I currently manage and am head barista at a cafe/coffee house in SoCal. Though we are in a heavily populated area, our community is very Main Street when it comes to coffee. They've all been raised on Starbucks basically. In the past 6-7 months, we've revitalized and rejuvenated our coffee selection, from sourcing better beans to offering drip via V60 and Chemex to cold drip iced coffee, new specialty drinks such as Shakeratos and Flat Whites, and eliminating blended drinks and focusing on traditional Italian preparations of espresso drinks (ie, only a 6 oz Capp). We are steadily gaining a bigger following, but every time a newspaper article comes out or a "Best Of" issue of our local area magazine comes out talking about coffee shops, we are nowhere to be found. The consistent choice for best 'coffee' is at a local place that offers everything from a 20 oz Capp (yuck) to flavored coffee to diner food breakfast. Their only advantage over us is that they have been in business a lot longer than we have.

I have not done aggressive marketing, but I have worked hard to try to get people hip to what we're doing. Though no matter how hard I try, it seems as if we don't even exist as a coffee house. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions of how to get our name out there, or things that have worked for you in gaining some recognition as a true specialty coffee shop. Thanks in advance,


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Most newspaper articles and "best of" are articles solicited by the shop itslef. Many times the local papers are looking to write articles about local businesses so it becomes a case of who reaches out to press. If you put a small presentation together including highlighted items on your menu, things that differentiate you from other shops along with photos (many times they will send a photographer to shoot your shop) you will be surprised how much buzz can be created. Don't be discouraged, take the initiative to reach out to the press, prepare a nice press release or invite them in to see what you do. Also another big thing to consider is picking a local charity or cause and get behind it. Work with them to bring awareness and funds to helping a cause which your locals will recognize and want to support. Grass roots marketing goes a long way.


Best of luck and keep fighting the fight to be recognized, and most importantly when they do come.. deliver world class quality and customer service, a sure recipe for success!!


Good luck!


Yours in coffee,



Be thankful you are not mentioned in the same breath as these other places. Those "BEST OF" are popularity contests with lots of politics behind the scenes. What you are doing and moving towards is not for the masses, so don't expect the masses to respond. 


Keep doing what you do, and keep raising the bar, the right people will find you. 

I'm not sure if Hermosa has one, but what about the "Taste of XYZ" events that the local papers host?  They are huge and I've found SO MANY awesome restaurants and cafés by going in for the samples and specials during these events.  I'd definitely look into participating in one of these types of events.


I took a look at your Yelp! page and it seems like the hippie/green/organic crowd really like your place - 4.5 stars is pretty darn high for a place that's been around so long.  The #1 complaint is regarding the price.  Perhaps consider printing up a brochure to educate the customer about the sourcing process and the way the smoothies/dishes are developed, any special brewing equipment you have and so forth, so that they can feel confident the higher price is justified by the quality of the product.  Then you just have to live up to the expectation! :D


Without sounding disrespectful the idea of organic, fair trade, rain-forest etc etc...only attracts a small % of customers. This has been proven time and time again and will not increase your visibility to the masses. My suggestion just like above is to get your name out with adds or have a friends and family...something to grab the attention of those  in your area. When a crowd settles in, your sales will increase, try this often, pass out samples..etc etc...You must bring something to the table that the customer will walk away with...i.e. I just went to XYC cafe and the customer service was great...the latte they poured was amazing...I learned that triple pick means X....the experience will out weigh the price anytime. While we all here in BX desire the best in coffee...the masses, the average consumer just want a good product, with great service. I hope this helps....if you ever want to bang some ideas back and forth dont hesitate to get in touch with me! Best wishes!!!

To get recognized  by the main stream media, you must have a bit of an understanding for who they are.  Most of these writers are young.  Think 25.  Where do they get their news from?  Yep, the internet.  Make it easy for them to get the info they need to feature you.  That means a website with a blog.  Write about what you do, with pictures that make it engaging, and the 25 year old writer of your local "best of" will have half their job done for them.

If you don't spoon feed it for them, they are left to just do it the same as last year, because that's a lot easier.  

As far as the broader community noticing you've changed...that is honestly going to take a long time.  Expect a year or longer for real change to be noticed.  For this, put yourself in a customer's shoes.  When was the last time you went back to the same place you were at before, but didn't like previously?  I really can't think of a time I've honestly done that, unless someone else told me it was very different (ie, new ownership). 

If an owner is considering a change like you've described (out with the old, in with the new), closing for 2 weeks, and then reopening (possibly with a new name) may have actually done more for business than a gradual style change that's harder to get noticed.  In lieu of that, since it sounds like it's too late...I would suggest having an anniversary celebration of some sort.  Or a re-grand opening.  Some type of event where you can put out a press release, invite the media, and have some sort of weekend special event that you can get the word out about the significant changes you've made.  Once again, combine that event with spoon fed content online (ie, a blog). 

Honestly, here in the Phoenix area, I've found all of the local mainstream media people to be sponges for any substantive content that they can report on.  They have a job to write every single day.  If you think about that job of theirs, and make it easy for them, why wouldn't they write about you?

Thank you so much for all the amazing responses! I can't tell you how appreciative I am for how insightful and thought-out they are. Based on these comments and my personal experiences at the shop, it seems like the biggest thing is owning our new identity and continuing to increase awareness, one customer at a time.

Incidentally, we are thinking of modifying our name so grand re-opening is a great idea, and I love the idea of doing tastings. I defintitely have a lot to think about now (which is always a good thing).

Thank you again,

In your case I would take a "guerilla marketing" approach to reaching new customers. You could host small events like chess tournaments, charity fundraisers, and even have your regulars pass out first-time customer coupons. I'm from a very small island with many coffee shops and a couple of chains (seatle's best/the coffee beanery). Thinking outside the box has helped alot in the past. The first step is to get people in your door. Offer the best you have and try to engage your new customer in conversation if time allows. You'd be amazed with the amount of regular customers you gain if your customers make it a habit to socialize with staff and vice-versa. In the past I've had coffee tasting events and that's won my previous shop a good amount of regulars. I'm just sharing what's worked for me. I'll tell you though, there are many ways to get more customers in the door without spending too much on media ads. Giving your regulars incentives for word of mouth advertising (small discounts, free merchandise, etc.) will go a long way. Good Luck on re-opening. 

The thing I personally always thought would get people to come, is the buzz. My shop is located in a place that is....well...not too great. The landlords do a piss poor job keeping it clean and making this place LOOK BETTER! I've been open for almost 6 months and just had to adapt with it. I do a frequent buyer card where if they buy 10 drinks they get the 11th free. That may give you more loyalty customers since you say you are competing with the other cafe near yours. I also do latte art and for here cups. Customers love it and in San Jose, they're aren't much cafes that do latte art. 

Another thing I'm very focused on is social media. Social media is huge nowadays and targets mainly younger groups, but i found that older groups apply as well! I created a facebook page and offered 50% off any drink to customers that "LIKE" my facebook page. That way when I have promotions, events, or news, I can just update the status update and send it to all the customers. (saves money on printing out fliers) This has worked great. I try to announce something ONCE everyday so they keep seeing my name on their newsfeed and in a way "reminds" them to come to the shop! Plus once they "Like" your facebook page, it will show up the THEIR friend's newsfeed. Free advertisement!


I noticed you saying you might be doing a re-grand opening. I just announced my first big event for my coffee shop to my customers. The thing is, I cater to both crowds. The "frappe" crowds and traditional coffee. I pull ristrettos for my shots. I cater both crowds mainly because i'm dead center between 4 schools all within a 2 mils radius (1 of which is directly across the street). So you see why I have to do smoothies, Italian sodas, etc etc. One thing i might suggest you do is do a coffee tasting event like I am. For an entrance fee, they can sample all of your drinks. And you can set it up in a way where you don't have to do a bunch of drinks all at different times since people will come and go if you don't have a set time. My event is an hour long. It forces all customers to come on time and I serve it like dinner style. I have a tons of drinks on my menu from variety of flavored lattes to everything! So my event will feature a little more than half of the menu, 24 drinks to be exact. And it gives the customer a chance to try all your drinks, flavored lattes, etc etc. For my event I'm charging $10 per person. It creates a buzz and will lure people to bring dates, friend, family members etc.

Hope some of the ideas helps you here. Good luck and let me know how it goes!



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