Large chains like Starbucks and Costa are major contenders in the current coffee market, since 2014 their share has been diluted by an ever-growing number of independent coffee shops. Due to this rise, consumers have become savvier when purchasing their coffee and now have the ability to distinguish between an inferior and a premium coffee and they have come to expect the latter. Generally, customers are prepared to pay that extra bit of cash but are now fully equipped to expect a better quality of coffee. Picking the right coffee and coffee partner is key to menu development.
As coffee shop owners/managers, your menu is the most important internal marketing and sales tool you have aside from your team. Creating a streamlined menu that there is a demand for, that also meets your profit margins is a large but fruitful task, a lot of thought, research and planning goes into its execution. Finding the right balance between your prices being competitive, appropriate for your brands image whilst also ensuring you are covering your overheads is no small task. We must also ensure that we are prepared to make changes to our price points based on continuous research on our customers buying habits.
The contents of your menu are vital to your business, visit other coffee shops in your local area and see what is popular! Build your core range from here. Menus get confusing when there are too many options involved – keep it simple, don’t offer too many sizes! Your menu should read as if you were reading a newspaper, from top left though to bottom right – this is the natural flow of your eyes. Put all your main drinks at the top left, then all your add-ons to the bottom right. Make reading your menu a simple experience, don’t overcomplicate it. Too much creativity, whilst tempting, complicates matters, team training becomes problematic and it is harder to maintain consistency to win that all important repeat custom – both these factors inevitably lead to customer dissatisfaction.
If you wish to branch out from your core drinks menu, have a rotating alternative menu in addition. This allows for more freedom, more creativity and, if your brand requires, an educational perspective with regards to coffee origin, tasting notes etc. Customers start to look forward to this extra offering and it allows you to test the water with products you may want to make full-time members of the core drinks range.
Get to know what people in your area will pay – get to know your market! Research research research, get to know the trends, don’t be afraid to start trends of your own, they have to come from somewhere but keep your core menu simple. When researching your price points, you need to be mindful of the local, non-specialist convenience outlets like pubs, garages and supermarkets which could potentially diminish your share of your local market opportunity – offering good quality products speaks for themselves and will win you that returning customer.
Eliminate low margin items – streamline your product offering, this will be reflected in your profits with immediate effect. Don’t waste time on items that do not make you money, you will create a team of busy idiots – work out your figures, you are a business, monitor your figures, a business needs to make money.
A good menu should echo your business’ DNA, for this, you will need a strong brand, who do you want to be as a business? This should be conveyed through your menu. Prospective customers often browse the menu to get an idea of offering and the personality of the business. A good design is vital for conveying this; designers are often hired for this job.
When you are confident about who you are as a business you need to tackle how you want to convey this to the customer with your offering? Do you boast all organic products, vegan, locally sourced products or is your menu to be more of a speciality offering boasting filters and educating them on origin and tasting notes?
When developing the menu, you need to establish what your relationship is with coffee and your customer’s relationship with coffee and yourself. If you are aiming for a fast paced, high volume shop near to a train station you would not focus on drip filters and spend time educating your customers on origin and taste profiles. Your customers will want to be in and out as soon as possible, therefore offering batch brew as an option would be appropriate. We need to recognise the consumers need for convenience.
Training the team thoroughly and confidently on your menu is key to its execution. They need to be knowledgeable on all the ingredients in order to be able to speak to your customers confidently about your offering – train your team to take feedback, and to use and communicate this valuable information as a means of business growth, after all, what do we do this for? To please our customers – so listen to them and take action.
Whilst taking all these things into consideration – we need to think about placement of your menu board. Will it be strategically placed in your customer’s eye line upon entry, will it be conveniently placed above the tills so it is visible whilst customers are queuing? Where will you place your rotating additional menu? Printed on tables? Creating a good profitable menu is not an easy process, it is one that requires much care an attention, spend time on it, do not rush and you will reap the benefits.