Taste Kitchen Helps You Shake Up Your Menu for Profits

When it comes to running a specialty beverage business, cafe or coffee shop, there are few things more important that the quality of the espresso and the creativity of your menu. After all, your customers who spend time and money at your store are looking for an extraordinary experience that they can’t create themselves — either because they’re too busy with work and family or they don’t have the mad skills that you do.Taste Kitchen from Stockton Graham & Co.

Creating a stand-out menu will not only attract customers who live and work near your store, but it can also turn your shop into a beloved destination—and that can create a tremendous boost to profits.

To help our customers create a crave-worthy menu of their own, we just held our first-ever Taste Kitchen experience here at Stockton Graham & Co. During the two-week event, dubbed “Shake It Up!” we hosted several local coffee shops and specialty beverage businesses at our Raleigh, NC taste kitchen.

“Unlocking your creativity and shaking up your menu with fresh beverage ideas can excite both your staff and customers,” said Taste Kitchen host Thom Swain, Director for Southeast Business Development for Stockton Graham & Co. “Differentiating your summer drink menu from your competition and supporting it with a robust promotion can help you increase sales by $7k to $28k, with an ROI of 275% or higher.”

Denise Floyd, owner of Ollies in Wake Forest (213 S White St.), was one of the first local stores to jump at the Taste Kitchen opportunity. Denise sampled Lavender Lemonade, Churro Shake and Salted Caramel Iced Coffee and decided to put them on her menu a week later as Signature Drinks. They are terrific companions to her rotating and inventive food menu, which has featured fresh quiche, chilled Gazpacho Soup and yummy scones.Denise Floyd of Ollies in Wake Forest

“The creativity with the drinks was great and the ability to use this creativity to improve our bottom line and stay ahead of the trends is a real help,” said Denise Floyd, owner of Ollies in Wake Forest.

Staying Ahead of the Flavor Curve

An easy way to shake up your menu is to add beverages that juxtapose flavor trends from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Drinks with exotic, spiced and contrasting flavors are increasingly popular, such as salty caramel, gingery peach and tart creams. A second major trend is a customer preference toward healthy, antioxidant-rich ingredients like pomegranate, acai, spinach, Kombucha, coconut water, rooibos and Matcha green tea.

“We wanted to give our customers a comfortable place to experiment with unusual flavors so they could create signature drinks that set their shops apart from others nearby,” said Customer Care Associate and Taste Kitchen presenter Chris Bennett.

“In addition to the drinks we planned to demo at Taste Kitchen, our customers were able to create different and unique recipes with a wide variety of products we offer,” Bennett said. “They enjoyed mixing Stockton Graham’s fresh-roasted coffee with Torani syrups, for example—and then mixing MONIN and Torani syrups with Mighty Leaf teas, DaVinci Fruit Innovations Lemonade or Cafe Essentials Matcha Green Tea Latte.”

One of Chris’ customers, new coffee shop owner Yusif Sheikh of Jets Coffee in Cary Towne Center, was particularly excited by the Taste Kitchen opportunity.

“I enjoyed experimenting with the many product options demonstrated at Taste Kitchen. The recipes were really great and tasty. And it’s really helpful as a new entrepreneur to have a great relationship with my distributor and coffee roaster,” said Yusif Sheikh of Jets Coffee.

Focusing on What’s Best for Your Shop

Since Stockton Graham & Co. was founded by former coffee shop owners—and many of our staff has retail coffee experience either as shop owners, managers, franchisers or Taste Kitchen hosts Common Grounds Coffee Shopbaristas—we understand that each store is unique. And so we take a consultative approach to our customers’ businesses, helping owners focus on what’s best for their particular business model, store concept and location.

Taste Kitchen took that consultative approach a step further by working one-on-one with store managers to find recipes that would work best or them. Sue Finch, shop manager at Common Grounds Coffee in Hope Community Church (1000 Perimeter Park Suite A) in Morrisville, NC, was enthused by the personal attention to her shop’s needs and profitability.

“We came away with great ideas we can implement right away and Thom’s presentation of options made it easy to focus on what would be best for our business. He has a keen understanding of our business needs,” said Sue Finch, shop manager at Common Grounds Coffee Shop.

“We will continue to participate on future events,” Sue Finch said. ” The time we spent with Stockton Graham & Co. gave us time for creative thinking away from the shop.”

If you want to shake up your menu or learn more about how Stockton Graham can help you build  your business, call a Customer Care Associate at 800 835 5943.

Twenty Years Tell Us… Training Never Ends!

Coffee CollegeThe industry is not the same as it was in 1994. Starbucks was not a household name, “cappuccinos” came from machines at the gas stations, and espresso was something only serious coffee drinkers would attempt. Today, you can get reasonable facsimiles of true espresso beverages almost anywhere. Even novices say “espresso” without an “x.” As the industry has changed, so have the standards and the trends.

Staying on top of the newest trends, and training your staff accordingly, helps keep you relevant and up-to-date. Anticipating customer desires before they ask is one of the highest levels of customer service you can provide. Use your new found knowledge to educate your customers, thus raising the bar for your competition who may not be so savvy. For example, do you offer a featured espresso such as a single-origin option? Do you offer single-cup brews? Does your menu include tea lattes? Your Stockton Graham & Co. support team is a great resource for suggestions and guidance on these and many other topics.

Stockton Graham & Co. Coffee CollegeWhile trends are important, updating and ensuring consistent standards is paramount.  Staff calibration, or “retraining,” is a great way to ensure that your customers enjoy the same drink no matter who makes it. We found this to be a particular problem for a client with several locations. After some intensive “Train the Trainer” sessions, followed by in-store recalibrations, this client reported a substantial growth in beverage sales at the end of the fiscal year. Consider sending your trainer to our Coffee College to get updated, recalibrated and refreshed. Coffee College is offered several times a year and is conducted by our own industry professionals who bring many decades of combined experience to the table for you.

STG513-ID-stickerOur industry continues to grow and evolve with new innovations emerging all the time. To remain on the cutting edge, know that you can rely on Stockton Graham & Co. keeping up with the newest products and keeping your staff well-trained is just aspect to ensuring great customer service and the vitality of your business.

Give us a call at 800.835.5943 today to schedule your staff recalibration or click here to view our Coffee College event calendar!

Using Marketing to Grow Your Cafe’s Profits! Part 2

marketing-part2In Part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the importance of marketing your store and developing a marketing plan to do so.  We also re-introduced our MAP (Marketing Area Profile).  If you have completed your MAP, then you can now begin to identify potential targets and events in your immediate area.  Recall that we are hoping to achieve a FAT bottom line.  We do this by increasing the number of visits from each customer (Frequency), how much they spend (Average) and, of course, getting new customers through the door (Trial).

Before you dive into marketing your location, let’s do a little housekeeping first.  It is a good idea to make sure every customer, new and old, is having the best experience possible while visiting your shop.  I once had a mentor who would say that the best way to go out of business is great marketing.  What he meant is that before you spend money to bring in new customers, make sure you aren’t driving them away with a bad first impression.  So, take a look at your operation from the customer’s point of view.  Is each barista well-trained and producing great drinks consistently?  Are all staff members presentable and friendly?  Is your store clean and well-maintained?  Look on both sides of the counter; are work areas kept neat and clear? Are the retail shelves clean and inviting?  How about your fans and light fixtures; are they burnt out and covered in dust?  Are the floors and furniture clean?  Is the outside of the store inviting?  What about your drink and food menu?  Do you have what customers want, and would you eat the food you have displayed?  Check online reviews and find out what customers love and hate about your shop; address any issues, and applaud your staff for successes.

You may want to invite some friends in to give honest feedback about what they see and how they are served, and then treat them to coffee at a competitor for comparison.  While you are there, check their prices against yours.  Are you in-line, too high, too low?  Does your pricing model even make sense?  We hear some of our customers say that they haven’t changed prices in several years, while the big guys change theirs yearly.

When you first opened, you probably had a check list for each shift.  Now would be a good time to dig it up, update it and reinstate this policy with your staff. This will ensure that your store remains as presentable as you originally envisioned it to be.

As you review your menu, please feel free to call any of our Customer Care Associates for ideas and suggestions on the latest trends.  We can help you round out your menu with the types of items that customers are asking for, and help you do it profitably.

In the next installment, we will discuss the details of Frequency, Average and Trial, and how this concept can add double digit growth to your bottom line.

Written by: Thom Swain – Business Development Representative

See Part 3 to finish off this series!

How to Stay Current on Industry News

As a member of the specialty coffee industry, it is important to stay abreast of all coffee related news. Prices, trends, customer habits and international phenomenon all affect the success of your business. Of course you can read newspapers and watch commodity prices, but it can be difficult to form a complete view of the coffee industry with so many different sources of information.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America makes it easy to stay on top of things with a quarterly update of industry news and trends. At the beginning of each financial quarter, the “SCAA Quarterly Sector Report” is released, and valuable data is organized into one, easy to chew document. Information about sales trends, pricing trends and even a breakdown of drink popularity in the United States is included in this report. Stockton Graham & Co. utilizes this report to keep our company current and to ensure that we are meeting the requirements that our customers set. Stockton Graham & Co. has also been a proud member of the SCAA for many years.

“The SCAA is pleased to be partnering with Cleveland Research Company, an independent research firm specializing in proprietary channel research with a goal to identify trends and inflections that impact the financial performance and outlook across multiple companies and industries. This partnership has allowed us to deliver more timely information and a consistent stream of reports to our members and other industry professionals. The analysis is deeper and more specific, bringing you the essential data that you need to run a successful business in the specialty coffee industry. We offer this survey in quarterly installments, with an extensive overview published at the end of the year.”

To join the SCAA or to order the next the sector report, click here
For more resources and coffee related news, click here
For any additional success tools, click here or call 800.835.5943

Three Critical Retail Coffee Trends Through 2011 & Forecasting for 4th Quarter

The Specialty Coffee Association of America recently released their Sector Report which outlines trends within the coffee house and cafe industry through the second quarter of this year. I’ve spent some time looking over the data and here’s what I think you, as an independent retailer, should pay attention to:

1) Overall coffee house sales dipped in the second quarter, but don’t panic. The first quarter was incredibly strong in terms of growth rate and that should bode well for fourth quarter. An incredibly hot spring and summer, coupled with sticker shock over commodity increases, probably kept some fringe consumers away. Many investors tend to be bullish on commodities and some see signs of improvement in that area.

2) Total sales of specialty coffee whole bean or ground at the retail level is trending up. In the last decade, retail coffee sales have increased by over five billion dollars. If a regular customer can’t come in twice a day any more, they can afford to come in once a week to brew your freshly roasted specialty coffee that they can’t get anywhere else.

The opportunity to hit a home run in 4Q is there, and retail coffee has huge potential, but now is the time to begin to execute a plan of action. Be sure to heavily market your seasonal blends and flavored coffees. This year, Stockton Graham & Co. has created some fantastic (and FREE with purchase) point-of-sale material that will help your business sell more coffee. Check out what’s available HERE and contact your customer care associate for additional information.

3) Customers continue to rank quality as the most important aspect of the overall cafe experience, postioned over price, WiFi, variety, etc. This one is critical and extremely encouraging because you promote a high-end experience. Don’t assume the customer will know your product is top notch – remind them! Your employees should be intimately familiar with each and every coffee served. All the background information on the growing region, farm and roasting notes are available in our online library. Mark the page as a favorite and have print outs of our single-origin PDFs available behind the bar.

Stockton Graham & Co. has the expertise to help guide you through the remainder of 2011 and beyond. Whether this is your first year in business or your 21st, our team is available to you. Contact us today!

Mike Adams
Stockton Graham & Co.

We’re Blogging!

Stockton Graham is proud to introduce our new blog!

You might have noticed, but we have a lot to say! We’ve received a lot of great feedback from the dedicated readers of Graham’s Gazette encouraging us to create a blog. Ask, and ye shall receive! Stockton Graham & Co.’s new blog has launched and is now available for reading at stocktongraham.wordpress.com.

With our combined experience in the specialty coffee and beverage industry, we’ve seen it all. Our blog give us more opportunities to pass along more tips, advice, coffee roasting updates, specials, discounts and trends to you, our valued customers.

We hope you’ll find our posts to be informative and valuable, but we can’t do it alone. We invite you to submit your ideas for posting to share with the fellow members of your coffee community.

Browse often and keep the submissions coming! Also, be sure to check the SGC blog frequently during the week of October 5th – 9th for an incredible offer only good for the day it’s posted! You must mention the blog to receive the special.

Mike Adams, Customer Care
Stockton Graham & Co.
www.stocktongraham.com