Some customer bringing in and consuming drinks and food from other stores

We recently opened our first full service coffee shop near a university. Some customers are bringing in and consuming food and drinks from nearby stores. First, we put up a sign that says its ok to bring in food or drinks provided they will not consume it inside our shop. Somehow their are still people who disregard the request and worst influence their friends to bring in products from outside. We're having a difficult time addressing the situation, care to share some wisdom. Many thanks in advance.

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We don't have control over this situation. At least you are affirmed

that your place is preferred by them : ). For me, just keep on improving.

Collect and weight comments good/bad.

 


Kathy Fadorsen said:

     This is my number 1 problem in my store, I even had one person tell me he did not like my food and the drink came with the item they purchased elsewhere or they would buy something because they like my dining room better. Who is supposed to teach manners?

 

How insensitive. Wow,your cafe is in a grocery store and near big brand coffee with rude people walking around. I can imagine. How do you keep up?



Norelle M said:

This is the worst situation for me. I work at a coffee shop in the cafe of a Wegmans grocery store. Some of my customers sit in our cafe and eat/drink, others just buy a coffee to walk around the store. I have a rack with these plastic things that hold your cup and hang on the side of the cart and all day long customers walk in with starbucks and tim hortons etc coffee and come up to my register and ask where the cart holders are. ummmm #1- right in your face. #2- how rude!

 

Thanks for your input. As of now, we put up a sign " No outside food/drinks consumption inside the shop". You're right, good customers do observe how we handle customers who don't follow the notice. We make sure to always be polite and treat each customer with respect.

This situation sometimes is exhausting, sometimes frustrating and sometimes hurting our ego. Like you said, we just have to look at it as an opportunity to come up with comparable products that customers will eventually like. Very helpful, thanks.

 


David Lucke said:

I think you have to treat this issue with a lot of nuance.  You have to ask yourself what is the harm in outside food/beverage? 

 Probably there is more harm in outside bev, because you surely have comparable products you could be selling them.  With outside food, it all depends on your specific food menu.  Are people coming in and ordering coffee and bringing in types of food that you don't have?  I'd go easy on them.  They clearly enjoy your beverages and hanging out in your store, but they want something to eat that you don't offer.  Maybe you can use those situations to figure out some new food items you might want to sell.

 

On the other hand, maybe someone comes in and just wants a place to hang out with outside food and bev.  In this case you have to ask yourself, "Is this specific case harmful to my business?"  It might not be, but if that person is causing a disruption, making a mess, or taking up the last open table then it probably shouldn't be allowed.

 

In the case of someone ordering a cheap drink to get the wifi code, I think you have to tolerate that until you identify repeat offenders.  And you have to treat each repeat offender differently.  Honestly, I would never go out into the cafe among other customers and tell someone to leave unless I had good reason to think this specific case is harmful to the business.

 

Bad customers are a fact of life.  Treating bad customers like bad customers doesn't hurt your business with that specific customer, because you weren't making much if any money off them in the first place.  But treating a bad customer like a bad customer may hurt your business with good customers, if they take notice and don't like how they saw you treat another person.

Here they are, that'll just be 25 cents. (50 cents, whatever)

Norelle M said:

This is the worst situation for me. I work at a coffee shop in the cafe of a Wegmans grocery store. Some of my customers sit in our cafe and eat/drink, others just buy a coffee to walk around the store. I have a rack with these plastic things that hold your cup and hang on the side of the cart and all day long customers walk in with starbucks and tim hortons etc coffee and come up to my register and ask where the cart holders are. ummmm #1- right in your face. #2- how rude!

 

I get bothered when I see these topics pop up.  Why do we continue to think that this industry is an industry where we have to let non-customers walk all over us?  Don't call them a customer, they not only chose to go somewhere else, they also have the audacity to advertise for another business inside of your business.

 

If they choose to walk in with someone else's product, tell them they can't.  If they say, "We're just here to use the wi-fi for a bit" let them know that you will gladly replace the item that they have with an item on your menu and let them stay.  The wi-fi is free, the chair is not.  Otherwise suggest that they lounge in the place where they purchased the competitors product.

 

Do you run a public lounge or a cafe?

 

The arguement that you'll lose business by turning away non-customers is dumb.  If they aren't buying things from you now, they obviously aren't going to do so in the future.

 

Make your product superior to your competitor.  Perhaps the first time you replace their walk-in beverage with one of yours for free.  Tell them that they can't bring in outside beverages as you replace their outside beverage with one of yours.  If your product is better, you've won.  If it isn't you would have lost anyway.

 

-bry

To hell with those rude insensitive non-customers ha ha.

 

Kidding aside, we are still handling it right now the diplomatic way. Hoping to

get some sense out of them. 80% of our walk ins are college students

and as much as possible do balancing treatment of tag-along friends of our

customer. We haven't tried your idea of replacing their outside drinks with ours yet. 

To our thinking, that would be unfair to paying customers. Instead, we tell non-customers

that they can't use our place as hang-out and suggest to consume other products outside our premises.

 

I agree 101% that the best way to counter this issue is to have better products.

 

Thanks

 

 


Bryan Wray said:

I get bothered when I see these topics pop up.  Why do we continue to think that this industry is an industry where we have to let non-customers walk all over us?  Don't call them a customer, they not only chose to go somewhere else, they also have the audacity to advertise for another business inside of your business.

 

If they choose to walk in with someone else's product, tell them they can't.  If they say, "We're just here to use the wi-fi for a bit" let them know that you will gladly replace the item that they have with an item on your menu and let them stay.  The wi-fi is free, the chair is not.  Otherwise suggest that they lounge in the place where they purchased the competitors product.

 

Do you run a public lounge or a cafe?

 

The arguement that you'll lose business by turning away non-customers is dumb.  If they aren't buying things from you now, they obviously aren't going to do so in the future.

 

Make your product superior to your competitor.  Perhaps the first time you replace their walk-in beverage with one of yours for free.  Tell them that they can't bring in outside beverages as you replace their outside beverage with one of yours.  If your product is better, you've won.  If it isn't you would have lost anyway.

 

-bry

I agree I have had people tell me as soon as they finish their drink they will come and buy one, every time they sit for 30 min or so than When staff is occupied they run out the door. Rude Rude all about me attitude.

Bryan Wray said:

I get bothered when I see these topics pop up.  Why do we continue to think that this industry is an industry where we have to let non-customers walk all over us?  Don't call them a customer, they not only chose to go somewhere else, they also have the audacity to advertise for another business inside of your business.

 

If they choose to walk in with someone else's product, tell them they can't.  If they say, "We're just here to use the wi-fi for a bit" let them know that you will gladly replace the item that they have with an item on your menu and let them stay.  The wi-fi is free, the chair is not.  Otherwise suggest that they lounge in the place where they purchased the competitors product.

 

Do you run a public lounge or a cafe?

 

The arguement that you'll lose business by turning away non-customers is dumb.  If they aren't buying things from you now, they obviously aren't going to do so in the future.

 

Make your product superior to your competitor.  Perhaps the first time you replace their walk-in beverage with one of yours for free.  Tell them that they can't bring in outside beverages as you replace their outside beverage with one of yours.  If your product is better, you've won.  If it isn't you would have lost anyway.

 

-bry

People have the wrong attitude surrounding cafe's and specialty coffee. We need to educate people and introduce them into a new standard of quality cafe's. I like to view coffee the way you would view wine. I go to a cafe to socialize like nearly all the people who go to sit in anyways. I would never go to a wine bar or any sort of other drink establishment and expect to be allowed to stay with my own product. Could you imagine going to a jazz club for an event with your own bottle of wine and asking their sommolier to open it? Why is it that people think coffee is different? We strictly enforce a no outside food/beverage policy at our cafe and have asked people to leave. Majority of the time we can replace it with something of our own, and their happy. But we should not be different, there is no need to allow it. If you're truly serving a quality product/products then your environment should fit. You should be proud enough to say, "We have chosen the coffee we serve because we believe in it. We've chosen to serve the items we serve because they compliment each other and together create an experience not just a taste." I feel that at our cafe we can be a little stricter than a lot of place's because we've limited customer choice. We give them a set menu with no options for customizing and believe that the person that comes to us understands that we are proffesionals and have chosen what we do because we feel it is the best choice. If they disagree than they can feel free to go somewhere else. Sorry for the snobbery but the attitude of respect in this industry in the U.S and Canada I really believe needs to change. We're not Macdonald's and NO the customer is not always right, (you don't have to tell them their wrong though ha.) I also believe that it IS changing though thanks to some of the leaders in the specialty coffee scene.
To add to my post a friend of mine has a cafe just at the other side of the river from the largest university in the province. He has made it so that he doesn't have issues with it sticking with a strict no outside food policy. His cafe is in what used to be a cafeteria in a provincial art gallery where "brown bag" lunches were encouraged. So it is possible to have a strict policy in an area where it might be "normal" or expected that it would be allowed and not have people offended or turned off because of it. He is hands down the most high end and successfully specialty coffee shop in town.
Good thought, but I'm going to disagree with part of this.

 

It is probably true that your customers may prefer to have additional options, and you should absolutely be nosy and see what they are bringing in to gather ideas.

 

However... asking what people would like to see you offer is a bad idea. When you ask, you may get a great idea, but you'll get lots of crazy and impractical ideas too. The discussion will then become, weeks later, "why didn't you use MY great idea?" and you'll get comments about how "you should have offered ..." any time traffic is a little lighter. Some will resent that you didn't like their idea. Others will take this as a cue that you need their help to figure out the business, and bombard you with suggestions about other areas of your business from that day forward.

 

People have lots of ideas about what sort of products should be offered in a coffee shop. We've had people emphatically suggest that we should offer: hand-scooped hard ice cream, hot dogs, pancakes, a salad bar, donuts, tuna melts, and mass-produced prewrapped honey buns. Each of these ideas was problematic either conflicting with our vision, impractical, or impacting the shop's atmosphere.

 

Besides, you don't need to ask. You have lots of ways to figure out what people might want you to offer. Listen to what they ask about. Look at what they bring in. Think about extensions of your current best-sellers. Visit other shops and see what other people offer and other customers buy. Think about it when you are out in other places... keeping your eyes open for new product ideas that would work in your vision.

 

As the owner of your business, you are driving the bus. It is your vision, and everything you do should be in harmony with that vision. It is your responsibility to make sure that new offerings are compatible, and edit those that aren't selling or clash. You can't be all things to all people, nor should you try to be.

 

All that said... the large part of the problem here is not lack of offerings. It is, as so many others have pointed out, people's notion that a coffee shop is a community center or lounge.

 

Offer a good selection of items. Make and enforce an appropriate outside food/minimum purchase policy. Appreciate and take care of your good customers.


Clark Le Compte said:

here is a compromise- ask the clients what type of food they would like to see at your shop.  If they are brining in food from somewhere else it may mean that your product is not serving your clients needs.  Find a way to work with the need.  Then if someone brings in food you can say "we do not allow outside food, please try our _____" (_____ being a similar product and price point)

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