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Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by BrianW, Nov 13, 2012.
Congratulations! Where's your location? In case I can stop in for a cup?
Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the well-wishes. I'll come back with an update later today.
I broke down and got a FB account. I also have tables and chairs, courtesy of Craigslist and Ikea. (The furniture supply place never came through.) The chairs came from a local nightclub and are painted a hideous spotty gold color that people rave about for some reason. The tables are actually Ikea butcher-block kitchen counter tops that I cut into 2x2 squares. On sale, the table tops were only $34 apiece.
I'm amazed at how well-received my business has been. I thought selling coffee would be like selling vacuum sweepers door-to-door. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost everybody loves coffee, and new customers come in every day overjoyed that there's a new coffee shop in the neighborhood. Many have even said they've been looking for an independently-owned coffee shop to support, and mine is now their new favorite place to hang out.
Customer interaction has been extremely gratifying. One new customer came in happy to try a non-corporate coffee shop. He asked what was the best thing on the menu, and I suggested a frozen signature mocha. He looked skeptical (frozen in November?) so I told him that I'd make him one, and if he didn't think it was the best frozen drink he's ever had, he wouldn't have to pay, and I'd make him any other drink on the menu for free. After just one sip, he paid for the drink and bought four gift cards to give to family members.
That was the most extreme experience, but things like that happen every day, and it's more heart-warming than I ever could have imagined. I honestly had no idea people loved coffee this much or that they'd be this happy to have a coffee shop in the neighborhood.
That's not to say that I'm making a profit. Discovery has been slow. I'm set back from the road a bit, and commuter "tunnel vision" is worse than I thought it would be. To date, only about 20 commuters know my shop exists and stop in for their morning caffeine. However, business improves a little bit every day, and I'm ahead of schedule on my way to break-even as detailed in my business plan.
Dave, to learn everything about my location, just go to the coffee shop's website. (I don't want to break any rules here by posting a link, but you guys can figure out the URL.)
Cees, I'd love to own that shop. And I'd give my right arm just for that window decal.
Please, post a link. I don't think management will have any complaints. If they do, I'll take the heat!
Do you have any promotion to encourage those customers who DO find you to bring in their friends?!? Nice of that one guy to buy gift cards for his family! Think how nice it will be when you are doing well enough to have an advertising budget! Maybe there's some way to make social media start bringing you to people's attention...
I'll just do it myself:
The site looks great! Good luck!
15 likes on the FB page including me.
Come on HTF let's get the likes up.
As far as advertising goes, I've signed up for Val-Pak mailings, but the first one doesn't go out for three weeks. I also have Yelp, 4-Square, Urban Spoon, and Delocator listings, and probably two others I can't remember. To encourage repeat visits, I have loyalty cards.
I passed out free samples and coupons to Best Buy patrons (with the Best Buy general manager's blessing) across the parking lot on Thanksgiving night while they were waiting in line for the doors to open. Best Buy opened its doors at midnight, and I stayed open all night to serve them as they trickled back out. I was open for 28 hours straight, but it paid off, I think. Black Friday was the first day I was actually in the black (for the day), but of course that's an anomalous data point.
So most of my marketing (until the Val-Pak mailers go out) has just been Internet and local outreach. More people discover the store each day, and I'm convinced it's just a matter of time before everyone who drives on a regular basis knows I'm here.
The thing I find most surprising about this endeavor is that it is extremely difficult to stay hydrated while running a coffee shop. Go figure.
Thanks, Tony. I appreciate the vote of confidence.
Here's the link to Facebook:
Good luck with things.
I'm one of those people that support the local guy rather than some big chain franchise type of place. It may be tough for a while, but there are a lot of people like me, they just need to find you.
Just a bit of personal trivia, but I have never been in a Starbucks my entire life (one time in a drive-thru where I was a passenger, but not physically in the place). No boycott or anti-corporate attitude, but I simply prefer places like yours.
I appreciate that, Steve. I think you've started an avalanche.
Thanks, Stan. In the short time I've been open, I've met a lot of people who think the way you do and are willing to back their convictions with their spending choices. Having customers who are actually *proud* to support me is both uplifting and very humbling. I hope I have what it takes to earn their patronage.
Congratulations on getting open - and it sounds like things are starting out well.
I'm well underway in my journey to opening a high-end burger place, and I'm learning every day all those things that I never even knew I didn't know.
One thing I've researched quite a bit is direct mail. I've never been a fan of val-pak, as you are in with a bunch of other ads. Two things have to go well, the postal customer atually has to open the val-pak, and then they have to find your ad.
I just learned about a postal product that is much more targeted - every door direct mail. https://www.usps.com/business/every-door-direct-mail.htm. You can actually target mailings by postal route. I'm working on pricing things out now, but it looks like you can hit a very well-defined target market for pretty low cost (including the printing costs). The guy I hired as my GM is a big fan of it, he says he's had great results.
Direct mail, I remember that.
I used to work for the post office and every Thursday sometimes Wednesday we would get our pallets of DM to distribute to each carrier.
Each bundle must have weighed 20 pounds.
DM was essentially the most important thing our carriers delivered as at the time I left ten year ago it was a huge money maker for the p.o.
I have no idea now what it does for them.
Usually now it's just ads for supermarkets, drug stores Plum coupons and some other random things.
Once in awhile we get coupons for Wendy's or Burger King.
They are in your mail box on Friday or Saturday but is supposed to be Friday.
Unfortunately most people just throw them out and call it junk mail.
Val-Pak turned out to be a good investment. People from around the area have been coming in, thrilled to know there's a coffee shop in their area. Most of them are even happier to know the coffee shop is independent. They left happy, and now their friends and family are starting to come in. I just had my first break-even day on Saturday -- a month before I had planned for that milestone in my business plan. I'm not out of the woods yet, but so far, this looks like a good move.
There's not a word about that post that isn't good news!
Congratulations...and may the good business keep coming your way!
Hi Brian, Congratulations on getting your own business underway, in this economy! That's pretty damn impressive by any means. Well done, Sir! One thing I would suggest, and I know it may sound silly or trite, or even a tad naff, but perhaps doing a day of giveaways for kids and families, one Saturday. For example, bake a few cakes, cut them up into small bits, and give them out for people to sample to entice them into your store. Give helium-balloons away to the kids, with your logo on them. Little things like that, should help you gain more business. Offer a "first drink free" (up to a set value, of course) to entice new customers in. Other than that, best of luck and well done again! Pooch (from the UK)
Congrats, Brian! Looks very promising. Cees
I'm always happy to be wrong! Congratulations.
Hope things are going well! Probably too late for you, but lots of great advice here:
Thanks, Sam. There's a lot of great information there, and I learned a lot. From that link, it looks like I'm already doing most things right. I use a world-class espresso bean (it was a finalist in the America's Best Espresso Competition last month) and every shot I present to a customer has to be the best it can be. My goal really is to serve the best espresso in town, and my customers have expressed appreciation for my passion. I have indeed tried to make the shop a destination where people will want to be, rather than just a place to get coffee while on the way to somewhere else. I'm familiar with my regular customers, know what cars they drive, and often have their drinks ready for them as soon as they step through the door.
From the beginning, I wanted to offer people a true alternative and not be just another coffee shop like all the rest. Otherwise, what's the point? That seems to have been a good strategy to go with.
Oh, story time! A local friend had a friend of his visiting from Italy. He sneers at American attempts to make fine espresso, but he finally agreed to come into the shop to try mine. I got REALLY lucky and in one attempt pulled a 25-second double-shot with crema that looked like interior house paint. The look on his face when he sniffed it and took a sip was priceless. After he regained his composure, in a thick accent, he reluctantly said, "I like it. It's okay."
I appreciate your support, Sam, and thanks to everyone who has contributed here. I owe my success to the community.