It is hard for me to imagine that I have been in the foodservice business for more than 40 years. My first jobs were in restaurants during summers and weekends. These restaurants—true mom-and-pop places—were always operated by the owner and his family. It was up to them to do everything, including design, décor, advertising and menu planning. I even remember putting fliers on car windshields during slow times. It was early guerrilla marketing.
So what does this have to do with coffee? Well, back then there was this new restaurant, McDonald’s. For me, it was the first recognizable chain. The “Golden Arches” stood for burgers, fries and Coke, and the home of the 15-cent hamburger.
And over the past 10 years, they have done a good—no, a great—job of reinventing themselves. The McCafé business has put a dent in everyone’s coffee sales. And it has opened up opportunities in the beverage business by introducing specialty drinks to a new group of customers.
I believe we can learn from both large and small companies and change how we approach our coffee business. With a better product, better experience and better positioning, you can attract people to your offer. I have heard some say they can’t compete with coffee today, and I think they are giving up too early.
A place to start is QVC, which stands for quality, value and credibility (not that shopping channel). All of these come together to build a shopping experience for your guest. It is not enough to have just a great product. We need to “package” it and bring it to life in the store.
Focus on Quality
Face it: The specialty coffeehouses and quick-service restaurants have educated the consumer about coffee. Colombian used to stand for quality, but now our guests are now familiar with Arabica and areas of the world that have not only exotic names but also great-tasting coffee.
Start by knowing your target audience and their expectations of coffee. Should your blend be a light to moderate roast or a darker, bold roast? Do they expect a choice, or will one signature blend suffice?