Booze cruise vs hipster cafe – what’s a good business model?

Riga Tallink

Urban Deli Stockholm

Travelling is a great time to explore, learn new things and broaden your perspective. A seemingly simple weekend away to Helsinki via Stockholm led me questioning what makes a good business model.

In Sweden, it’s popular for people (especially exchange students) to go on affectionately-named booze cruises. For super cheap prices (20-30euro), you can have a 3 day 2 night return trip across the Baltic Sea, with a room in an overnight ferry and a day in another city (eg Helsinki, if you’re travelling from Stockholm). However, as one of my local friends told me,

“You don’t go on those cruises to travel. You go on them to drink”.

Sure, travelling is great but the tax-free shopping on these cruises is what people really love. With alcohol prices sky high in Sweden, people go on these cruises to party and to stock up on their alcohol supply. The ticket to get on the boat is dirt cheap, but then the companies make money off what they sell you on board. The prices on board aren’t that cheap, but so long as they’re lower than the products on the mainland which have 25% tax, people will buy. Passengers don’t want to spend their time in their cramped and uncomfortable rooms with poor wifi connection. They’re encouraged to explore the boat – all the restaurants, bars, casinos, saunas and shops that are waiting for their money. The boats go quite slowly – but who cares? More time to spend at the bar on board!

The people running these cruise companies have really designed the whole experience so that they will earn a lot of money out of bored passengers. It’s quite amazing how well they can make money off others.

But can you really call this a good business model? In my opinion, it’s encouraging bad behaviour – such as impulse spending and alcohol abuse. Decisions which aren’t necessarily good for their wellbeing.

On the other hand, after I stepped off the booze cruise from Helsinki, I went to eat at one of my favourite food places in Stockholm – Urban Deli. They have a really good deal for breakfast. For 75kr (approximately 12AUD) I can get a freshly brewed coffee, egg and make my own sandwich from an array of bread, jam and produce choices from their deli. Most of their ingredients are organic, local or fair trade. (I would expect to pay 75kr for a sandwich with low quality ingredients elsewhere.)

In my opinion, they offer such a good deal because their breakfast essentially allows customers to try the produce they sell in their deli. They’re making their money from their deli, not the breakfast. By having a low cost breakfast, it will attract potential deli customers to try their food products. Working at an organic food truck in Sydney, I have seen quite a few customers walk away from us due to a negative preconception that organic food is gross and over-priced. Potential customers who would have initially been put off by the high prices of their organic and fair trade products, can first try it and experience first hand how good their products are.

This is a business model I support! Not only is it profitable for Urban Deli, it encourages good consumer buying decisions. I think more people should buy more local, organic and fair trade produce – it’s good for your health, good for the environment, good for communities and it tastes better! Good on you, Urban Deli, for encouraging people to buy such produce.

So what makes a business model ‘good’? Is it just about the profit of the company? Or can we also consider the consumer purchase decisions and behaviour involved?

Also, what makes a consumer decision ‘good’? Who is to say definitively that buying excessive alcohol is bad and buying organic food is good?

I’m keen to hear your thoughts and discuss further so please leave a comment below or feel free to message me.

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4 Comments

  1. I think it’s not so much about business model but about business practice.

    You might say that a booze cruise has an unethical practice or way of conducting business, but it is neither illegitimate or ineffective. In fact it’s probably more profitable or effective than the deli. Which itself has a good business model and ‘ethical’ practice that is suited more to the, shall we say, sustainable well-being of its patrons.

    Relating this to Sydney, I feel as though they kind of beat you over the head with it’s vego, organic and fair trade stuff, especially from a financial perspective. They give it a high and mighty look, over complicated foods when it could just be a nice, cheese and spinach toastie. That being, Sydney is pricey in any which way. Can’t help that.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Bryan! But that’s exactly what I want – a nice, cheese and spinach toastie with good quality ingredients. I made french toast with organic eggs for the first time in a while this morning. Definitely tasted better than non-organic eggs!

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  2. Sandra! You are so insightful. I’m curious as to how you know what a booze cruise is and what you were doing on it. However, you raise some very thought provoking questions about how businesses operate. The business practice of “triple bottom line” is still a dream away for many. It’s great that companies like Urban Deli are adopting these strategies, but ultimately it is us, the consumer who are to blame. Where consumers choose to spend their money will create the market for booze cruises and the like. The cycle of self-propagation begins – consumers are drawn in by the cheap alcohol and entertainment, and in turn drive the market for more businesses of this kind. It means that our choices today really do affect tomorrow. I hope that you and your many readers will carefully consider their spending habits, and instead make the world a better place.

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    1. Hey Jono, thanks for the comment! Lol I went on the cruise with my parents to Helsinki over a weekend (by far the cheapest way to go to Helsinki).

      I definitely agree with you. Now that I’m buying my own groceries I can see how easy it is to make bad decisions and buy the cheap and easy thing, rather than the healthy or sustainable option that is better for us and the world in the long term.

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