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Something to Eat?

by Jay Weller, Owner @ Barista Pro Shop

coffee shop menu ideas

I went into a McDonald's yesterday for the first time in quite a while. I drive through occasionally because every once in a while I crave a Sausage Egg McMuffin - old habits die hard! The inside of the store I went into was very different from what I remember. I would describe it as having left behind "cafeteria style" and as moving towards a warmer, more inviting space. It had Wi-Fi, community tables and plasmas with one of the 24 hour networks on. And they have Real Fruit Smoothies and Frappes now, which is why I was there.

Subway now serves Seattle's Best Coffee. Starbucks has protein plates and a more complete line of food. Dunkin Donuts has, among many other food and drink items, donuts. All of these chains are your competitors for morning and afternoon food and drink dollars. Whether you think the competition is offering a quality product or not, they are definitely offering an undeniable package of reasons for customers to be attracted to them. For the most part, they are convenient and fast. They offer coffee, specialty coffee beverages, fruit smoothies, blended ice coffees and food items.

The question may no longer be, "should I serve food?" It may now be, "what food items can I offer to protect my customer share and grow my sales?" In preparation for this article, I went back to my 2007 Ask The Pros article entitled "Serving Food in your Café". I believe that's still a relevant article to give you some good ideas about how to go about starting up or enhancing your food program.

I've made a couple of observations over the last couple of months. I went to Subway at the beginning of the lunch rush for a sandwich. They are making a big push towards getting people in early to buy Seattle's Best Coffee, a breakfast sandwich, and oh by the way, while you are here, would you like to grab lunch so you don't have to leave your desk later today? Does your store offer any products that you could sell to your morning customers that would increase your cash register ring and make life more convenient for them? Can your food prep area be set up so that preparing a lunch item for a To Go order during the morning rush is easy for your staff to do? The potential danger for you is that if customers know they are going to go to Subway for lunch anyway, they could start driving past your store in the morning, get a so-so coffee and breakfast sandwich, but at the same time cross something off their To Do list for later in the day.

Treat Receipts. Starbuck's began doing them again a little while ago. For those not familiar with the concept, if you go to Starbuck's in the morning, they will offer you a treat receipt. You bring back your receipt from the morning purchase and you receive a discount on an afternoon purchase - usually it's a 16 oz. cold drink for $2.00. You can only use a treat receipt that same day. This is a great way to encourage your morning customers to come back and see you in the afternoon. You may have some customers who would come back without the receipt, but you are probably missing some of them. And, if you are offering food, maybe they'll hit you up during the lunch hour or for a power snack mid afternoon. You are still making money on the afternoon drink - don't sell it at a loss - and hopefully you can upsell them for some ancillary revenue.

food in coffee shops

We love small business owners. Their creativity and spirit are awesome. Sometimes though, their independence hinders them from seeing everything around them. I've had a lot of people over the years tell me they never go into a Starbucks. My guess is that most of them don't go to Subway, Dunkin' Donuts or McDonald's either. That's unfortunate, because not only do they need to see what the competition is up to, they can benefit from the ideas these mega chains have. You should piggyback on their advertising spend - offer a healthier option for breakfast, expand your iced and frozen drink line, start making sandwiches earlier in the day and even have them in a grab and go display. Instituting some of these ideas are good defense and good offense - the best of both worlds.

McDonald's Real Fruit Smoothie? It wasn't bad - and I believe that's good for all of us. Look for more customers asking you for Real Fruit Smoothies in the near future.


I regularly go to all the chains to see what they are offering, how they are presenting, offer their great staff a job with us, see how they are spending their huge advertising budget and jump on all those drinks/items in the store since those items are in our customers minds so why not capitalize on it?!?

By Kent Coffee & Chocolate Co.

May 3, 2019