Today I happened to pass a restaurant over in Potrero Hill that caught my attention. It was a hole-in-the-wall deli with practically no seating. But next door was a spacious cafe with slim pickings for lunch. People were buying their sandwiches and then walking next door to eat them at the cafe where they could buy a magazine or some coffee.
For me, this symbiotic relationship was fascinating. It made me think of other examples of businesses working together. The first one that popped into my head was a parking garage in Kansas City. When I worked at d3 we often stayed late and the garage attendants would simply leave our car keys at the bar next door. We had to stop by and dig them out of a bowl on the counter. That might have been more parasitic than symbiotic, since I’m not sure how much the bar really got out of the deal.
This goes beyond the normal level of business-to-business service interaction. Companies frequently outsource functions like accounting or housekeeping to other service companies if it’s not within their core competency. The restaurant interaction seems at once perfectly balanced and ad hoc.
Anyone have other examples of symbiotic services?