The Tale of 2 Coffee Shops

from the Not-So-Secret Writings of ScLoHo:

You are in the People Business

Posted: 19 Jul 2011 04:00 AM PDT


I started writing this in March:

No matter what you produce, provide, sell….

No matter how automated and sleek your systems are…

No matter if you wear jeans or a three piece suit…

You are in the people business.

There’s a couple of coffee shops on the same street in my town that have very different personalities.

My favorite has been in business for over 10 years and has switched coffee providers once or twice, changed some of the details and each year they seem to do a little remodeling.

They used to have live music on Friday and Saturday nights. They don’t anymore. They used to be open late on weekends. Now they close at 8pm every night. They have a couple of the original staff, and the others that work there fit in to the culture.

Most of the furniture is old, some is getting a little threadbare, but it is a comfortable place to go and get a bite to eat, a white mocha, a smile and a little conversation.

Down the street is another coffee shop that roasts their own beans and is also family owned. They moved from across the street to the same side as the first shop and expanded their offerings.

Along with having coffee, they also have a full service bar and on Friday and Saturday evenings they would have a special theme menu that would include ingredients from their garden and recipes crafted from their own chef. Coffee shop #2 really had it going for them as a place that my wife and I would often visit for dinner on Saturdays.

Not anymore.

Recently on a Saturday night at 6pm we walk in the door and notice the weekend menu’s were not out. They were on the door, but not on the tables or at the bar. The owner and his wife are usually there when we show up, but not this time.

Instead of feeling comfortable, it felt like sort of weird. The guy at the register was busy counting change, the young woman who took my wife’s drink order not only had to pull out the recipe card but had to ask what kind of liquor to use and she seemed very unsure of herself.

When I asked for a menu, they said they aren’t doing the weekend dinner menu on Saturdays, only Fridays. Which was very disappointing since the read the menu as we walked in and was trying to decide which delicious items we would enjoy. Instead we had a drink and left.

It’s now 4 months later. Neither one of us have been back. As a matter of fact, a couple of days ago, she asked me if coffee shop #2 was still in business, as we drove by on Saturday afternoon. That’s not the lasting impression you want to leave with your customers is it?

And yes, they are still in business.

Update: my wife and I visited them Friday night. Dinner was both unique and delicious. Service was a little better as one of the owners was tending the bar.

Saturday I told some friends about our Friday night experience and apparently they have done a lot of damage in their reputation beyond what I was aware of personally. These friends will never go back.

Which leads me to share once again: Where Did They Go?

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One thought on “The Tale of 2 Coffee Shops

  1. I get the impression from coffee shop #1 that they really care about customer satisfaction. One time (and the only time), we had a bad experience with an office lunch with coffee shop #1–so bad that my coworker called the owner to complain. The owner graciously thanked her for the feedback and apologized, sincerely saying it would not happen again. And it hasn't. We also received multiple freebie coupons to encourage our business to try them again. Worked like a charm.

    Coffee shop #2 doesn't seem to give two hoots about customer satisfaction, at least not any of the times I've been there. Perhaps the owner was not there, and that's what makes the difference. However, if that's what the qualifier is, I'd be looking to hire different folks to represent me and my store when I can't be there.

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