My Morning Joe

local-coffee-shopIt occurred to me the other day whilst walking to retrieve a cup of Joe at my favorite local cafe, that I in fact pass three, arguably four other coffee shops to get there. “Why is that?” I pondered.

So I figured I’d attack this debate using the 4 Ps and analyze exactly what it is about my regular spot that allures me away from four, more convenient locations. I’ll use the following pseudonyms to identify the four cafes: “My Place,” “Trendy Joint,” “Bus Stop Place,” & “Random-Sushi-Place-Serving-Coffee-in-the-Morning,” aka “RSPSCM.”

PRODUCT: Ever since I started French pressing my own coffee at home, I must admit, any coffee I purchase elsewhere seems to come up short these days. That said, lately my taste buds acknowledge two kinds of coffee: suitable & bad.

“My Place” – Obviously suitable, or I wouldn’t go. Food is very good. Offers hot breakfast sandwiches, as well as variety of baked goods.

“Trendy Joint” – Definitely rates suitable to me. A bit strong, but tasty nonetheless. Decent offering of food, but items are as described: “Trendy.” You know what that means, lots of vegan and organic, but they do offer hot breakfast items.


“Bus Stop Place” – Their cup rates as bad. There’s really just no allure to it at all. For all I know, it’s literally Maxwell House drip. Food is equally horrible. Offer some baked goods and bagels (with pre-packaged cream cheese packets!) but it’s like someone ran to the grocery store to get it all before opening. You can also choose from four kinds of flavored peanut butter, though, none of them happen to be just, plain, peanut butter. (WTF?)

“RSPSCM” – Despite the potential to be bad, their coffee is actually quite suitable. Decent food, but often a little weird. As you can imagine, their food offering has a bit of a sushi place flair to it. I once got a breakfast wrap and it came with a side of rice with soy sauce. It was good and all, just not what I really wanted at 8:00AM. That said, they do offer more “diner” type hot dishes than a typical coffee shop, which is nice. (Oh- and I hear the sushi is very good.)

PRICE: As I mentioned above, ever since I started more seriously home brewing, I predict I spend on average about $50/month less on coffee as compared to buying it on the run. I do, however, still enjoy the act of enjoying a cup with friends out in the wild. I expect to pay in or around $2 for a 14oz cup of coffee. That’s acceptable to me. So here we go…

“My Place” – Comes in right at $2. They also offer a $1 refill which is nice. And actually, quite often they don’t even charge regular customers for a refill – so that’s motivation enough for routine visits. Food is reasonable too. Can get a hardy breakfast sandwich and coffee for less than $6.

“Trendy Joint” – There’s a long-standing story/joke amongst my friends about how one guy managed to drop nearly $19 on breakfast on a wrap, OJ, & coffee. He stared at his receipt in wonderment as he walked to our table. That was his last visit there.

“Bus Stop Place” – Over my $2 threshold, but not by much.

“RSPSCM” – On the cheaper side for coffee & food. And very liberal with the free refills.

PROMOTION: Now this is a tricky category as I live in such a dense neighborhood, they are largely rely on local foot traffic. That said, some do a better job than others in the promotion department. To me, there’s two ways to look at this category: 1. How they treat their existing customers, 2. How they allure new customers.

“My Place” – They have a website which is branded nicely and presents general info: menu, hours, delivery, & catering information. They also have social media presence, utilizing Facebook to generate feedback/recommendations from customers, as well as promote and support other local businesses and the community at large. There is also a Twitter handle that announces such things as soups and specials of the day. Beyond that, they offer the fairly standard “frequent flyer” card: Buy 10 coffees, get the 11th free.

“Trendy Joint” – As you’d expect from your typical trendy neighborhood coffee shop, they cater to a diverse, eclectic crowd. They host events like movie nights and open mic nights and feature a local artist gallery. These activities are supported through a strong online presence and active fan base. Beyond that, the offer a similar “frequent flyer” program as mentioned above. Definitely top marks in this category.

“Bus Stop Place” – Beyond the obligatory Yelp & Urbanspoon listings, there’s no real online presence to speak of. The shop (while a bit odd) is themed and they do a great job of playing  up that theme with decor and what not. Major piece of promotional activity seems to be an A-frame style chalkboard sign on the sidewalk outside. No repeat customer incentive to speak of.

“RSPSCM” – No presence online, no special events, no repeat customer incentive program. Fully rely on neighborhood foot traffic and community review type sites.

PLACE: Location, location, location. In a neighborhood such as mine, location along busier streets is key. All these businesses rely on foot traffic, and if tucked too far away, that could mean make or break in the long run.

“My Place” – Along the main drag in the neighborhood. Near other thriving businesses, as well as the local gas station, drug store, and a fairly busy bus stop. They have outdoor seating – complete with an awning – which makes for a comfortable, people-watching perch.

“Trendy Joint” – This is tricky. This place used to have one of the premier spots in town. Also along the main drag and near one of the top attractions in the neighborhood, complete with outside seating as well. The original location was perfect. They have since moved (a financial, not marketing decision) and are a few blocks further from the hustle and bustle. That said, it’s still a good spot.

“Bus Stop Place” – It gets it’s pseudonym largely because of this category. This shop is literally at the corner where two major bus lines cross. Mornings are chock full of commuters. I’m convinced it is location that enables this place to remain in existence as it does.

“RSPSCM” – Of all the four, it’s the most random and tucked away. Where the first two get great residual “visitor” traffic that spill out of local events and general tourism, this place misses out. That said, it’s still surrounded by many residents and thrive on regulars.

I’m going to add a fifth P that I don’t think can quite be covered above: PEOPLE. The employees and other patrons to me have a strong impact of my decision-making.

“My Place” – People are great. It’s a family-run business and they employ friendly, upbeat, capable people.

“Trendy Joint” – While not individuals I readily relate to, I’ve never had an issue with anybody there. Always friendly and mostly capable.

“Bus Stop Place” – A few people I’ve encountered here seem a bit mechanical and disinterested in anything but pouring your coffee and taking your money. A little bit of a turn off. That said, never an issue.

“RSPSCM” – Very friendly, but often slow. They tend to under-staff at times too which just compounds the slowness.

So there it is. I didn’t exactly keep score, but when I think long and hard about why I frequent the place I do, I find myself coming back to this rationale: “I just like it there.” While pretty subjective, I think how businesses choose to implement all five P’s plays a huge role in what becomes just an intrinsic preference in each of us.

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