Tampa Florida my home town is fortunate to have a new place for breakfast, lunch, high-tea and power meetings. The place is called The Oxford Exchange and it is the brain child of veteran restaurant owner Blake Casper, who with his family own 52 other restaurants, all of them McDonald’s.
The hip yet very quaint establishment occupies 24,000 feet of space in a 100 year old historic building on the edge of downtown. Every detail is thoughtfully executed and creates a journey full of culinary flavors, architectural beauty and intellectual stimulation.
The Oxford Exchange offers guests a unique mix of great meals, lifestyle boutique shopping, a rare book store, a coffee and tea emporium and an exclusive member-only “Commerce Club” with meeting and working spaces, The hospitality destination delivers a wonderful experience and does not serve one drop of alcohol.
Who would have thought this unorthodox business model would be such a home run. Well it is. In fact, I’ve never been there when it was anything less than totally packed. The mash up of old meets new is interesting, distinct and a restaurant brand with a very bright future.
Watch ABC news clip to get a better feel.
Takeaways and inspiration from my recent visits.
1) The concept is pure, consistent and distinct.
This classic European library meets modern gathering spot blends high style design elements with great farm to table food, two extensive and local offering caffeine cafes (Buddy Brew and Tebella). Nothing is out place. Every detail is perfectly aligned with the brand and most importantly The Oxford Exchange is an original concept. Plus the menu offers many interesting and unique signature food and beverage items.
Restaurants that dare to do something really fresh own 500% of their brand turf without fear of “me, too’s”.
2) The brand experience starts and ends with the environment.
Every inch of the place works to build a brand story of intellectual and social interchange. Each service area delivers memorable experiences through strategic touch points, from traditional furnishings, to exquisite art and well-placed table accessories to eclectic merchandise spanning from home wares to fashion in the boutique.
Restaurants that invest heavily in every detail of their environment operate from a solid foundation to build lasting brand. Below is how their guest checks are presented, in a vintage book.
3) The staff is well-informed, helpful and operates from one common page of excellence in hospitality.
The Oxford Exchange is not your average restaurant as it offers several unique spend and hang out zones, two dining rooms, “the Commerce Club” meeting and work space level, the two shopping venues (the book store and gift boutique) along with the all-around social coffee and tea sipping areas. With these very different kinds of service areas I was impressed the staff was equally informed and helpful in all of the different areas.
Restaurants that make training a priority not only build teams of great servers, but of brand ambassadors.
The Oxford Exchange should be commended for bringing this cool new restaurant brand to life. I’ve been back weekly since my first visit and joined the Commerce Club too. The Commerce Club charges a minimal monthly fee for the privilege of meeting room access and a member only community work area complete with a business center, private phone rooms and seating.
In my book the place gets an almost perfect score. Except for one short coming from a brand impression standpoint, their Website is a bit on the light side. No photos, no personality, minimal copy and no social bugs that invite a visitor to connect. Maybe a work in progress or maybe the missing online experience is part of a deeper mystery strategy and hipster appeal. ;)
Anyhow, if you are in Tampa and you want to experience very cool restaurant and brand you should definitely check this place out.
Posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 at 5:04 pm and filed under Restaurant branding.