What are the “Reasons Why” your customers visit you?

By | April 14, 2008

I’m increasingly obsessed with this concept since it applies to such a large extent in so much of our lives.

Why does Tiger Woods want to keep getting better at golf for example? What drove Michael Schumacher, despite so many years at the top of Formula One, to still work harder than anyone else and even in his last year still be fitter than any of the other guys? Why is one coffee shop owner happy with one site while another needs to grow a huge chain to be content?

Recently I seem to have come across a disproportionate amount of people who regard life in the Coffee Business as the ultimate goal for their lives. It can take some fairly harsh questioning to discover the real “reason why” they are setting up their business and make them understand that the reality is very different from the dream whilst still trying to help them keep their enthusiasm.

The reality is we all have different motivators and different “reasons why” we do anything. But ultimately if you don’t have a strong “reason why” for your customers to visit then they won’t. And your idyllic dream will be brutally shattered.

The harsh reality is that most people think they have a decent reason for customers to visit but they simply don’t.  Too many operators expect to be able to offer mediocrity and get away with it and with a potential “tough time” ahead of us in the market they simply won’t survive.

So here is my, by no means exhaustive, list of “reasons why” customers might want to visit you – and keep visiting!

  • Location – a great location is always a bonus but is not, as I often preach, essential. But generally make life easy for yourself with a great location. But NOT if you end up having to pay huge rent and rates bills.
  • Great Coffee – obvious really. But these days it has to be really great to stand out from the crowd. And you really need to have exceptional consistency too.
  • Great food – again it’s obvious but so often overlooked in the coffee bar business. Sometimes there is this perception that focusing on great food takes the emphasis away from great coffee. Which is, of course, total and utter elitist nonsense.
  • Great staff – people who really care about the product AND care about remembering the customer’s name and their drink. It’s probably the biggest challenge we all face but the clients who really care about recruiting, training and retaining great people are always those with the best businesses. (I’ll give you some tips on this in the next few days too)
  • A great atmosphere – do you provide somewhere that is really special? Do you have an environment that people instantly relax in?
  • A great story – is your business one that people can really “buy into”? A coffee shop stands for so much more than somewhere just to get a drink in many people’s eyes. Increasingly I find with clients, all around the UK, that locals are using them almost like a Post Office or a classic English “local” pub. Do you help to provide this?
  • Something genuinely new and different – do you have something properly unique about your business? How many star products do you have that people talk about and become “raving fans” of? If you don’t have something that is unique and really fires up your customers then you’re doomed to failure unless you have an exceptional location. I have the “mother of all star products” to show you in the next few days from one inspirational client who operates down a little alleyway off the High Street in their town.

You don’t need to be perfect on all counts but you do have to tick a few of these boxes. It’s not about being all things to all people but you have to have a few key areas that really provide a strong reason for customers to visit in the first place, return a second and third time and ideally tell their friends about you.

Why should customers visit your business? What do you do that is so great that they might tell their friends?


7 thoughts on “What are the “Reasons Why” your customers visit you?

  1. darren

    Hi Johnnie,
    Great post as usual. I look forward to your piece on staffing and training. I believe the biggest challange we face is trying to get staff to be passionate about their job/future/potential etc.
    Are you guys for Caffe Culture? If so are you hosting any seminars? Talk soon


  2. John Richardson

    Hi Darren

    Thanks (as ever). Staffing and training is THE big issue – no doubt about it. I do not have a single client out there who doesn’t struggle with this and I would imagine that 70% of my clients would regard it as their biggest issue. The other 30% would probably regard not being busy enough as their biggest problem.

    Yes – we are doing Caffe Culture. I haven’t decided exactly what to speak on yet but it may well be about recruiting, training and retaining staff since that’s the “biggie”

    Will you be there?



  3. darren

    Yes I am over on the Wednesday all day. Hopefully we can catch up. I will be talking ti Uncle Hugh before I go so he can fill me in on what you guys are doing. Looking forward to it.

  4. Sharon Thomas

    Hi – as you say, some of your ‘reasons why’ are obvious but often so difficult to get even most of them right in one place. I find myself constantly thinking about all of them in relation to my own small coffee bar but also increasingly when I go to other cafes. My favourite place for a good coffee has no atmosphere in its small seating area (not really their fault as they are part of a larger concession) so I can only use it as a takeaway but in other places where it’s pleasant to sit the coffee is bad or the staff sulky or the food boring and overpriced. I’m based in a City which has a huge number of choices and I still find it difficult to decide where to go on my day off!

    Occasionally, I will venture into the chains to see what they are up to and have been amazed by how bad their coffee is these days. I think the customer will realise this eventually as the divide between the independent who works really hard to maintain standards and the mediocrity of the chains becomes more apparent. Especially as prices go up and the customer becomes more discerning. We just need to keep working at improving everything all the time!

  5. wpm1955

    I enjoy your articles SO much! I only wish you would write MORE of them. Can you consider posting twice as often, such as every two weeks?

    Best regards,
    Madame Monet
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine

  6. John Richardson

    Sharon – you’re absolutely correct when you say we need to keep improving but I’d also venture to say that independents really need to shout a bit more if they are providing great coffee and certainly appreciably better coffee than the big guys.

    It’s vital to be subtly letting your customer know that so they keep making the extra effort to see you and not take the easy and accessible big chain option.

    Thanks Madame Monet – as ever. We have both been very busy and have just secured a deal for a second book so that’s been taking up some time. But yes, I will certainly become more regular again.

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