Quality – where to draw the line

I’ve been rushing around this week setting up our new coffee shop on the back of our existing Grainger Market site in Newcastle. As usual with any development everything has taken that little bit longer than I expected or planned for and it has made me think. Setting up a cafe is not an easy thing, not at all! It is hard work! In my experience anyone who thinks that it is has either trivialised that ‘type of business’ in their head and assumed that throwing money at it will work or has been involved in stamping out chain cafes after all the hard work has been done.

Whilst talking a break from the sawdust, paint and wiring I took the liberty of dropping in on Joe for a chat, who’s cafe Flat Caps does some great single origin pourovers and stupidly nice cheese scones. As always the conversation inevitably turned to coffee and a chap we both knew who’s cafe didn’t seem to be firing as we both thought it might. We found ourselves trying to understand the reasoning behind it. After some discussion we decided that his focus was wrong. His focus was on Quality! As soon as we said it we both realised that we sounded like every manager we hated from every greasy spoon/naff cafe we’d ever seen. ‘We’ll have to be careful saying things like that. That’s dangerously close to …… I know!’

To put things into perspective. In my opinion you can’t focus totally on quality…bare with me. In order to have a business in the first place you have to be in business and have a market. Now, if you are setting up a business you need to have a market to serve, if you don’t have one you will have to make one! Making a market takes a lot of money or a lot of time and most of the time both. If you are in the coffee industry, which most of you will be, you will know that coffee is either a numbers game or needs to be part of a business that sucks people in for bigger value sales. This is normally food in the form of sandwiches and cakes etc but can also be things like books, music, furniture and even in the case of ‘Look Mum No Hands’ food and bikes. If you are only making cups to coffee, which can be done, you need a lot of people every day just to get by. Say you make, to make it easy, £2 per coffee. How many of them do you need to make a day, every day to take home what you want/deserve for your hard work? Then consider how much your espresso machine cost you and how long you can do without that money in your account. Has the number gone up? Or course it has. Now consider your grinder… Up again? Now the rent…Up again? Etc etc. It’s a big number, isn’t it? Can you guarantee that number every day. Probably not! What do you do? If you haven’t got lots of money you have to take it slowly, build a strong ‘sticky’ market using the most reliable form of marketing ‘word of mouth’. Quality will create a sticky market for you but at what cost. There is really no limit to the amount of money you could spend increasing your quality. What is the right balance!

Now this is where Joe and I had an issue. Is spending all the money you have and some you don’t on the best machines, coffee and gadgets under the sun going to increase your market and ultimately make you a living?

Thoughts please!

Joe’s coffee shop – Flat Caps – A must visit in Newcastle www.flatcapscoffee.com


2 thoughts on “Quality – where to draw the line

  1. Good point made. So you’ve got the quality and the Market to serve it too, but if your service is poor, repeat business is nil. It’s a mix of all. Good product, right price, good Market, great service = success ( or at least a winning formula)

    1. Well said! Service is everything, and repeat business is key! I was fully expecting someone to point out that we had an über boiler in the new shop and to call me a hypocrite! Still we sell bulk beans to people so that allows us to do that much more efficiently.

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