The Pantry v Cactus Club – A tale of two generations?

It’s a wet Saturday afternoon. I wanted to just find some quiet time, eat food, drink some coffee and go deep into a book, I’ve been meaning to read a book for far too long. You get the scene.

I had seen an ad on social media for my local Cactus Club. Happy Hour from three to six. Sounds good! Off I go.

I got there at three…….

There was a lineup, out of the door. When I went in. It was bedlam, there was no way this was the place that I wanted to read my book. I had kind of half hoped for a nice quiet booth, some yummy food & refillable coffee. But no, the place was packed. Good for them! But for me, it was time for plan B

Where to go? Starbucks or another local restaurant?

So I went to a restaurant called The Pantry. Just down the road, good food service, alcohol, refillable coffee. As I walked in, I saw one occupied booth, two elderly people, and that was it. Shortly after I was the only customer in the restaurant. My server was fantastic. My food was good.

reading at book at the Pantry Restaurant over lunch

Don’t judge my plate, it was my cheat day.

Mission accomplished. I read my book, was well fed, enjoyed my refillable coffee, paid my bill and left.

But man, talk about contrast – a tale of two restaurants indeed.

I got to thinking, How can one restaurant, be so busy. Yet, one less than a mile away be as dead as a doornail?

Maybe it’s a generational thing?

Maybe it’s the customer experience?

Maybe it’s a marketing thing?

So I started to look at their marketing. I went to The Pantry. I found their local Facebook page.

the pantry abbotsford facebook screenshot

And the screenshot says it all. Hasn’t been updated for far too long. Truthfully, a social media embarrassment.

I looked them up on Instagram. But of course, they’re not even there. So then I went to the Cactus Club. Now, sure enough, they’re a big chain. But then again the Pantry isn’t that small a chain.

screenshot cactus club facebook page

Talk about chalk and cheese, night and day.

screen shot cactus club instagram page

Is this why the Cactus Club was so busy? And why The Pantry, sadly, might be striving to stay alive?

Sure, people might say, “Oh, they have more money, they have the best real estate! Of course, you know, The Pantry can’t match that.” Really, is that truly the case? Now I know their food offering isn’t the same, it’s comfort food v chique. Sure the decor and customer experience is at least a decade apart. But it was down to flavours and great servers – the Pantry can hold their own. They’re locally-focused and offer great discounts when families eat together.

So then that got me thinking about the death of retail compared to online shopping.

But that’s not what it’s about today in this instance – this is about local customers in a local city.

So then my mind turned to coffee.

Now I like coffee, in fact I love coffee.

And I like Starbucks. It’s easy to order ahead, do drive-thru and go. Whenever I have a local client meeting. I mobile order ahead and then pick up a carafe. It’s brilliant. I was there the other day, my barista was on the camera, looking at me while I was ordering in the drive-thru. Then I was greeted with a warm smile by the same barista at the window.

Starbucks Barista with drive through coffee order

I actually snapped a shot. It was a great experience.

Does that therefore mean that all the only other coffee shops in my local city of Abbotsford are doomed?

I actually know about two other coffee shops with their own bakeries, that are actually thriving. Despite having over five Starbucks in their local area.

One is Duft & Co.

This is a bakery cafe that’s been around a few years. Locally owned, locally run. And I can tell you on a Saturday, there is a lineup around the block. But people are willing to wait to get in, to experience the cafe and sample their amazing baking. Look at their social media, it’s mouth-watering. They totally get it. I love following their daily stories on Instagram


And this is a standalone, local business.

The owners even have their own personal Instagram account, so that you can see what life is like behind the scenes. Whenever they take time off, they travel. The shift goes from the restaurant to the personal. And they do an amazing job of sharing wherever they go around the world on vacation.

screen shot of lifeasduft on instagram
instagram pictures from lifeasduft

I don’t know these people personally. But I respect them immensely. Because they get it. The City gets it.

They sell out every single day!

And yet, other bakeries just close by them are almost empty.

So maybe it isn’t about money, maybe it isn’t about size? Maybe it’s about story. Not only do Duft & Co. make great doughnuts, but they tell & share great stories.

There’s another coffee shop, not a block away it’s called Old hand coffee. And every time I’ve been there, it’s been busy too.

It’s for sure not as iconic as Duft & Co, but I don’t think they try to be. They just authentically share who they are. Their social media is amazing as well. Their Instagram photographs are equally interesting and mouth-watering.

oldhand coffee instagram profile
oldhand coffee instagram picures

It looks like they’re doing great business too.

So before we all say it’s all about size, and all about budget. It’s not. It’s all about story.

And in this instance. The businesses with the Greatest Story Win! Oh, and by the way, Starbucks just closed one of their locations!

I’m constantly inspired by entrepreneurs who get it. We all have the same tools: Facebook, Instagram and Google my Business. All it takes is a good smartphone and a smart, motivated individual.

But isn’t it really just a case of do we care enough to use them?

Good service and good quality are a given. (I loved my time at The Pantry) Of course, you must have these, that’s a given, but that is just not enough in this digitally-driven, story sharing generation. It’s survival of the smartest.

As my friend Mark Schaefer says in his latest book The Marketing Rebellion “The most Human Company Wins”

Coffee anyone?

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