Driven to Espresso: Drive-through Coffee Stands in the Northwest

If you think coffee culture is cool, you have come to the right place. I have loads of information and opinions to share about espresso in the Pacific Northwest, especially the drive-through phenomenon.

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Location: Edmonds, WA, United States

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three critical requirements for a successful drive-through coffee stand

Keeping any business successful these days is a challenge. The drive-through espresso stand business is typically a very small business and even though the profit margin is considerable, it never takes much to sink a small business that relies on a very specific product.

While it is true that coffee is a huge market in general, and specialty coffee, such as espresso, has passionate consumers that have not scaled back their thirst for costlier coffee products in these recessionary times, it is still important to maximize the potential for a steady, large customer base by following some basic requirements.

1. Location. Having a stand where the most drivers pass in the morning can't be stressed enough. The perfect location is one on a well-used arterial road, close to a "bedroom community" outside a metropolitan area. This way you'll catch the driver while he's still waking up and needs the coffee the most, as he begins his drive to work. But it's not just the location, it's convenient access. If the driveway is difficult to turn into, or out of, the driver will consider it not worth the extra time or hassle of stopping there.

2. Quality of the coffee. While everyone has their own opinion of quality, it is important to know how to maximize the flavors and equipment to produce the best product you can. Also, it's important to realize that each person wants their drink to be customized to their exact standard. Some want more milk, some less. Some like it hot, some like it really hot. And so on. To get their regular business, you need to listen to their order and follow it. Knowing that the language of coffee is not a perfectly consistent language, make sure you understand what the customer is asking for.

3. Great baristas. The barista is the only real contact with your business that the customer has and it only lasts about 90 seconds, so it needs to be 100% positive. In the morning, especially, everyone appreciates a bright and cheerful smile, as well as someone who is out to make their day get off to a good start. Nowadays, some drive-throughs are desperately (my opinion) trying to attract more customers by using the old, old selling technique of sexual come-ons, but having a pleasant person to greet you and give your order the attention it deserves just can't be beat for building a regular customer base.

Of course, there are many facets to running a successful drive-through coffee stand, but I believe those three are the dominant ones that customers observe and recognize. Those are the three reasons why someone would pick your stand over others. And that leads to a successful business.

Before you can build a regular customer base, of course, you need to ensure that new customers notice your business in the first place. The building itself and your sign is the primary means to attract attention. Get inspired by seeing over 100 coffee stands I photographed and included in Driven to Espresso! Order a copy today!

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