Yesterday, Someone asked me a couple of interesting questions via the comments on one of my photos on my Flickr photostream. The questions he had basically revolved around the importance of having coffee cup art vs. just having excellent coffee served in plain white cups and how important coffee cup art was to me? Since the importance of having coffee cup art (or logo’d cups) is something that I have always been interested in and thinking about blogging about for a while, I thought rather than simply answer the question on my Flickr page, I share my thoughts with the blogosphere and just write a more detailed blog post about it… so here goes…
My answer to the posted questions were in a nutshell yes. Coffee cup art (logo) is an extremely important (and not just to me) to have if you do own a coffee shop because many a time it is that logo that makes someone (i.e. me) curious about the coffee shop, where it is and how good their coffee is. And yet, regardless of this, you, as the coffee shop owner must always ensure that you serve excellent coffee because getting known for bad coffee can break your business.
Now let me go into a little detail. The most important reason for having coffee cup art is brand recognition and it serves as a relatively cheap marketing strategy for your business. However, this issue is not straightforward because brand recognition and marketing is only one component of a successful coffee business and that is key is that you want your brand to be recognized for excellent espresso and not mediocre coffee.
But it can be easy to forget that there are other elements that go into any successful [coffee] business. Over the years I have talked to a few baristas and others in the coffee shop business and from everything I have heard, it is pretty clear that simply serving excellent espresso is no guarantee of success in this business. I have known more than a couple of coffeehouses that served excellent coffee and still went out of business. Stickman Coffee comes to mind… and The Fargonian Coffeehouse is another that I was sad to see go.
Being that running a coffee shop is still in essence running a business, to be successful, you have to fulfill the basic elements that any business does i.e. Product, Promotion, Price and Placement. For the purposes of the coffee shop business I want to look at these elements in the form of location, atmosphere, service (product and placement) and promotion. I will ignore price simply because there tends to be relative price parity among most of the coffee shops and coffeehouses that I tend to visit.
So let’s start with product & placement. Now assuming that the coffee shop serves excellent coffee (otherwise they should not be in business in the first place), the location, atmosphere (or ambiance) and service is clearly the biggest factor as to whether you will have repeat business. You want you coffee shop to be in the right location were you get a lot of potential customer traffic. If you coffee shop is out of the way or hidden, if it’s in an area that doesn’t have easy parking and is also in an area where there is not a lot of foot traffic, then that really makes it difficult for people to frequent your coffee shop.
Once you do have people in your shop, great service, including friendly baristas who remember your name and what your favorite drinks, will tend to make your customers want to come back again. Ambiance will encourage your customers to hang out in the shop and enjoy your espresso there…
Good music, played at reasonable volume level is certainly a must. I can’t remember how many times I have hang out at coffee shops in the evening, working, and having really awesome mellow music playing in the background that is almost relaxing. Some coffeehouses will even go further and have live music at regular times. One good example of this is Faire Gallary Cafe which goes even further by hosting poetry readings and other performances. And now an increasing number of coffeehouses are also turning themselves into art houses and promoting the works of musicians, poets, painters and other local artists. Many will have the works, paintings, photographs and other pieces of art on display (and for sell).
If you have free Wi-Fi which more and more coffee shops are now offering, you will certainly get plenty of folks hanging out there and sometimes this can also present the problem of folks simply taking up space and nursing that one cup of drip they ordered 3 hours ago. I know that Victrola Coffee did have that problem where people with their laptops would take up all the tables and hang out there for hours… so what they did was to turn off the Wi-Fi during the week and turn it on during the weekends.
Once you have these elements in place, only then can should you consider promoting your brand via the coffee cup art (and yes I know that the live art performances can also be considered a form of promotion). Having you coffee shop logo or brand on the cup means that whenever you have people ordering your coffee “to go”, what you have are willing promoters and advertisers for your business. I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped and asked people where they got their coffee from simply based on the coffee cup’s design. I have also had people stop me and ask me the same question and I then directed them to the shop.
Now I know that it is not necessarily cheap to have your own custom logo on your coffee cup. Someone told me it came to about $0.20 per cup, which would be a pretty decent percentage of the cost of the cup. But there are a number of other alternatives of having your coffee cup art done that I have seen in use.
- The first alternative is to get the stickers with your logo on and place those on the cup. Places that do this include Bauhaus Books and Coffee and Arosa [Coffee] Waffles
- Next is the sleeve. I have noticed an increasing number of coffee shops will have their logos on the Sleeve rather than the cup. My understanding is that is cheaper than doing it on the cup. Some of the coffeehouses that do this include Caffe Senso Unico and Zeitgeist Coffee.
- The third option is to get a rubber stamp and stamp your logo on the cup. A large number of coffeehouses seem to prefer this alternative and include heavyweights like Stumptown and Victrola Coffee
- The fourth alternative that I really don’t see much, but not only is the cheapest but is also refreshing is where the coffeehouse will draw or write the logo on each cup by hand. The coffee shop the immediately comes to mind is Katy*s Cafe
- A fifth alternative is to use the cups provided by the coffee roaster who supplies you with your beans. Cafe Vita and Fonte are two roasters that provide cups to the coffee chops that sell their coffee
- And as is true to any business considering a strategy, the final option is to do nothing. There are a number of successful coffee that simply do not logo their coffee cups. One that immediately comes to mind is Zoka Coffee. Yes they do brand their stores and the bags of coffee that they retail but when it comes to the cup, all you get is the plain white cup. But they have excellent coffee and so I still go there… Another is Online Coffee
In conclusion let me tell you a little story. Arosa is one of my favorite coffee shops. They are pretty famous for their waffles but I go there mainly for the coffee. The way I came to find out about it was that someone at my place of work came in with the cup and I thought that the logo was really interesting. I asked her about cup and she told me about the place and how great both the coffee and the waffles are. So I made it a point to go there, which I did a couple of days later. I really enjoyed the coffee and found out that they have a special blend made exclusively for them by Fonte Coffee Roasters. Now even though I have driven by the place a number of times and I have seen their sign, I never really associated them with espresso until I saw the lady at work with one of their cups. If it wasn’t for the coffee cup art, I may never have found the place even they they have one store down the road from where I live and the other is up the road from there I live and I had been driving by one or the other for years.
Even though it was the logo that attracted me to the place, had their coffee been bad, I would never have returned for more…