hot drinks stand - good, cheap and fast

I love this. We offer three types of service, good, cheap and fast – and you can choose two.

Good, cheap and fast

Image from

  • Good and fast won’t be cheap
  • Fast and cheap won’t be good
  • Cheap and good won’t be fast 

Of course a lot of clients want all three. But very often, for a client, the defining question is ‘Can you do this?’ rather than ‘How much will it cost?’, and it’s key to be able to recognise this when defining the scope of a project.

hot drinks stand

So, in this post I’m going to apply cheap, fast and good to the hot drinks stand example I wrote about here

A client is running an outdoor event tomorrow – a winter’s evening – and they want a hot drinks stand. For whatever reason they’ve only just worked this out now. You agree, in the time allowing, you can only make this work if you just sell teas, coffees and hot chocolate. The client says, as long as it’s good, I don’t care about the cost. What does this give you licence to do?

good and fast

You can go and source the best ingredients you can. You don’t need to worry about cost, so you don’t need to freak about needing to negotiate, or to seek a discount for a bulk purchase. You buy as much as you think you possibly need, stick a 50% contingency on top, aim to haggle obviously, but in the end it’s more important you pay the price needed to secure what you need.

Heating water and milk. You’re going to need lots of water. So you’ll need a large urn. Maybe you hire a coffee machine. Maybe you outsource the whole operation and secure someone who’s got the whole solution in a trailer or van.

Taking money. You just going to take cash? What about if someone wants to pay by card, can’t, and is then really disappointed they can’t get a drink?  That could put a downer on the whole event.

Power. Heating water uses a lot of power – heating lots of water needs lots of power. You need a generator. A gas one. A quiet one. With spare gas.

Weather. It’s winter. It could rain, or be really windy. You’re going to need some shelter. Better get a little marquee. Make it a sturdy one mind, you don’t want it blowing over.

Ambience. Now you’ve got the practicalities sorted out, what about some chairs, heaters, tables, decorations, biscuits – lots of detail – the list could go on…

fast and cheap

Now let’s assume the client wants fast and cheap. You get a few kettles, daisy-chain a bunch of extension leads across a field into a single socket in the building. Use that cheap gazebo you got from Argos, the one you lost the tent pegs for. Instant coffee all round. No decaff. Hot chocolate made with water, not milk, because you can’t heat both. It’s cash only and there are no nice details. 

This is going to be no good. It’s almost so no good it’s don’t bother, or it’s time for a plan B.

cheap and good

“But the hot drinks stand is integral to my event,” says the client, “I can’t go ahead without it – it has to be good, but my budget’s my budget.” Then we say, you need to postpone it and give us more time.

That allows you time to source ingredients of the same quality, but gives you the time to research and shop around as well as negotiate a better deal.

You can think more about the practicalities of heating water and milk. You can maybe convince the client it’s worth investing in 3-phase power for their building so they can run these events in the future, indoors and out.

You don’t have the money for a marquee still – but on ringing around a few places, you find the local church is only too happy to lend you theirs.

And on the finer details, everyone pitches in.

and i think the learn is?

More than a client choosing two from three, it’s often a case of knowing how to manage the trade-off of the missing third, and setting careful expectation around that – and that depends on being absolutely clear about objectives and outcomes.

What do you think? Please do tell us in the comments below.

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