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by Maxim Vershinin

Retailer/Roaster Profile

Categories: 2013, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

If you hap­pen to be in the area, it is quite hard to miss Sip Café, an all-glass café located in one of Boston’s beau­ti­ful down­town parks. I’m here to chat with the owner Jared Mancini about this awe­some place.

V. Hi Jared! How did you get into cof­fee indus­try?
M. This is going back to 10 years. I had no prior expo­sure to cof­fee what­so­ever. The inter­net com­pany I was work­ing for went out of busi­ness, and I needed a job. So, I got an inter­view at Torrefazione Italia, and that’s what really started the love affair. I fell in love with what they were doing and with the whole pre­sen­ta­tion; every once in a while, we even used to wear suits to work back then. The drip was noth­ing too phe­nom­e­nal, it was pri­mar­ily blends. What I really learned at Torrefazione was the whole café expe­ri­ence, mak­ing peo­ple happy and pre­sent­ing a prod­uct. There are many busi­ness own­ers in the indus­try who have a super pure style, but I want to do things with the high­est pos­si­ble qual­ity, while mak­ing peo­ple happy. For exam­ple, if some­body comes in and orders a Starbucks drink – caramel mac­chi­ato, we won’t have that, but we won’t have atti­tude about it. So we would say: “You know what? We don’t have a caramel mac­chi­ato, but what I can do sir, is to make you a vanilla latte, and I really think it would be bet­ter than what you are used to, or at least some­thing dif­fer­ent, and you can try that.”

V. Your café is absolutely stun­ning inside and out. Who built it?
M. I wish I could take more credit for it (laughs). The quick story is this is a square where the café is now, which was a big, ugly, con­crete park­ing garage around 20 years ago. Then this group came together, tore the garage down, and made this beau­ti­ful park, includ­ing this glass struc­ture where we are at now. Before we found out about this place and moved in, there was a café located here called Z Square, so I can­not take credit for the glass struc­ture and some things inside. But I can take credit for the aes­thet­ics. We com­pletely got rid of this gray, very ster­ile, dull and cold feel­ing of the pre­vi­ous café. They only lasted 6 months. We brought in a lot of color, wooden fur­ni­ture, and our espresso machin­ery. This café rep­re­sents our vision now.

V. What attracts cus­tomers to your busi­ness?
M. We have a reg­u­lar crowd of peo­ple and they come in just for the cof­fee. And once in a while one of these peo­ple hap­pens to have a lunch meet­ing here or some­thing, and they say “Wow, I didn’t real­ize you get a great lunch”. So there is a split between this whole group of peo­ple that come in just for cof­fee in the morn­ing, and those that come in just for lunch; but there are also those that come in for both now. Why peo­ple like us? I think it is the prod­uct, but I also think it is a lack of atti­tude. There are so many times I go into place and think “God man, is it an atti­tude extra today? Are you charg­ing extra for your atti­tude?” You know what I mean. I think most peo­ple have expe­ri­enced that. Here it is dif­fer­ent. I am always work­ing with my staff try­ing to make them pas­sion­ate about the prod­uct, but what is more impor­tant for me is for them to be more wel­com­ing and accept­ing and try­ing to make cus­tomers happy.

V.  What tips can you give to those in the cof­fee indus­try that start today?
M. Don’t be naïve and real­ize it is going to take time. I def­i­nitely thought that we would just start mak­ing money right away. It took me a few years to even pay myself. Luckily my wife had a good job. You have to have a pas­sion for what you are doing because you will most likely have to work with­out pay for a while. It takes time – busi­ness costs are high in big cities. Be patient, and plan for the fact that you won’t be bring­ing that much right away. Another thing is that you have to encour­age your staff and pay atten­tion to what they are doing. Make peo­ple feel appre­ci­ated and give them feed­back. Try to build a team atmos­phere from the start, so that every­one can watch each other’s back when needed.

V. It seems that the cur­rent econ­omy took its toll on many busi­ness own­ers around the coun­try. What about you?
M. Yup, we actu­ally did start in the mid­dle of this whole tur­moil. It will be four years in April since we are in busi­ness. However, I’ve always thought, “Hey, we are not sell­ing sports cars – it is cof­fee and sand­wiches – and we aren’t even super fancy”. In fact I think we might have even ben­e­fited from peo­ple shy­ing away from more lux­ury estab­lish­ments. We are more expen­sive than Dunkin Donuts, but I hope this is a bet­ter experience.

Sip Café

0 Post Office Square
Boston, MA, 02109
(617) 338‑3080
www.sipboston.com
Jared Mancini
jaredmancini@gmail.com

Digital Latte: Drinking Coffee with my Smart Phone — New Mobile Platforms Enabling Coffee Shops to go Digital

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Look­ing back on 2012, there were many events that dom­i­nated the news cycles. Besides the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Hurricane Sandy and the state of the econ­omy, one of the most closely watched sto­ries by media of all stripes was Facebook’s IPO in May.

There were many rea­sons, but it had such great appeal because of how much Facebook has become a part of the daily lives of a sev­enth of the world pop­u­la­tion. More than half of Facebook’s 1.01 bil­lion users access their news feeds daily, and accord­ing to the com­pany in its most recent earn­ings report, the num­ber of users access­ing their feeds from mobile devices increased 61% from September 2011 to September 2012.  Another rea­son for the media inter­est is how addict­ing Facebook is to so many users: According to Edison Research, 23% of Facebook’s users check their account five or more times daily and the mean num­ber of daily log-ins by Facebook users is four.

The Facebook IPO, and sub­se­quent chron­i­cling of the path of its stock price high­lighted an even larger busi­ness story this year—the matu­rity of the social media mar­ket over­all. While the jury is out on Facebook, the IPO’s of other com­pa­nies like Groupon have said a great deal about the chal­lenge these com­pa­nies face prov­ing out their busi­ness models.

Social Media: The World’s Digital Mall
People don’t just use social media to post pic­tures of their kids or what they are hav­ing for lunch. In fact, more and more con­sumers rely on social media to influ­ence their pur­chas­ing deci­sions. According to the same Edison Research sur­vey ref­er­enced above, last year 32% of Americans using social net­works said that those net­works had an influ­ence on their buy­ing deci­sions. This year, 65% said that social net­works influ­enced their deci­sions.  Also, 47% say Facebook has the great­est impact on pur­chase behav­ior (up from 24% in 2011).

It’s not only Facebook that has an impact.
•    56% of con­sumers share pur­chases on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites
•    59% of Pinterest users have pur­chased items they saw on the site
•    33% of Facebook users have pur­chased an item saw on their news feed or a friend’s Timeline
•    79% of Pinterest users are more likely to pur­chase items they’ve seen on Pinterest

The Coffee Industry has always had a social and com­mu­nity com­po­nent; long before online shop­ping, social media or mobile apps, cof­fee shops were gath­er­ing places to inter­act with oth­ers.  The chal­lenge for us today is to extend our local cof­fee com­mu­nity through social media and mobile tools that allow us to drive busi­ness and increase con­sumer par­tic­i­pa­tion with our brands.  This explains the sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment made by Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts in par­tic­u­lar on social media mar­ket­ing cam­paigns and mobile apps. What these giants have shown is how to very effec­tively build a mas­sive social media fol­low­ing and tie it together with loy­alty pro­grams across plat­forms to drive business.

The linch­pin for both these pio­neers has been mobile. Starbucks’ mobile appli­ca­tion has pow­ered more than 29 mil­lion trans­ac­tions to date. The appli­ca­tion effec­tively ties together loy­alty and offers a mobile wal­let and pay­ment mech­a­nism that gives it even more vis­i­bil­ity into the habits and pref­er­ences of its cus­tomers. This in turn allows it to mar­ket in a more per­sonal way—including through social media—and con­nect emo­tion­ally with its cus­tomers through “feel good” posts that gen­er­ate an aver­age of 15,000 Facebook Likes. It also allows social media to be inte­grated into every one of its campaigns.

Take, for exam­ple, Starbucks’s December “12 Days of Gifting” cam­paign. The mobile app was one pro­mo­tional chan­nel that allowed cus­tomers to opt-in via text. Customers were then pointed to its cam­paign Web page and invited to con­nect to its Holiday Facebook app. On the same page, cus­tomers could access each of the “12 Days” offers.

As this exam­ple shows, Starbucks pio­neered the abil­ity to gain tremen­dous vis­i­bil­ity into the pur­chasers of its loy­alty and gift cards by bring­ing them to its mobile app, through which it can receive offers and make pur­chases (with a strong social media component).

Aside from major brands, most mer­chants have no vis­i­bil­ity into who pur­chased the gift or loy­alty card or who the ulti­mate recip­i­ent is. This lack of vis­i­bil­ity rep­re­sents sig­nif­i­cant loss of oppor­tu­nity for brands to dis­trib­ute tar­geted pro­mo­tions, incen­tives, dis­counts and spe­cial offers to their best cus­tomers. As these new mobile plat­forms emerge, smaller brands that take advan­tage of them will be able to make direct con­tact with the card buyer and the card recip­i­ent. This one to one rela­tion­ship increases brand aware­ness, ampli­fies con­sumer mind­share and engages cus­tomers in real-time.

These new mobile plat­forms will include a con­sumer mobile app that inte­grates shop­ping, gift­ing and loy­alty solu­tions with users’ real-time loca­tion, pref­er­ence and friend data. This empow­ers mer­chants to pro­vide rel­e­vant and timely infor­ma­tion to cus­tomers to help them get bet­ter offers and local­ize the expe­ri­ence. Merchants ben­e­fit from a direct-to-consumer mar­ket­ing chan­nel informed by rich data across retail­ers, gift lists cre­ated by the app user and their Facebook friends, past responses to offers and geo-location infor­ma­tion. Today, white label plat­forms that include a reg­is­tra­tion process are emerg­ing, so that gift card buy­ers and recipients—as well as loy­alty card holders—are no longer anony­mous, enabling brands to iden­tify and engage more of their customers.

Conclusion
Nearly all roast­ers and mer­chants under­stand the value of estab­lish­ing pro­grams to breed cus­tomer engage­ment and loy­alty while increas­ing rev­enues. They also under­stand that social media chan­nels have moved from “nice to have” to “must have.” The chal­lenge now is find­ing the tools that inte­grate the two together in a way that includes mobile mar­ket­ing as a very strong component.

Only through a white-label and inte­grated, func­tional plat­form can cof­fee retail­ers of any size effec­tively develop a mobile engage­ment strat­egy that gen­er­ates rev­enue with­out hav­ing to build it all from the ground up. This will help mer­chants and roast­ers real­ize the poten­tial of highly tar­geted, per­son­al­ized, local and action­able pro­mo­tional cam­paigns and mes­sag­ing to the indi­vid­ual consumer.

While the big guys got off to a great start in 2012, once the thou­sands of cof­fee shop com­mu­ni­ties around the coun­try unleash the dig­i­tal tools now avail­able, the smaller guys will be the ones to come up with the big ideas for 2013 and ‘14. What we’ll see in 2013 is the emer­gence of white-labeled plat­forms for all other mer­chants and roast­ers that want the same capa­bil­i­ties of the big retail­ers but lack bud­get, time and know-how.

12_12 8-AEntrepreneur and Investor, The for­mer CEO of Swiss Farm Stores and Saxbys Coffee Company,  Paul Friel is pres­i­dent of Entourage Partners LLC an Angel invest­ment group located in Philadelphia that helps early stage com­pa­nies.  Entourage has invest­ments in the mobile pay­ment and retail POS categories.

2012 Trends for Frozen Beverages — Time to get Creative!

Categories: 2012, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Many restau­rants and Cafés have focused on adding dif­fer­ent foods to expand their menu hop­ing to draw more patrons. Beverages have become the lat­est medium for oper­a­tors look­ing to drive sales and increase prof­its. Many fast food chains have seized this oppor­tu­nity, and are exper­i­ment­ing by enlarg­ing their bev­er­age menu and offer­ing fun and cre­ative drinks. “McDonald’s touts its new frozen straw­berry lemon­ade while Steak’n’Shake and Sonic shout about their “happy hour” deals on milk­shakes and frozen drinks, avail­able dur­ing the mid-afternoon snack period.” 1. For this rea­son, we will be look­ing into some of the trends for 2012 and what peo­ple are demand­ing this year, specif­i­cally in the cold and frozen bev­er­ages market.

As the cof­fee lovers that we are, the first thing that I should point out is that Iced cof­fee is on the top of the list; and this topic could be an entire arti­cle by itself. “Consumption of this cold caf­feinated bev­er­age in restau­rants has heated up 20% per­cent in the last five years.”1 According to an inde­pen­dent sur­vey con­ducted by Dunkin’ Donuts, “an over­whelm­ing major­ity (84%) of iced cof­fee drinkers claim they are drink­ing more iced cof­fee this win­ter com­pared to last win­ter.” 2 Not only the inter­est in pre­mium and spe­cialty beans, but also all the advances in the cold brew tech­nol­ogy, has influ­enced the grow­ing demand. Everywhere, from McDonald’s to the local Café’s, oper­a­tors are offer­ing iced and frozen java drinks; even Starbucks with its new Via Iced Coffee is giv­ing cus­tomers the means to make their own at home. As a café, it is impor­tant to focus on the qual­ity of your brew­ing method, and make sure you dif­fer­en­ti­ate your iced or frozen cof­fee from those of the big chains.

Next, con­sumers have become increas­ingly health con­scious, and this trend will con­tinue to be fol­lowed for years to come. Individuals are look­ing at labels that con­tain “Free-From,” “All– Natural,” and “Low-Calorie.” Consumers, espe­cially women, are extremely aware of this last one. Therefore, when select­ing what fla­vor­ings, syrups, and prod­ucts to offer in your café, look for these labels. According to Brenda Weldon, Marketing Coördinator for Weldon Flavorings “We believe at Weldon Flavorings that health con­scious cus­tomers are demand­ing
 more qual­ity from all their bev­er­ages. They want their frozen treats to be health­ier for them and have less sugar, fats, calo­ries, sodium, and arti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers. Frozen treats made with Weldon Flavorings can increase the fla­vor of any drink with­out adding these unwanted ingredients.”

From enhanced waters and drinks, such as vit­a­min water, to made-to-order frozen bev­er­ages, con­sumers are look­ing to get extra vit­a­mins and sup­ple­ments from their thirst-quenchers. Specifically ones that will give a boost of energy; hence, the pop­u­lar­ity of “5-hour” and other energy drinks. David Gross, CEO of Smoothie Essentials says, “Our prod­uct line includes twenty assorted blends that indi­vid­u­ally and together encom­pass the broad spec­trum of what­ever par­tic­u­lar ben­e­fit a cus­tomer would be look­ing for. Whether for energy or for rest­ful sleep; for pro­tein or for fiber; for recov­ery from one too many drinks the night before or for an extra boost to the brain func­tions before school, the Smoothie Essential prod­uct line has a prod­uct to meet the benefit.”

According to an inde­pen­dent sur­vey con­ducted by Dunkin’ Donuts, “an over­whelm­ing major­ity (84%) of iced cof­fee drinkers claim they are drink­ing more iced cof­fee this win­ter com­pared to last win­ter.” 2

While many may think that offer­ing sugar-free and low-calorie prod­ucts will affect the taste of their bev­er­ages and limit their cre­ativ­ity, many sup­pli­ers have cre­ated great tast­ing fla­vor­ings, sweet­en­ers, and syrups in order to meet this demand. Your frozen bev­er­ages can be unique and healthy at the same time. Gina Costello, CEO of Costellini’s says their most cre­ative fla­vor is “the cin­na­mon bliss, it’s a show grab­ber every time, peo­ple are shocked when they taste it; then even more shocked when they learn it sugar free and fat free.”

Get Creative!

Creativity is crit­i­cal to dif­fer­en­ti­ate your café; and of course fla­vor. People are now demand­ing not only unique and excit­ing bev­er­ages, but cus­tomiz­able. Consumers want the do-it-yourself expe­ri­ence by being able to pick and choose from an array options. Syrups and fla­vor­ings will allow you to offer vari­ety, while main­tain­ing a high-profit mar­gin. “There is high demand for frozen fruit based bev­er­ages. Lemonade and teas are very pop­u­lar. Again, adding fla­vor offers a com­plete range of drinks. In fact, a café can cre­ate ter­rific tast­ing lemon­ade sim­ply by using Monin Lemon as the base fla­vor.” Says Bob Hager, Vice pres­i­dent of Marketing at Monin Syrups.” While fresh and local is cur­rently a big trend; using only fresh prod­ucts can be expen­sive, and can limit your cre­ativ­ity. Combining syrups and fla­vor­ings with a few sea­sonal fruits and botan­i­cals will allow you to mix fla­vors while keep­ing costs low, and also dis­tin­guish your Café with inven­tive drinks.

According to Jillian Hillard, Marketing Manager at PreGel AMERICA, “ Slushes, frappes and smooth­ies aren’t the only play­ers any­more. Soft gelato and yogurt prod­ucts (affogatos), excit­ing alcohol-infused drinks and more will all greatly expand the frozen bev­er­age cat­e­gory.” Diversifying your prod­uct line does not only mean offer­ing dif­fer­ent fla­vored bev­er­ages, but also dis­tinc­tive and orig­i­nal styles of cold drinks. “PreGel’s Caféttone, Fruittone and Yogurttone lines eas­ily incor­po­rate into an exist­ing café model for a num­ber of rea­sons. The con­cept blends well with the exist­ing offer­ings of many cafés i.e. cof­fee, espresso, juices and fruits – mean­ing you can incor­po­rate Caféttone, Fruittone and Yogurttone within a café’s cur­rent prod­ucts (Salted Caramel Caféttone swirled with espresso).” Adds Hillard.

Quality

When a cus­tomer is pur­chas­ing a frozen or cold bev­er­age they will expect it to be tasty; that it is well blended; and that the fla­vor lasts until the end. The type of blender you use will play an impor­tant role in the out­come of these fac­tors. According to Tony Ciepiel, COO of Vitamix, “Our cus­tomers’ rep­u­ta­tions are built on qual­ity. Whether our prod­ucts are being used in a cof­fee house, smoothie bar, or one of the finest restau­rants in the world, we’ll con­tinue to cre­ate value and ver­sa­til­ity to help ensure suc­cess… Vitamix offers oper­a­tors the abil­ity to deliver a wide vari­ety of supe­rior blended bev­er­ages to their cus­tomers through a vari­ety of fea­tures and ben­e­fits, includ­ing its pro­gram but­tons with 34 opti­mized pro­grams found on The Quiet One.”

Something that is iron­i­cally often neglected, con­sid­er­ing it is the most promi­nent ingre­di­ent, is ice. According to Michael Rice, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Follett Corporation, “Studies have shown that peo­ple pre­fer Chewblet ice, gener­i­cally known as nugget or extruded ice, by over 2:1 com­pared to con­ven­tional cube-type ice.” He con­tin­ues by adding, “All Follett ice machines pro­duce Chewblet ice. More than 50% of the pop­u­la­tion likes to chew ice and con­sumers pre­fer the tex­ture, size, shape, and appear­ance of Chewblet ice. They often think Chewblet ice makes their drinks taste bet­ter and will go out of their way to get drinks with this type of ice.”

Frozen bev­er­ages are not just a sum­mer trend. People enjoy frozen drinks as a snack drink; some as a meal replace­ment, or sim­ply as a func­tional drink that allows them to get their daily fruit intake and other sup­ple­ments (which helps jus­tify the calo­ries); oth­ers drink them because of the tex­ture and because they are just plain fun! Regardless of the motive, the demand is present. Frozen Beverages are high-margin menu items that sell well, and they are easy to add to the menu with min­i­mal invest­ment and inven­tory. Do not miss an oppor­tu­nity to diver­sify your menu and increase rev­enue; fol­low the indus­try trends.

1 www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/top-ten-beverage-trends-2011/
www.sacbee.com/2012/01/24/4210780/iced-coffee-drinkers-running-on.html