Surviving the Holiday Season

The coming weeks and months are typically the most exciting, profitable and (unfortunately) stressful periods for café owners. Children are heading back to school, which brings in the parents who drop them off and pick them up. College kids fill up the dormitories on campus and begin looking for that “third place”. Christmas is just around the corner. Done are the beach trips with the sticky weather and, like the crisp air of autumn, your customer base comes blowing back into your shop like they never even left, as if on some extended summer vacation.

While “Back to School” can also mark the return of bigger profits, it can also be a great time to take stock of your café and its practices to ultimately make your place as prepared as possible for the end of the calendar year. Although it’s impossible to be 100% ready, more experienced shop owners know how to handle some of the surprises and expectations that come along as the weather gets colder. For those who are relatively new to the industry (or need a quick refresher course), here are our 3 best tips to help you in surviving the holiday season:

1)      Help Wanted: More people through the door means you need more people behind the bar to attend to them. No one likes a long line, so now is the time to interview potential staff members. With new employees, who are often new to the specialty coffee arena, comes the opportunity to provide the most up-to-date and innovative training concepts to ensure everything and everyone is firing on all cylinders. Throughout the rest of the year and beyond, we’ll be providing an intensive Stockton Graham Coffee Certification program and concentrated “Coffee College” courses that will not only make you and your staff as informed as possible, but will help provide business strategies to implement in your café for the long term. This is the ultimate in sustainable training. Schedule a consultation with our professionals ASAP!

2)      “I’ll have a ‘Tis the Season Frappe, please”: Do you have the syrup quantities to prepare a “BooBerry Latte” with candy corn topping? Going to be offering a Pumpkin Latte? Almost all holiday flavors are seasonal/special order items from most manufacturers. Partnering with your distributor on pre-ordering seasonal syrups and sauces can save you the heartache of turning away customers from your door because you don’t have enough Cranberry syrup and it’s nowhere to be found. So if you know a Pumpkin Spice Latte is going to be featured on the menu this season, call us today, place your order for two cases of syrup, and rest easy knowing you’ll be prepared to meet the customer demand. We will be stocking Pumpkin syrups for Monin, Torani and DaVinci soon after the Labor Day holiday and we are currently accepting pre-orders. Give us a call at 800.835.5943

3)      Coffee—the ultimate stocking-stuffer: Coffee is such a convenient option to give as a gift, and if you’re not offering it to customers, you’re missing out on a large chunk of potential revenue. In previous issues we’ve stressed the importance of having a point-of-purchase set-up with 12 oz. bags available. If this isn’t a practice in your shop already, now is the perfect time to prepare to roll out a retail coffee program because these next few months are when whole bean sales are at their peak. Based on previous experience, you can and will sell take home seasonal flavored coffee and blends at a higher rate during this time. What are your customer’s needs? If you don’t know, ask. Implementing this option now will give you plenty of time to finely tune the process before the Christmas season arrives.

Please give us a call at (800) 835-5943 if you’d like more advice or have further questions. money-bean-guy2

Preparing for Back to School

With the school year rapidly approaching, it’s time to start planning on how to get students/faculty members near your café to become your customers and increase sales.  One important and easy preparation for this is to make sure your store is stocked on all of the items you regularly offer!  This could also include making sure you have adequate help on the schedule for peak hours, thus keeping the flow of customers moving comfortably and reducing waiting periods that may create a bad experience for people short on time that want a quick cup for the road.

Offering student discounts is a great way to create traffic in your café. Use the student’s ID as an identifier for the discounts. The students will let their peers know about the great savings and tastes your shop has to offer!

Another helpful strategy would be to make your presence known at nearby schools, as some people may not know your cafe is close.  A couple proactive suggestions are to drop off brewed coffee at the school along with coupons, drop off branded traveler mugs that can be used as prizes for events/giveaways, offer to host PTA meetings or other after school programs and if the opportunity arises take out an ad in the year book or school paper!  Although this may increase traffic in your  café it is most important that these new visitors become repeat customers which is done with great customer service, knowledge of your product and of course preparing your product in a way that puts yours above the rest!

Build Your Business: Mid-Year Checklist!

ChecklistAs hard as it is to believe, we’ve just about reached the halfway mark of 2013!  So far we’ve made it past the “New Year’s resolutions” in January, a few of the early-year holidays such as Valentine’s day, St. Patty’s day and Earth Day, spring has sprung and now summer is here. Though summer is a time for relaxing, 2014 will be here quicker than you think, so 3rd and 4th quarter preparation can never start too early. Here is a mid-year checklist, to get you and your staff ready for the next 6 months.

Hiring– With school out for summer, part-time opportunities in your shop may open up.  This can be a great way to grab some extra help while other staff members are out on vacation, but often times, younger employees are only available during the summer.  September is just around the corner, so when your temporary summer-employees return to school, make sure your shop is well staffed for the busy season to come.

Training– It is imperative that your entire staff is properly trained. The last thing you want is an unqualified barista in the middle of busy season, so take advantage of the summer and have your staff trained and ready to go before fall arrives.  Stockton Graham & Co. offers all the training you and your staff will need in our Coffee College courses. Taught by certified instructors, your staff will learn everything from pulling the perfect shot, to properly steaming milk, to preventative maintenance and more.  Call today to find out when our next coffee college is available!

Menu Cleanup– Now is the perfect time to revisit your menu and see what changes and/or additions need to be made.  If items such as iced teas, smoothies or frappes are not updated on your menu for the warmer months, they should be, or offered as a “Limited Time Offer”.  It’s also the perfect time to sample new products and add new items to your store.  From coffee to smoothies, Stockton Graham & Co. has dozens upon dozens of samples available for you! When things really pick up in the second half of the year, the time you have to sample and consider new products, will be harder to come by. Summer is also a good time to do a “Costs Benefits Analysis” to make sure you are making a profit on your drinks. Many times vendor prices rise a bit, and you can forget to update your menu pricing accordingly. Summer is a great time to make these menu adjustments.

Equipment Check– Just like your car, the equipment in your shop needs to be kept up and maintained. Coffee brewers, grinders, blenders and especially espresso machines all need to be operating correctly in order to produce quality product.  Here at Stockton Graham, we would be happy to recommend a technician for your area, or provide you with new equipment if it’s time for yours to be replaced. Right now we are offering several special offers on select Vitamix & Blendtec blenders, which includes free smoothie and/or frappe products. Use this blender promotion to re-vamp your blended drinks options this summer for bigger profits!

Marketing– By now, your shop probably has its own Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media platforms. These are great tools to advertise and promote your business, but they are only as effective as you make them. It’s important to keep them up-to-date with current announcements, specials and new features. They’re easy to manage and can even be updated right from your phone. If you don’t consider yourself to be “social media-savvy”, have one of your trusted employees take the reins. Chances are, one of them is a “pro”.

Back to School– Come fall, everyone will return to their normal routine of school or work, both of which should result in more frequented visits to your shop. Student discounts and happy hour specials are great ways to get your customer base back into the swing of things. This is a perfect time to promote your menu with specials and other offerings, but in order for any promotion to be a success, preparation is required. Leave the procrastinating to the returning students, and start planning now! Check back with Stockton Graham & Co. blogs to get more ideas for back to school.

It may seem unnecessary to begin acting on these things now, but realistically, “pumpkin season” is just around the corner, and right behind that are the holidays. The 3rd and 4th quarters are traditionally the busiest, but also the most profitable, so ensuring that you and your staff are well prepared is essential. Call us today at 800.835.5943 to ask more about your mid-year checklist, and other ways to plan for a successful second half of the year!

Save on Torani Real Fruit Smoothie: Green Apple!

School time is quickly approaching, and what better way to transition your customers into fall than a green apple fruit smoothie! Torani offers this great pour over smoothie with no caffeine, fat or dairy! Just add ice and blend! Give your customers the straight-from-the-orchard taste of real fruit they’re thirsting for with these healthy smoothie mixes.

Receive $4 off two 64oz. bottles or save $18 off each case!
Expires August 31, 2012.
Supplies at this promotional price are limited, so call us at 800.835.5943 today to place your order!

The flavor of crisp, tart Granny Smith apples makes this the ideal refresher. Offer your customers a great fall beverage by blending with Torani Caramel Sauce for a classic Caramel Apple smoothie. Another great way to enjoy Apple Real Fruit Smoothies is to add brewed chilled tea! This could be black, green or rooibos, but it creates a delicious Real Fruit Tea Smoothie.