Tips for Retail Success This Holiday Season and Throughout the year!

Last year, I was fortunate to attend the 2010 Coffee Fest in Seattle, WA. Aside from having a fantastic time walking the showroom floor, I was also able to sit in on some educational lectures presented by professionals in the coffee industry. One of the guest speakers I was able to hear from was Bruce Milletto, President of Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup and former retail shop owner. This lecture in particular focused on Milletto’s list of 12 essentials when it comes to running a successful coffee shop in this day in age. I found this discussion extremely interesting and would imagine that his recommendations would provide valuable insight to our customers while preparing for the most popular retail season of the year!

1. The first and one of the most important points he discussed was proper business planning. Bruce said that this is key in any business and especially in the coffee industry. Milletto stressed the importance of understanding where the industry has come from, where it is heading, planning and analyzing your financial potential carefully and setting both short and long-term goals.

2. The second point he covered was understanding coffee itself. Those who just jump into the industry prematurely can get into trouble fast! As an owner, Bruce explained it is essential that you understand the nuances of coffee from seed to cup, including origins, growing practices, certification, roasting and proper preparation.

3. The third essential is location. As an owner, it is important to determine a location that will bring in foot traffic, provide you with the work space that you need, and is easy to find. Bruce also mentioned how important it is to make sure the lease you sign is a good one, because signing the wrong lease can be catastrophic to your business.

4. The next topic Bruce pointed out was a strong ergonomic design. It is important that your design works for both you and your customer’s needs. You don’t want it too small that your baristas are running into each other, but you still want to allow your customers to feel cozy, and not lost in cafeteria-sized café.

5. The fifth essential is creating a unique and appealing ambiance. From your menu to your lighting, it is important that you set yourself apart from the chains. Create an atmosphere to attract the client you want to attract.

6. The sixth essential is merchandising and presentation. What else can you sell to help your bottom line? Mints, T-shirts and mugs are just a few ideas to help boost your sales and diversify your product list.

7. The seventh essential on Bruce’s list is your menu. You should select your items and recipes carefully, and keep in mind what your competitors are serving. It is also important to display your items, whether it’s on pictures on the menu, or on display on the front counter. Show your customers what you serve!

8. Next on the list is hiring the right employees. This may be one of the most important essentials on the list. When you hire, consider appearance, work ethic, maturity and attitude. Do they have a strong understanding for coffee, and can they teach your customers? According to Bruce, this is the biggest mistake that operations make!

9. The ninth on the list is customer service. You as an owner need to lead and teach your employees by example. Get behind the bar and show them how to properly serve a customer, from the greeting, to the money exchange. Always focus on the customer’s needs first and foremost!

10. The tenth essential is managing your business. This may seem obvious; however, it is up to you as an owner to see that quality service is produced. Stay on top of your baristas, manage waste and watch for theft. Make sure that your employees are meeting your expectations throughout the shop.

11. Next on the list of essentials is your marketing. Nowadays it is absolutely imperative to have your own website, Facebook, twitter, etc. Create promotions that work in your specific situation. POS is also a great way to advertise your product, and it should be used to its fullest potential.

12. Last but not least, the twelfth essential on the list is operational systems, and budget and cost controls. Create systems for both employees and management, including a manual to read and sign upon employment. This is a positive way to learn and understand company policies and procedures. As and owner, know your cost of goods and keep an eye on all operating expenses.

Bruce is confident that if you are on top of every area, you will succeed. He reminded us that people will not stop drinking coffee, or having a need for a third place (hopefully YOUR coffee shop), so stay positive! It is more important now than ever to operate smart and plan accordingly. Hopefully Bruce’s list of 12 business essentials will provide you with some helpful tips as you continue to strive forward in this fast growing and thrilling industry.

Matt Hogan
Stockton Graham & Co.