Chapter 5: The Best Service

Every time a person walks in that door they are offering you the opportunity to serve them for life. The best service you can provide is a superior product. And that will often draw an intense following all by itself. The second most important thing any coffee shop proprietor can do is make it easy to visit.

I recall one such shop that absolutely understood how to make it easy to visit. In a town with half a dozen chain coffee houses, this independent location

consistently made money. They knew what it took to make it easy to visit. It was centrally located in a picturesque downtown of a sleepy beach community. It was a frequent destination for townies as well as the seasonal visitors. It had good parking so that the people who worked in the business park on down Main Street could visit and collect their favorite drinks on a break.

The appearance of the store attracted customers, as did their clever name, where the “O” was replaced with a coffee bean. Inside was cozy, which served two purposes. It encouraged people who were in a hurry to come in, get their drink and head out. It gave the

other customers a cool place to hang out, meet friends and enjoy themselves while having a cup.

This store understood the lifetime value of a customer. They created weekday specials and leveraged partnerships with local businesses to encourage customers to return. They employed surveys not only to solicit feedback from customers, but to bring customers back again and again.

I’d like to tell you that you only need to make great coffee to ensure frequent patronage. As much as that helps, you need a hook that keeps people coming

back. The first and most obvious one is a friendly staff. One shop I frequented had a true genius in their employ. He understood how to balance flavors brilliantly and created handcrafted beverages that his customers came back for. But his skill was not an inborn gift. It was something he learned through trial and error and most importantly by engaging the customers to ask what they liked.

When I met the owner I asked how she had lucked upon such an employee. She told me that her goal in hiring her team was to give them the ability to be themselves. They didn’t have to conform to what she thought was best. As long as

their customers liked the service they received, she made it clear the team would be rewarded. She empowered her team and her team ran with it.

Service is not just getting them in the door, time and again. It is more frequently about the little touches. Busy coffee shops have lines. Just like every other popular destination. The best service you can provide a customer who has been standing in line is a smile and ease of payment. Coffee is high enough margin that accepting any common credit card will not erode margins. Likewise, offering more modern options such as PayPal, RFID credit card payments and payments off mobile devices will give your customers plenty of options.

One of the best laid out stores I ever visited focused attention to the register and drink bar. The entrances led right past the seating area. As a result most customers would get their drink and snack and look over at the seating area before leaving. The owner had done something very clever that I complimented him on. He had made the seating area seem like the kids table at a family dinner. Out of the way, isolated and where the cool kids would never sit. The few people who did sit there used the space to conduct meetings. But most customers were quickly in and out of the store.

This may seem counterintuitive, but keep this in mind. Slow sippers perched on poofs give a café ambience. But they are expensive customers compared to the ones who leave moments after arrival. Your best customers are the ones who show up frequently and never overstay their welcome.

Finally, the best mark of service in any coffee shop is showing your team and your customers that you are involved. Coffee is so much more than a drink. It’s a diversion, a passion and a pleasure. The more you show your team that you are customer focused, the more they will follow your lead. Likewise, your

customers will feel your intent. And that will make your café seem more like the place they always want to visit.

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