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Just a Few Special Touches:

Fresh Ideas To Help Your Café Stand Out This Summer


At the end of 2001, Starbucks introduced its long-awaited debit card. The card’s magnetic strip stores $5 - 500, which is debited from the card when customers make a purchase at a Starbucks store or on their web site. The useful gimmic seems to be well received so far and is most likely bringing in business (though there has been a buzz among baristas about the card interfering with tipping, since customers using it don’t have to touch their cash).

In any case, when it comes to customer satisfaction, it’s very often the small things that count. We’ve noticed some other new retail ideas that are sure to help you keep your own patrons happy - and thirsty for more. So read on for some hot suggestions to keep your coffeeshop cool this summer.

Make Tipping Fun
“The secret to the success of the Thank You Cup is simple: who doesn’t want to be thanked when leaving a tip?” asks A. Joseph Lussier, owner of T/C Sales Co, supplier of the Thank Full Tip Response Cup. Customers often decline to tip when a barista’s back is turned for the simple reason that the barista may not even notice. The Thank You cup is a creative and fun solution to this problem. When dropped into the Thank You cup, bills and coins activate a voice-simulated response unit, which can be programmed with a touch of a button to say “Thank You” in either English, French or Spanish.

Robert Ames, who runs concession stands and is opening the coffeehop Grind Central Station in Troy, Idaho, ordered a couple of the cups because they seemed “pretty cute.” But he says now that he has seen his tips increase, he has ordered more for his existing business and his future one. “It does a lot more than just our regular jars, that’s for sure. It’s a great item. Kids put money in it just to hear it talk.”

“In the drive-thrus we have in Seattle, tips are sometimes stolen,” says Bryan Grove of Atomic Sales in Washington, which distributes coffee bar supplies. “This is a great way to keep tips safe because the barista knows they’ve been tipped.” Nearby customers are also alerted, so that they remember to tip as well. Lussier says this not only benefits the employee by enhancing tip contributions over 50% - management also gains from the profits that result from the beneficial relationship this fosters between employees and customers.

T/C Sales Co. - Thank Full Tip Response Cup, 1645 Warwick Avee., Suite 211, Warwick, Rhode Island 02889-1523. Tel: (866) GRT TIPS (478-8477), E-mail: tc@choiceonemail.com

Give the Gift of Coffee
Do you offer an option to buy gift certificates at your shop? Sure, it’s one way to bring in some new customers. But New Venture Group has a more profitable and engaging version of old promotional ideas like gift certificates, punch cards, or free coupons. Coffee Coins are hand-crafted, reusable ceramic “gift coins.” The coins have an old-fashioned coffee grinder engraved on the front, and the back includes a color label which is custom printed with the individual café’s logo.

“Paper gift certificates are meant to be given to a single person, so at best one new customer will visit your shop. Coffee Coins are designed to take advantage of the natural network of family, friends and business associates of your regular customers,” says owner David Azen.

One very useful function of the Coffee Coin is the way it can satisfy unhappy customers. The Oops! Coin will give them a free beverage to make up for any hassle they may have experienced at your shop - to keep them coming back to your establishment and not someone else’s. Shops have come up with many other creative uses of the coins: some offer a free coin with the purchase of a certain amount of bulk coffee. Frequent buyers clubs give out a free coin with, for instance, every 10 drinks purchased. Gift baskets, stocking stuffers, teacher gifts and “thank you”s for filling out comment cards are among some other uses. Michael Kastner of Lazy Bean Cafe in New Jersey, has even had the bright idea of selling the coins as Hanukah Gelt during the holidays.

New coffeehouses have also been using the coins to promote grand openings. When Joe Coffee Bar in Pennsylvania first opened, owner Joseph Cesa hoped Coffee Coin would help his business take off. His employees gave out “next cup free” coins out to customers. “[Customers] love it - they’re so surprised someone is giving them something for free,” says Cesa. “We say ‘thanks a lot, see you all the time’ and its just a lot more personal than a punch card. It’s a neat idea and it really caught on - we only opened six weeks ago and already have a good number of regular customers.”

New Venture Group, LLC - Coffee Coin, 9660 Corn Tassel Ct., Columbia, Maryland 21046. Tel: (1)(410) 303-8200, Fax: (1)(401)362-4132, E-mail:

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