The passion for coffee
Does it ever seem like you have a secret talent to be a barista? Do you remember that first feeling making coffee with a brand new espresso machine at home? Despite the home barista trend that took off during COVID-19, there is a reason why people haven't stopped getting coffee from their local cafes. My name is Edward, and as the Cafe Manager at Pablo & Rusty's Sydney, I will walk you through why.
A key part of this is the coffee shop experience. People love coffee, but a cafe is more than just expertly brewed coffee. The cafe has become the hub or centre of the community. Wherever a new cafe opens in an area, there is a high chance that someone else will also do the same. This phenomenon became a trend, and in a short time, we found coffee shops every couple of meters away from one another.
A sea of sameness
While coffee could create a local community in an area, having too many cafes or competition does not always sit well with cafe owners or restaurateurs. From a strategy perspective, this is known as a red ocean, where too much competition is making businesses unsustainable. Practically, this signifies that a cafe is competing head-to-head with other cafes. The cafe operator that has the most resources and knowledge to leverage the most profits would eventually be the local hero in the area.
There is another way: creating a blue ocean. A smart cafe operator should know how to execute a different strategic approach to distinguish themselves from the competition. Instead of trying to participate in the competition to get more customers and sell what everyone else is selling, they could think strategically and create an uncontested market space that makes the existing competition irrelevant to them.
This is where our Expedition program has become one of the tools for a cafe to be different. Through the Expedition program, we create a new market space for a new category of customers. Those who may already be coffee enthusiast but desire a new level of coffee experience where they can be presented with the rarest coffees on the planet and enjoy them as part of their coffee experience in their local cafe. In this blog, I’ll delve into the journey of launching and running our Expedition program in our flagship cafe, Sydney CBD, highlighting the successes, challenges, and valuable lessons learned along the way.
A chance to stand apart
Our Expedition program features the rarest micro-lots of coffee from a particular farm across the world. These rare single origins are packaged in smaller 45g packs, vacuum sealed and frozen to retain their freshness.
As it is high-end, rare, and unique, a well-executed Expedition coffee program may contribute to increased revenue and elevated positioning of the business. It will also set the cafe apart from surrounding venues by creating a new uncontested market in the area. As interesting as it may sound, we faced a few challenges, and yet, with the right strategy, we successfully overcame these challenges and are sharing the valuable lessons here.
Each challenge and success are highly dependent on your customer's demographic and socioeconomic status.
Here is what we learned:
One of the key factors contributing to the success of the Expedition program in our Sydney CBD store was the clear communication of the Expedition program. We learned that assigning the Expedition program a more familiar “known as” name has been effective in communicating the program itself to the customers. For instance, we used the phrase “rarest coffees” to describe and represent the quality of the Expedition itself, hence, the premium pricing point it offers. As we adopt the use of an online ordering system and QR code, we shall not take any chances to leave customers in ambiguity over communication. People may not spend money on something that they are not familiar with.
By giving an “as known as (a.k.a)” name, we have seen an increase in customers ordering our Expedition program, and excitingly, all the Expedition orders were made through the online ordering system, meaning the “known as” strategy had proven its effectiveness in reflecting the quality of the Expedition program. Keep in mind that most of us may not bother asking a waitstaff in a cafe about a particular item that is so unfamiliar unless we are being adventurous.
While a lot of cafes and venues have adopted QR codes as their online ordering platform, a menu that is not strategically arranged could be detrimental to the business. Most online ordering platforms offer a tool to highlight a particular menu for the day. This would be the first item a customer sees when they access the online menu. By intentionally highlighting Expedition as the star of the show (the first item on the drinks menu), we successfully managed the customers' perception of our coffee and brand.
3. Special service
Customers who order Expedition coffee are those who desire experience and demonstrate appreciation towards high-end coffee and henceforth, need to be treated accordingly. We serve our Expedition on a tray, with a distinct espresso cup and a card with a QR code that points them to valuable information about the coffee, including videos introducing specific Expedition Coffees.
Moreover, the baristas themselves serve the Expedition coffee describing in detail the flavour notes and brewing process for each coffee.
These orchestrated steps of extra service will emphasise the value of the Expedition coffees and maintain the new customer segment that we just created, i.e. customers who are enthusiastic about coffee and desire an elevated coffee experience from their local café.
4. Reducing hesitancy
When the staff show hesitancy in explaining ‘Expedition’, it signals to the customers that it may not be worth their investment. In the mind of a customer: “If an item does sell and is popular, they should have been able to explain what that is.” While it may not always be practical to go into details of the Expedition program to all employees, managers may consider developing a short script that would briefly explain the Expedition coffee and encourage the staff to memorise the script.
Wrapping it all up
The Expedition program can set a coffee shop apart from the rest. Through the nature of its premium and high-end coffee experience, it helps a business create an uncontested market space where the remaining competition becomes irrelevant.
The more intentionality put into the program, the bigger the long-term benefit. While ‘no one strategy fits all’, it is also important to consider customer demographics and socioeconomic status.
On the whole, there’s been so much learning along the way as we’ve introduced our Expedition program, a journey marrying the business and customer needs. One could say it’s been an Expedition…certainly one we’re proud of. We’d love to welcome you to our SYD CBD cafe to experience these special coffees with us.