Wacky Business Idea: Service Kiosk

The Kiosk is definitely not a modern dinosaur.

But, when I recently saw an add for a Kiosk location in a subway station that could be leased, I started thinking about how I would run a Kiosk. If you’re curious about these business opportunities, check for available locations: http://urbanis-berlin2.de.

Building on the general Kiosk strengths of convenience and a strong newspaper/magazine market, here’s some of the things/services I would offer in Julian’s Kiosk:

Focus on Regular Customers

Regulars would definitely be treated differently at my Kiosk. I’d have a sign to introduce myself (My name is Julian Dierkes, call me Julian, Herr Dierkes, or Herr Professor Dr. Dierkes, whatever your mood or predisposition [note to self: write that blog post about the confusion of names and informal/formal “you”]) and encourage regulars to do likewise.

I would then start a file for regulars to enable additional services:

  • drop-off/pick-up for services located very near my subway station (this is a subway Kiosk specifically). Dry cleaning? Drop it off with me before 10h, pick it up from the Kiosk after 17h. Likewise with your shoe repairs. Very convenient for you, a little extra business for me (5% service charge on bill, minimum €0.50, maximum €10), and also a little extra business for local services. Wouldn’t require much storage in my very small Kiosk (as small as 4sqm), since I’d collect in the morning, run service items “upstairs”, and collect once in the afternoon. My regulars database would include cell phone/email to confirm pick-up, extra charge for overnight storage.
  • if the dry cleaning worked out, I’d ask the dry-clearner to also accept package deliveries which I would then, again, pick up in the afternoon for after-work pick-up.
  • Other local services? I’ll have to think about that. Maybe food could be delivered for pick up for when locals return home from work? Drop-off for local library?
  • The whole delivery/drop-off/pick-up idea is dependent on a bit of space in the Kiosk, of course.

Amenities for regulars:

  • Some kind of coffee/tea service, though not full-on barista.
  • Obviously, requests from regulars for order of specific magazines/newspapers will be accepted. Also, requests for specific items on sale, like favourite organic candy bars, etc.

Interaction with Customers

To tie customers more to my Kiosk, I would emphasize added services, like entertainment and recommendations. I would work out some kind of cardboard system with different daily (or near-daily) announcements or perhaps rig up some display screens around the Kiosk (especially if it is the island-in-the-middle-of-the-station type location) that I could control from a laptop in my Kiosk. Here are some of the categories of texts/images that I would rotate through:

  • If I was surrounded by newspapers and magazines all day, I would certainly read during lulls in business. That would lead to recommendations of a) articles/news items [“buy today’s XYZ Paper for a great article on ABC on p. 4″], or, b) specific titles [“New magazine: hipster beard care. Great photos, unfortunate focus on Hamburg, not Berlin, good product recommendations”].
  • mini polls on news items
  • tweet/Instagram-of-the-day
  • recommendations for local service businesses/restaurants
  • my recommendations for movies, books, etc.
  • community news, including updates about community sports teams or cultural events
  • headlines from foreign newspapers
  • “good samaritan” awards for community residents

Schemes to encourage reading, thinking and community spirit:

  • one coffee stand at the nearby market has a pay-it-forward scheme where you pay for someone else’s (presumably who can’t afford it) coffee. Could make that a sandwich or newspaper scheme.
  • free newspaper for students, maybe they have to answer a quiz question
  • one express lane for customers on the run who have exact change, the other lane explicitly encourages conversation
  • express lane could be self-serve (if barcode scanning is not required) with a small change jar
  • I’d want to somehow acknowledge the delightful after-work beer on the subway, but wouldn’t want to become a drunkard’s hang-out. Hm… tough balance with alcohol…
  • Something for bike commuters? Hm…

Staffing

I don’t think I want to run this Kiosk by myself. I’d want to open early and stay open late, but am not keen on 16 hr work days, even for retirement. But, for the community centre function, staffing would have to be very regular as well. In order to be able to take occasional holidays, I’d probably need three like-minded self-exploiters.

Small Doubt

I don’t know if there are regulations that would prevent me from doing some of these things under a lease, but as I’m not about to quit my day job, I’ll just dream about my Kiosk.

 

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