Yesterday, we landed in São Paulo, Brazil for a short layover before a conference. As you can imagine, everyone was exhausted BUT I had arranged for a half-day tour of the city before we left the next day. The airport wasn’t necessarily very efficient, and it didn’t help that we left Newark almost 3 hours late, so we ended up being the last ones out of the airport.

Our guide was a lovely man, Eduardo, who was diligently waiting to pick us up from the airport. He took us to our hotel and asked us to quickly change. A 7am arrival ended up being 12:45pm and now we were rushing for our tour. We had been told that the tour ends at 5pm once it gets dark, so the clock was ticking.

You can probably imagine me, rushing my kids and Sunny to quickly change. No time to eat. “Let’s go.” At a quarter past one, we all roll back into the car, having dropped our luggage off and freshened up, and were ready to start.

We are also very hungry. We ask Eduardo if there was a quick place for us to stop and grab a snack. He takes us to this lovely local bakery that is actually quite busy. We are about to enter the door and they have a turnstile, interesting, but not unusual. However, the turnstile won’t move until you pull out a numbered magnetic tile. Each person has to get their own. Only then will the turnstile allow you to enter.

Once you are inside, there are counters filled with baked goods. Counter after counter with different options. It smelled so good, and there was an abundance of options everywhere – for a cookie lover like me – we were in heaven. When we would go to order an item, they would ask us for our magnetic tile. They would scan it, and then give us our food. We could go to any counter we wanted, order anything, scan our card and take it. We then sat down to eat.

There must have been at least 70 people in this small bakery sitting at the tables and lounging. Once we were done eating, we headed towards the exit and that’s where the cash registers were located. The cashier scanned each of the tiles and told us our total bill. Once we had paid, you had to hand each person back their tile in order to exit the turnstiles. You would insert the tile into the slot on the turnstile, it would turn green, and only then could you exit.

I was quite surprised and impressed how this small bakery in the middle of São Paulo had adapted to new technology in order to streamline their process and reduce theft. As a result of this efficiency, and security, people felt more comfortable sitting and eating in the bakery. So what did I learn?

  1. No matter your size, there is always an opportunity to innovate.
  2. Embracing new technology allows you to create more efficient systems.
  3. Innovation and efficiency can lead to positive by-products for both you and your customers.

I was upset that I didn’t get time to take a picture of this little gem to share with all of you.  With all of the buzzwords in our industry about AI and embracing change, I’ll be honest, I was a little hesitant. But this little bakery teaches us that even the smallest of companies can leverage innovation to do great things.

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