In my experience there are three unchanging facts about the coffee business:
- Coffee is a high margin product.
- People want to buy coffee.
- People pay more for coffee that they perceive to be of a better quality.
With the relatively low cost of good coffee equipment and products compared to the high revenue it can generate we should accept that a profitable and quality coffee offer is within the reach of all businesses, be they hospitality, catering or retail focused.
Many businesses successfully sell the privilege of sitting on their sofas and listening to their music making customers believe that is what good coffee is all about, but if your business can offer something that tastes better then I believe that people will naturally return to it.
If you're happy you've brought your product to a high enough standard, then the next challenge is getting people to taste it â¦ people pay more for what they perceive to be better but that doesn't always reflect the quality in the cup.
If you have 800 stores and a large marketing budget you could try to compete with established brands, telling everyone how fabulous your coffee is with newspaper advertising campaigns and messages on every delivery truck. But you don't necessarily need a big budget to bring customers through the doors and keep them there.
The cleanliness of your crockery, the visual appeal of the drink, and the expression on your waiting staffs' faces all influence how your customer values your coffee - and all are free. As with all food and drink it is a multi-sensory experience and anything extra you can do without increasing your costs improves the offer.
Use your staff to communicate how great your product is - get them to taste it and then get them to sell it. Give a cup away for free and see what happens - try a quick call to the local paper to say you are doing free coffee for one hour on Wednesday morning. Equally a member of staff standing outside your store with a tray of samples is an effective tactic if you are really selling your coffee on its taste.
If you believe in your product then shout about it, especially if you are not well known for your hot beverages. You need to be enthusiastic and engaging in order to encourage that first taste - remember people buy into people first and product second.
If you put enough effort into your customers then you could soon be seeing them again with a group of friends, or booking a table, a room, a conference or a wedding at your outlet or venue, purely on the strength of your coffee born relationship - coffee really is big business.
Dale Harris, First Choice Coffee coffee guru