Are You Serving Good Coffee?

On a recent short break I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in a very exclusive mountain lodge in Western North Carolina. Magnificent views, fantastic service, private hot tubs in the rooms, first class restaurant, and a bar with a multitude of fine single malt scotch….. you get the idea.

The first night we had a superb meal followed by drinks and a chat with our fellow guests and a bit of a late night. The next morning feeling a bit fuzzy we wandered down to breakfast looking forward to some great bacon and eggs and a couple of gallons of good coffee. Hey we all know that bacon, eggs and coffee are the only cure for feeling a bit fuzzy!

After ordering breakfast and waiting somewhat impatiently we nearly fell over backwards when on the first sip (even before that because you could smell it) we found that we had been given truck stop coffee! Weak, institutional, probably Robusta beans drained through a recycled paper filter and left to cook for a couple of hours on the hot plate, (my wife calls it schoolhouse coffee and I wonder what type of school she went to!).

The point is that good coffee machines can be bought or leased on a monthly basis or on a per cup basis so easily so why would a high end resort still be serving truck stop coffee? Does the average American or visiting European not complain?

Let’s not stop there. Look at all the great diners that have been around since Buddha was a boy, most of them are the same. Does the general coffee drinking population still think that truck stop coffee is ok? Do that not expect any better from a high end establishment? Am I totally wrong in thinking that most people would prefer a good Arabica blend cappuccino or latte. Maybe it’s the time I spent in Europe where a great coffee costs round about a Euro and it is hard to get a bad cup of coffee.

It is worth the expense to serve a good product not just the food. Your customers will appreciate the change in quality and you don’t have to charge Starbucks prices.

Think I am going to put some more thought into this subject and in future talk about how you might add good coffee to your small restaurant.

New Item Launch…Make It Scarce!

I just heard of the great idea that Chick-Fil-A came up with to market their first new sandwich in decades. An idea easily implemented into your QSR or cafe.

Make it scarce and people will want it!!

They are doing product tests by giving away their new spicy chicken burger for free but they are being smart about it, you have to make a reservation to try the product! This way they can control the flow of customers through the store while getting great media buzz. Brilliant! No doubt this will keep the franchisees a lot happier during peak hours.

Just think about it. National media exposure while controlling the customer flow to the off peak times so that your regulars (paying customers!) are not disadvantaged in any way and you can plan staffing and production for the reservations. This has to be a first for the convenience food industry.

Even after the trials are over, everyone else will want to try it. Keep it to a manageable amount and gain interest for the new product. Apple have been doing it for years with the release of their iphone and now the ipad. Limit the initial stock and people will want it.

Now, how do you translate that to your business? Whether a small franchise or a small business owner this can work for you. Just think smaller. Most businesses will have a data base of some description or a way to get the message to your community. Think Facebook fan page…….

Create a buzz and desire for you new item during your off peak hours……


LSM – The Internet and Marketing Your Business

For this last spot on Local Store Marketing we must talk about keeping up to date with LSM methods and how to reach Gen Y and the ever growing internet market.

This section is mainly for the small business owner or franchisee as 99% of medium to large franchisors will have at least a dedicated web page if not the full range of web related activities.

First up, I am no expert on this subject but do understand the importance of at least a web presence for any small business. So what is a web presence and how do you get one that will suit a small business or a small start up franchise? Well let’s start with a single store small business. Why should you spend time and money on a web presence when you are already well known in your area? Simple, this is the time when you are trying to grow (or at least maintain) your customer numbers and one of the best ways to do that nowadays is on the web.

The minimum you will need is a web page that gives your customers details of who you are, what you do, a menu, store hours and how to contact you. Take a look at some of your competitor’s web pages and work out what you want your page to look like and what information you want to pass along to your customers. Make it customer friendly. Most people know how frustrating it is to find a web page for a large corporation and find that there is no way to actually talk to someone if you want to ask a question. Remember that you are in the hospitality business and the best way to gain new customers is to talk to them personally.

The next step is to find a good web page designer to work with. There are plenty of ways to do this and one way to keep costs down is to look through your local university. If you are on a tight budget, there are students who will often create a website for the cost of your domain registration (web address) and web hosting. The design can be a project for school and the hungry student would be happy with free pizza or coffee vouchers as payment!  Word of mouth is also a good way to find a reliable web developer. Ask other small business owners who have good looking websites for their recommendations. Another way is to do a Google business search for designers in your area. Ask if they will come to visit you and discuss what they can offer. Ideally you want to go with someone whom you can meet personally. Check prices and ask to see web pages they have designed. Check them out and get several quotes from experienced web designers (or hungry students!). This should not cost more than $500 – $1000 (for a more complicated site) for a simple 3-5 page information website. Remember you get what you pay for and be sure to get a commitment for a date of completion.

If you have not gotten a logo or store identity you can check with the folks at 99 designs who have thousands of designers waiting to do great work  for you (they also have web designers, T-shirt designers, etc)!

Additionally you want to make sure that your website can be updated and can grow with your business as well as be used for specials and LSM. A good idea is to run a small in-store promo that asks your customers to leave their business cards in return for a chance to win a small prize, free meal etc. and do it monthly so you can build a data base. You can then use that data base when you have developed your web site by sending the link to those customers with special, promos etc.

Additionally, you should set up a Google business listing and a Facebook fan page. A Google business listing is free and includes a map to your location. With the yellow pages becoming a thing of the past, many people use the internet to find a location and this is a great way to be found. As for the Facebook page; you encourage your regular customers to become fans and you can use this site to highlight special promotions and discount coupons, new menu items, decor changes (you can put pictures up!) and just keep your fans up-to-date with what you are doing.

After writing this I have decided to get a guest blogger in to talk more about meeting with your web developer and what questions to ask  and some buzzwords to make you look and feel more informed before you start your search. Watch this space!

R. Stevens