In my world

23 October, 2009
Page 20 

We recently secured a new site to add to our existing portfolio of iCafé stores. For me, the past few weeks have involved constant meeting after meeting to make sure our new flagship store is the best it can be in every aspect.

There are many different factors that play into building a successful store and each of them carries a lot of weight. While the right location is vital to the success of a new store, building a store that draws loyal, regular customers takes a bit more than just location. Factors that add to the success of one store may not necessarily do the same for another. However, there are some fundamental basics that have to be spot-on for any independent coffee shop or café to grow, regardless of their size or number of stores.

Here are some essentials that one should have at the top of the list:

1 Delicious desserts are the ideal accompaniment to great coffee. Sandwiches, paninis and other light snacks are also a great addition to the menu when open through the lunch or dinner time. Make sure to buy the best ingredients or options available from your suppliers. A muffin is not just a muffin; some are mouth-watering and delicious, when others are just not. Careful planning will make a huge difference. Taste each product before selecting this for your store.

2 Friendly, skilled baristas, not just button pushers, are the heart of a successful store. Skill is important, but people really respond to a friendly greeting and a smiling face. Skill can be taught through barista training, but the personality of the baristas is a major selling point for a successful store.

3 Excellent coffee drinks are vital, of course, but not just any coffee will do. Be sure to source the best freshly-roasted coffee available. Fairtrade and organic-certified coffees are sure customer-pleasers. At iCafé, all our coffee is triple-certified (Fairtrade, organic and Rainforest Alliance).

4 Wifi access used to be a nice "extra", but these days free internet access is nearly as important to the independent coffee shop as good coffee. At iCafé, we not only have free wifi but also terminal access for those without a laptop and it does make a big difference.

5 A comfortable atmosphere will encourage customers to linger and enjoy the coffee and desserts. Large tables with plenty of room to play games or open a laptop invite customers to linger and get to know each other.

Other factors that are very important are the type of lighting we have in a store with different levels of dimness depending on the time of the day. The type of music also determines customer buying behaviour. The store layout and queuing at the till are important, as well as good and comfy seats. A recent survey of 1,500 people by Mintel showed that 37% of the customers walked out without a purchase due to long queues and not finding a table. As a business, as much as queues and being busy are good, there is a limit to everything. A careful seating plan will ensure we do not lose that extra custom that comes our way.

If the store is open late as ours are until 11pm nicely lit candles are a great way to create a cosy mood, especially in winter. The music should change to a more relaxed one. The lights should be dimmed to create a homely feel and of course, the cafe should be nice and warm during those winter nights.

There isn't a rule-book for having a successful coffee shop and one rule certainly does not fit all, as there are different factors involved in the success of individual coffee shops. But what is important is the thought process and the implementation. At the end of the day, planning could be perfect, but it's no good without successful implementation.

I'll leave you with a final thought: a good idea is about 10% implementation; hard work and luck are the other 90%.





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