Conduct some form of consumer panels or benchmarking to understand your stores’ need. Your coffee roaster can be a good place to start. And keep the information current as you add new products.
Are you monitoring the quality of your products, not only in the store but also from sourcing and roasting to brewing and holding? Having a quality-assurance process can go a long way toward building consistency.
Guests Seek Value
This means more than lower prices. Think about what you can do with value that satisfies guests’ needs where your competition can’t. One of our industry’s advantages is our flexibility in adding or trying items quickly. Can you tailor the blend to your market based on feedback or research? At Petro-Canada, we had stores from coast to coast; tastes varied in each province. For drip coffee, the blends went from light roast on the East coast to dark on the West, almost like a scale!
There were also regional differences in flavors, with one preferring hazelnut and another French vanilla. Our approach allowed us to have regional favorites along with a signature blend to compete with the coffee chains. But be careful: You must strike a balance between having choices and adding too much, which can lead to confusion and increased waste.
Cement Your Credibility
And this is where I believe we have the greatest opportunity. Consumers should have their purchase decisions reinforced by the environment, and this is done through what they see, smell and interact with. It is also the service they get when they buy their coffee. The new McCafé certainly says that the company is in the coffee business.
Having several airpots in a black wire rack, on a barren counter against white glossy tile, does not scream “coffee expert.” The entire area, from the brewers to the surrounding colors, can reinforce your message. All the visual cues in merchandising and equipment build that experience. What environment can you create to put forth a credible experience and build sales?
We can learn from the chains both big and small—and how one chain in particular shifted its focus, and reputation, from burgers and fries to be a credible, formidable coffee competitor.