full price for first cup, half off or even free sometimes for the next cup!...WHY?!

this has been on my mind for several years, so i'm just going to air it and see where everyone stands.  i'm assuming (uh-oh!) that fellow coffee shopkeeps/baristas/etc. will side with me, and that's cool.  if you don't, (not cool), but, i'd really like to understand the reasoning behind it!

the deal is:  at my location, the first cup of coffee is $2.25.  the second cup is $2.25. the third cup is, yep, $2.25.  every once in a blue moon a customer will grumble somewhat, and i know that they are thinking that at some shops you pay full price for the first cup, and sometimes the second cup is either half-priced, or, sometimes free!  (wow, i'm heading over to that shop as soon as i type this out!, right?!).

but, i'm here to tell you that when i did my christmas shopping last year, not one of the merchants i shopped with offered me a shirt, or jacket, or even a pair of socks reduced by 50% off.  and free?!...yeah, right.

to me, the whole concept spells out something like this: trouble.  i say that because, if you can legitimately charge full price for your cup of quality coffee, then how do you justify to yourself that your coffee is worth that full price if you are knocking off 50% for the next cup, or giving away that next cup?  in my mind, a customer can't help but ask themselves if that first cup is truly worth the $2.25 (or whatever).

the only exception i might see is if your shop is (possibly) trying to move product that has had less than lackluster sales.  or, if you are intentionally having a special, or a promotion, etc.

i think that those shops that do offer discounted drinks, or free refills, are doing a dis-service to the legit shops that are offering a quality product at a fair and justifiable price, no?

and don't get me wrong, i work events whereby customers are often passing by my window all day long and sometimes into the evening hours.  its not uncommon for one to buy 4,5,6 drinks throughout the course of the day...i'm not opposed to "treating" a customer at my descretion...as a way of saying thank-you.

but, next time i go car shopping, i'm going to see if the dealer offers me a 50% off deal if i buy a 2nd beamer within the hour!  maybe they'll just give me the next one free!

 

i'm really looking forward to your feedback!

(and, best of everything to everyone here in '11!)

 

sage

the coffee hound

laurel fork, va.

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Jay, do explain what is wrong with airpot coffee!?! I'd like to be able to manually brew every cup and I applaud your effort on doing just that, but simply can't with our situation as we are mobile and are serving people on the go. I'm sure you can understand that. I find airpots great for keeping drip coffee hot and fresh for several hours. WAY better than the thousands of places that might be brewing decent coffee only to bastardize it by leaving the carafe on the hotplate for hours to bake.

 

We occasionally have people question our prices, but I explain to tell them why it costs what it does then go on to tell them if they don't like the taste it's FREE. Once they take a sip they gladly pay. Haven't given away a cup yet!

 

Recently converted an older guy (in his 60's and very set in his ways) that was quite happy with the "dark roast for $1" at the local gas station. And he made sure to tell me that. I told him ours cost more than that and I won't drop our prices just to compete with them or others because I have 100% confidence in what we offer. Now he is coming to us twice daily even though he has to pay more.

Our prices are 12 oz 1.5 16oz 1.75 20oz 2

 

We roast almost everyday and have for many many years, Quality is not an issue, as we offer a rotating stock of 8 great microlots and great co-op coffees, along with having some good experience with direct trade coffees ( not at the moment unfortunately). By offering a great fresh product at a great price without being snobbish about it has acrued a cache of hundreds of loyal daily customers, most of whom realize and embrace the great service we are giving them. So when a customer comes in and recieves an amazing cup of Costa Rica Sipres Cidra from the Don Mayo micromill, or the Ethiopia Michelle, immediately love it to death and want another cup plus they get it for a premium price with no skin off our backs, I will sleep well knowing that no one in town is thinking "oh shit I can't get a cup of good coffee today, I'm too strapped for cash"

 

as for a calm place, no way. but we're nurturing as hell.

 


Jay Caragay said:

Have a look at this:

 

http://sprocoffee.com/hampden/hampdenimages/SproHampdenMenu.pdf

 

We currently offer 12 ounce brewed coffees ranging from $2.00 to $9.00 per cup.  Each cup is brewed to order, from open to close. No batch brewing. No airpots.  Ever.

 

The coffees are brewed on an open brew bar where the guest can plainly see their coffee being made in front of them.  They see the process.  They see the care. They see the work that has gone into their cup.  This justifies the price differential between other coffee places and it demonstrates why we do not offer discounted "second" cups or "unlimited refills."

 

We don't use analogies or attempt to explain why because it's plainly obvious.  Those who initially balk at some of the prices are quick to understand once they see the process.

 

Certainly, there are some people who come in looking for a faster and lower priced coffee.  In our immediate neighborhood there are a 7-Eleven, Royal Farm and another coffee shop to satisfy those needs.  We don't offer quality comparable to any of the other places and price our coffees commensurate to their value.

 

Nor do we offer "loyalty" cards, discounts, buy x get one free or similar gimmicks.  We offer quality coffee in a calm, nurturing environment. 

i don't think there's anything inherently wrong with batch brewing. in fact, from my understanding, some of the huge brewers (like three gallon bunns and such) brew a really well-extracted cup of coffee due to the bed shape and how the spray head evenly wets the grounds. the problem comes when people use too little coffee or let the coffee sit in the pot for too long or don't have their machine programmed properly. really, with most (if not all) methods of brewing, user error is the main culprit in bad coffee.

 

and i don't think everyone has to be like jay at spro. in some cities that business model will fail. in baltimore it's succeeding, but would it succeed down the road from me in morganton or marion or waynesville? no - at least not without a hefty bankroll to keep it running for a few years until enough gas station coffee drinkers catch on. and if you'll take a look at spro towson's menu, there's syrup and breves and whatnot - so it's not like jay is a purist either. this is a business and what sells, sells.

 

this might be what jay has done - but my plan is to further entrench waking life in the local scene, pay off the business loan, then look at opening a concept shop that's more geared towards a specific idea or niche (like spro hampden or penny university or intelligentsia silver lake). but you have to be established to do that.

Methinks that maybe some of you might have interpreted my post as a slight on your operations.  It was not.  It was a presentation of how we do things.  We've done away with a lot of the trappings mentioned in this thread - like "loyalty" cards and discounts.  It is just not necessary.  

 

Of course, taking it away is much more tricky than adding it or never having it in the first place.

 

Victoria-

While I've never been Down Under, my understanding is that brewed coffee is hardly used and that coffee in Australia is espresso based?  I think that changes the pricing structure a bit though I do like the base price!

 

Sage-

Thank you for the kind words.

 

Shadow-

Never said anything was "wrong" with airpot coffee.  In fact, airpot coffee can be quite good.  However, when you're seeking to differentiate yourself from the rest of the field, it's difficult to impart value to the customer if you're pumping a $4 coffee from the airpot.

 

Jared -

To clarify, Spro Towson was our first Spro and opened in August 2006.  The method of service there represented our way of doing things at that time with a slow evolution designed to meet both our standards and the market we serve.  However, I do want to underline that both Spro locations use relatively the same menu and the same syrups: simple, vanilla and chocolate - all made in-house and by our baristas to our own recipes.

 

And I'm certainly no purist!  We don't provide condiment bars and when you're our guest, if you want six spoons of sugar and lots of cream, we're happy to prepare your coffee that way.  There's none of that Third Wave pretense here.

 

I have to disagree with the assertion that it won't work in other places.  Spro Towson is the most oddly located shop.  In a library in a seriously suburban, soccer mom kind of suburb.  Baltimore, in many respects, is still quite unsophisticated when compared to other cities and the coffee scene is still very immature but Spro Hampden is doing quite well - even with its very complicated way of doing things.

 

That said, we could not have done Spro Hampden's method of service when we opened Spro Towson.  We (I) simply didn't have the experience capable to executing it.  It is a continual evolution of learning, service and understanding - one that, for us, started eight years and four coffee programs ago with a bunch of airpots, pot brewed coffee, flavored coffees like Vanilla Macadamia Nut, 20 ounce cups and 97 flavors of syrups.

i just mean that if you open a serious pourover shop (like spro hampden) in my grandma's neighborhood, you better have some serious financial backing. it would take years to catch on and be profitable. towson might be oddly located, but it's still big city - country folks take a while to warm up to $4 a cup coffee.
For what it's worth, when I lived in Tampa, the local Toyota dealership offered a buy one, get one free deal on their CARS in the summer of 2004. It was a madhouse.

Jay - Thanks for the clarification as I see the valid points you make. 97 flavors? Hopefully that was a typo or sarcasm... We have 24 syrups onboard and IMO that's WAY too many, but my wife wants to offer everything under the sun as alot of the ladies like the flavored stuff and you'd be surprised at the concoctions we are asked to make. If it was just my decision I might have 4-6 and that would be pushing it!

 

Jared - I see your point as well and agree. It can take some time to convince people to pay more. Some around here say "it's just cawfee, it all tastes the same"... We are in the middle of NC, farm country and all. Guys that enjoy calf roping, chew wads of tobacco and get their groove on by watching tractor pulls. At our first tractor pull we sold mostly drip coffee and hot chocolate, but each time we go back people are catching on to the espresso based drinks, chai, etc. more and more. If you build it they will come... eventually!

shadow, thanks for taking a moment to offer your comments.  i know, the whole coffee business and coffee scene is a constant education or re-education class, no?  i've had those folger/maxwell house diehards stop by and balked at prices, too.  its challenging to try to educate them in an efficient manner, and try to get them to have a taste...but, when they start coming by again and again...it all seems worth it in the end, no?  but, you didn't really mean that airpots can keep your coffee fresh for several hours, did you?  the best i've done as far as "stretching" freshness is with a couple of organics, but i really keep a tight watch on the clock and try hard as heck not to serve coffee past its prime.

 

sage 

the coffee hound

Shadow said:

Jay, do explain what is wrong with airpot coffee!?! I'd like to be able to manually brew every cup and I applaud your effort on doing just that, but simply can't with our situation as we are mobile and are serving people on the go. I'm sure you can understand that. I find airpots great for keeping drip coffee hot and fresh for several hours. WAY better than the thousands of places that might be brewing decent coffee only to bastardize it by leaving the carafe on the hotplate for hours to bake.

 

We occasionally have people question our prices, but I explain to tell them why it costs what it does then go on to tell them if they don't like the taste it's FREE. Once they take a sip they gladly pay. Haven't given away a cup yet!

 

Recently converted an older guy (in his 60's and very set in his ways) that was quite happy with the "dark roast for $1" at the local gas station. And he made sure to tell me that. I told him ours cost more than that and I won't drop our prices just to compete with them or others because I have 100% confidence in what we offer. Now he is coming to us twice daily even though he has to pay more.

nathanael, i wish you had given me the heads up on that toyota dealership back in the day!

 

sage

the coffee hound

Nathanael May said:

For what it's worth, when I lived in Tampa, the local Toyota dealership offered a buy one, get one free deal on their CARS in the summer of 2004. It was a madhouse.
Jay - You are absolutely right. So yes, that probably explains the pricing! Some specialty coffee shops have pour-overs and brews that are more like sceince experiments than your traditional pot or plunger -very yummy!

Shadow-

That was not a typo nor sarcasm.  I meant that literally.

 

The first and second coffee programs I ran were part of our other business, Jays Shave Ice - and we offered 97 straight flavors - and just as we do today, all our syrups were made in-house.

Shadow,

 

I would respectfully suggest that it is impossible for an airpot to keep coffee "fresh" for "hours." While it is absolutely true that quality drip machines are capable of producing delicious coffee (indeed, it's ironic how we keep bumping up against problems in manual/single serve brewing methods--temperature, evenness in extraction, consistency--that mechanized brewers have managed to "solve" fairly well), coffee goes downhill pretty quickly when stored. It just falls apart. Do a side-by-side with a freshly-brewed pot (that you open up and let cool for a few minutes, to compensate on temp) and one that's been sitting in a closed airpot for 45 minutes, and the "airpot flavor" should jump out at you.

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