This small town news article about a coffee shop from the Indianapolis Star was in my inbox this morning:
LAWRENCE — Java Junction — the little coffee shop that keeps opening and closing in Lawrence — opened Wednesday with a new owner and a new name.
Ken Julian agreed to purchase the business, 5625 Lawton Loop East Drive, from previous owner Jim Greenberg last month. Julian said he’s going to rename it Eagle Creek Coffee Co. — he owns another business by the same name in Zionsville.
Julian, who also owns Julian Coffee Roasters — an independent coffee company — will be the fourth owner of the Java Junction business within the last several years.
He admits the past three years haven’t been good for the little brick coffeehouse, but he’s confident he can turn its fortunes around.
OK, let’s hear the plan.
“It’s in an opportune location,” he said, speaking of its prime spot on 56th Street. “I love the building, and there’s a lot of traffic flow. The road gets between 25,000 to 40,000 cars a day, and 5,000 people live within walking distance.” The reason previous incarnations have failed, Julian believes, is the lack of a full food menu.
The new Eagle Creek Coffee Co. will have a full line of breakfast sandwiches, baked goods and quiche in the morning, and sandwiches for lunch. He claims to be unconcerned about a nearby Panera Bread franchise.
“Panera isn’t a coffee place,” he said. “Their coffee is OK, but our coffee is going to be way above anything they offer.”
Julian believes his status as an independent coffeehouse will help, as well.
…so, you’re going to be more of a “coffee place” by serving a “full food menu.” And the the cherry to top this work:
“When you put an independent next to a chain restaurant, most people will go to the independent,” he said.
The logic that “…most people will go to an independent,” is dangerously flawed. Never forget the customers don’t love -you- they love what you do for them.
True, as an independent, you do have a potential advantage in the areas of quality control and the ability to quickly respond to the unique demands of your local market; however, unless you take steps to seize those opportunities and additionally offer all of the security provided by commercial chains (convenience, cleanliness and above all CONSISTENCY), your business is not likely to see its full potential.
Furthermore, if a coffee place is what an area demands, why add food? The addition of food to a coffee shop menu is a clear warning sign, that along with #2) free refills #3) local performers and #4) coupons make up the four horsemen of the independent coffee shop apocalypse.
If customers are not buying coffee, improve your coffee, not add something else in order to lure them to add a beverage to the order. When shifting the focus of a coffee business from coffee to food, customers (rightfully) perceive that coffee is a secondary product.
Fast forward to the present day… How did it work out, you ask?