Chapter 6: The Best Plan

To this point we’ve focused on the fundamentals of creating a thriving coffee shop business. And using this guide you have figured out the type of café you wish to open. You’ve selected a location to accommodate your vision and acquired the tools necessary to produce a superior product. You understand what you are doing, how to do it well and identified the features of your shop that will make it appealing to customers. You’ve also figured out the way to provide superior service in addition to a top-notch product.

It’s time to open the store and allow your plan to make first contact with your customers. Now you’ll re-learneverything. Remember when I called your initial plan fantastic? Here is where your planning and attention to detail will yield to the reality of the market. All your assumptions will be laid to rest and you will need to adapt to reality. One of the ways to ensure that the reality of your opening meets your expectations is through the creation of brand momentum. A store with lots of activity will attract customers eager to see what it’s all about. Additionally, word of mouth is the best form of marketing you can employ.

One of the best ways to capitalize on momentum is through the use of loyalty cards. Encourage frequent revisits. And more than that take a few minutes around your opening to visit local businesses and stores and give the employees some of the loyalty cards for their own use or alternately to give to their customers who look like they need a pick me up. One of the best ways to give one of these customers who walked in with a loyalty card a treat is to punch a few notches after their first trip. You’ve just shown them you want them back in the store. Hand them a new card and ask that they pass it along to a fellow coffee lover.

Along the same lines, promote certain products even at a loss to get people to walk in the door. Have a hump day discount where a cup of coffee is fifty cents on Wednesday afternoons because the work week is fifty percent done. A well-trained team will know that with the inexpensive coffee they should offer higher margin baked goods to balance the sale. Bundling these items together will mitigate the loss you incur on the coffee transaction. More than that it will introduce your customers to new products. Coffee is your main business. It cannot be your only business.

Finally, do not let your search for perfect pairing overwhelm your good judgment. Focus on the right compliments to your coffee offerings and not filling the menu with items that detract from the pure, simple goodness of a great cup of coffee. Even if the big chains want to compete with other quick service restaurant chains, your objective should be a singular pursuit of a great coffee experience. To do anything other than that is to betray the trust your customers place in you. They are looking for different, unique and personal. If they wanted sameness they would have walked by your store for the familiar logo of Chain Brand Coffee, Inc.

As a café proprietor, you will need to continually refresh your store. Listen to what your customers like and change the things they don’t. Give them a sense of belonging and community. They will always reward you with continued patronage.

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