In our weekly column “CoffeeShoprs Answer…”, owners and managers of some of the finest coffee shops and roasteries from across the country share real life experiences and business insights on different topics. Today’s topic is “What makes a coffee shop successful?”
Pat from Refresh Coffee (San Diego, CA)
Photo by Taylor Abeel Photography (cropped)
I would say the first thing that comes to mind is the type of leadership/management. More than anyone else in a coffee shop setting, the manager is the one who sets the tone. Be it a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, or the type of experience that leaves you, the customer, feeling disconnected and belittled, I believe the manager dictates that.
There is a leadership principle called the Velvet Brick. In short it refers to how a leader (in our case the manager) is to be to their followers (employees). The idea proposes that successful leaders are two-dimensional. On one hand they are approachable, caring, thoughtful, and gentle (soft like velvet). On the other hand they are firm, unwavering, and holding those around him/her up to a consistent set of standards (solid like a brick).
The reason I believe the leadership type is so important to the success of a shop is because they set the level of service and expectation for their employees, who then deliver to the customer. The management can have established the best “coffee shop practices”, but if they aren’t a true leader, the employees ultimately will not follow through on those practices. If the manager however, has put in the work — to be that velvet covered brick for each of their employees — then the employees will naturally want to carry out the shop’s practices to the fullest. If that is happening, the customers will receive that down-flow of care, service, and attention to detail; which will bring them back to the shop day after day.
The management can have established the best “coffee shop practices”, but if they aren’t a true leader, the employees ultimately will not follow through on those practices.
Amélie’s French Bakery & Café (Charlotte, NC)
In my opinion a coffee shops success hinges on a skillfully conducted balancing act. It is imperative to produce interesting, seasonal inspired, thoughtfully composed beverages and selections to thrill and satisfy your customer base. Yet also, knowing your customer and what will inspire them, challenge them, and make them want to return.
Another component is how you produce and display your products. Being a barista is like being a magician or ballet dancer, it is a duality of preparing technical beverages and selections seamlessly and making your craft look effortless. All the while, not loosing the true purpose of providing a service, and getting lost in the smoke and mirrors.
The final piece of the puzzle is combining all of these elements without compromising the integrity of coffee, traditions, methods, rituals and serving a perfect cup every time.
Being a barista is like being a magician or ballet dancer, it is a duality of preparing technical beverages and selections seamlessly and making your craft look effortless.
I believe the most important key to success for your coffee shop is to focus on the “overall” customer experience, not just one aspect of service. The overall customer experience starts as the customer is walking up to your coffee bar and even before they come thru the door. There are often multiple phases involved in the customer experience including (but not limited to) the time they wait in line to order, their review and visibility of menu and other items, the customer service they receive while placing their order, the ease of the point of sale experience, the time they spend waiting for their order to be made, the product quality and beverage experience, the ambiance, cleanliness and environment of the space, interactions with staff and other customers, ergonomics of the customer seating area, customer loyalty opportunities and rewards, customer service as they leave, etc. Each of these areas does require training and consistent follow up and direction.
Truly, the service aspect is as important as beverage quality. In Portland, OR there are many great places to get outstanding coffee, and a great shop has to differentiate by offering outstanding customer service and an impeccable overall experience. By training your staff to always be friendly, professional and able to communicate well your customers you can create a consistent experience beyond just a great cup of coffee. This will encourage retention with your clientele as well as build loyal customers who come in multiple times a week. A successful coffee shop is profitable when there is a high volume of repeat customers. Many coffee bars operate with a $5-6 dollar average transaction and it is imperative to retain your best customers, as they are often the ones bringing new customers in and recommending your business.
Lead by example as a coffee bar owner and your employees will greatly appreciate the support and leadership offered. Be passionate and realize education is ongoing, and a great team requires strong and consistent support from the business owner. The attention to detail on all aspects of service will eliminate any one variable or one employee from adversely effecting your business.
Be passionate and realize education is ongoing, and a great team requires strong and consistent support from the business owner.
Caffe Vicino (San Diego, CA)
Great consistent product; a lot of coffee shop owners tend to purchase products that are low cost/cheap in order to get better profit margins. The consumers have a taste memory and if the product is constantly changing in flavor even if it is a minute change, they will notice.
Caffe Vicino’s profit margin is not the most sought after as a business owner, however the products being derived to our consumers are memorable, and keeps them coming back. They can rely on the fact that the taste they have on their mind will be the same taste they have in their mouth.
The consumers have a taste memory and if the product is constantly changing in flavor even if it is a minute change, they will notice.
Janine from Woodcat Coffee Bar (Los Angeles, CA)
A successful shop is one where people go out of their way everyday, sometimes twice, to spend a little time and give their hard-earned money in exchange for a superb product and a welcoming environment.
Amy from Caffebene (a global coffee house, 1,600 locations worldwide)
In order to make a coffee shop successful, it must have a competitive edge that sets itself apart from its competitors. Whether the competitive edge comes from the coffee, menu selections, marketing strategies, store interior, or R&D, a coffee shop must operate under strong and organized management while differentiating itself from others.
Here is an example of how Caffebene defines competitive edge. We, here at Caffebene, believe that Caffebene has strong competitive edges that stem from the CEO’s know-hows in the franchise business and his versatile communication and leadership skills, which all translate into the competitive edges that set us apart. Caffebene’s specialty medium roasted coffee, unique modern vintage store interior, global menu selections, and marketing strategies are few of the competitive edges that allowed Caffebene to grow and expand so rapidly.
It is also important to react quickly to the changing market to meet the demands of the customers. Unlike our competitors, Caffebene responds to the changes in the market very quickly and sensitively. Our strong R&D team and trend research team launches new menu items each year, during the different seasons. With quickness in decision making and coping with the changing trend, Caffebene aims to satisfy our customers’ needs and desires, while bringing satisfaction to our franchisees at the same time.
Another example of competitive edge is operational capabilities. At Caffebene, we believe providing systematic, convenient, and organized operational systems to the franchisees translate into satisfying our customers, ultimately defining the success of our coffee shops. Without these competitive edges, Caffebene would not have been able to grow and expand, satisfying both the coffee & dessert lovers, along with our franchisees.
In order to make a coffee shop successful, it must have a competitive edge that sets itself apart from its competitors.
Philip from Bowtruss (Chicago, IL)
Reputable coffee served by considerate and passionate people. A productive safe haven. A community hub.
It starts with the right location, landlord and lease. Fairly negotiated TI and abatement.* Taking off on the right runway is something you can control.
You should really care about quality in product and people. Make it cozy and functional. Invest in great people. The people preparing and sharing your product and mood are everything.
You should really care about quality in product and people.
CoffeeShopr Note: TI – tenant improvements (money the landlord will spend for the tenant to build out their space). Abatement – free rent.
Bill from Kona Mountain Coffee (Kailua Kona, HI)
Happy employees make happy customers.