the rationale being that the stores were doing so well making two cents per sale at high volumes, that they’d make even more money if they could maintain the same volume but make ten cents on each sale. Trouble was, each time they kept making the menu more varied they also added additional complexity to the order delivery system, thereby slowing down service and increasing mistakes. Having royally screwed up the simple initial formula for success, the chain eventually went bankrupt about three years ago.
Seems like we had a discussion on some thread not too long ago about how cable music video channels, like MTV did something similar where they kept offering more and more of the programming typically found on network channels (makes more $$$$) that they eventually stopped playing music videos altogether! The producers at MTV are still making boatloads of money (oh, they did create MTV 2) but the wonderful thing they originally created incrementally ceased to be what it once was.
I guess sometimes the nature of whether change is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder, but incremental change is not limited only to the world of business. Dan’s recent thread about the Green party is testament to this fact. The Green party was all about environmental policy when it began, but in their desperate quest to obtain votes they seem to be hitching their wagon to some questionable mules.
What examples have you seen where something once great, tasty, creative, bold, or somehow otherwise good and wonderful, incrementally changed until it bears little resemblance to its original form?
(bonus points if one somehow uses the name “Van Halen” in their response)