It all started with me attending an EC event in January 2014.
At the time we had just re-established our café business, Avenue Café, at a suburban Bristol location having started out in the center of town back in 2000. The business had been built up through reputation and having a strong loyal following.
But we had no marketing pillars in the business other than a dated website and the success of the business was due to the quality of our products and the great service we provided through the personality of our staff and us!
When we first started out we were at the forefront of the café/coffee shop scene and we were good at what we did which helped to keep us ahead of the wave that was to follow.
Some 15 years on and 4 ½ years at this site, things are much different! There is vast competition from many local and national chains, and independents alike and you can no longer just open the doors and hope for the best.
This is the reason I joined the EC and I’ve learnt so many new skills and implemented new systems into the business which has not only helped us to remain strong but it has enabled us to grow the business by 37% since the beginning of 2015.
The first thing we did was to begin gathering customer details, in house, with a contact form, to build a database and within a couple of months we had around 300 customers on our list. Communication was primitive with me sending out individual e-mails to the list with a self crafted newsletter or a coffee voucher here and there. There was no real regularity and this process was lengthy and laborious and to be honest I didn’t look forward to it.
We developed a simple coffee loyalty card, buy 9 coffees get the 10th free, also with space for customers to fill in their contact details, to then add them to the list and put the cards, when full, into our monthly prize draw for a voucher. Over time we have up-dated and refined the design to reflect the business image.
After attending several of the National Events that followed and regularly attending my local meetings I began implementing more things in the business.
A significant factor has been using our CRM system where over the past 12 months we have built a list of 1,200 customers and which continues to grow by around 100 contacts per month.
This is linked to our website with auto responders and data capture in place. This has enabled us to send structured emails with significantly improved response rates. For example, when promoting our regular Mezé Nights on sending out an email releasing 6/8 dates we are literally sold out within minutes of the email going out! Our customers are also more responsive to our vouchers and café news.
We also developed a phone app for the café which last year helped us become a finalist in the Best Use of New Media category at last years EC awards.
Our app has over 2,000 downloads with regular weekly usage and at the time of its launch, last year, it was the fastest downloaded app for any independent coffee shop or restaurant in Bristol. The app has general information about the café, a loyalty card, a free coffee voucher and money off coupons, together with links to our social media feeds and lots more features. Helping to communicate with and incentivize our customers and to build loyalty. The use of mobile phones and mobile apps in society and business is growing at a very fast rate and is something all businesses need to embrace!
During the latter part of 2014 we re-branded the business giving its a fresh and up to date image. This was reflected in all of our promotional material, menus, menu boards, signage etc. We had a re-launch evening at the end of 2014 with a price increase on our menu products, having also re-negotiated better prices with our suppliers, which has also attributed to growth.
Our website has recently been rebuilt. We have recently introduced a Birthday Club, (the development of which was helped along by Nigel at the Copywriting TEAP Course), capturing Birthday information and sending treats to customers, which again breeds loyalty.
We also developed a “Wall of Fame” (another idea from EC!) which showcases customer testimonials and comments.
We ran a competition through email and social media with voucher rewards for the best comments and have over 80 testimonials/comments which we display on the wall and use on our social media platforms and website in rotation.
Our best promotion is a £5 Off voucher when you spend £15 or more. We promote this via email and also through the app. This alone has seen a growth of 22% year-on-year with an average spend, after the £5 discount, of £15.28 per transaction.
Having implemented and improved all of the above with better and more frequent communication with our customers and by increasing awareness and exposure we have seen a combined growth of 37% compared to the same time last year. Seeing turnover rise from £286k to £390k.
We are currently taking part in the Food Magazine Reader Awards where we are aiming to be shortlisted in the “Best Café” category and have had over 500 nominations so far after our recent social media and email campaigns for support.
Avenue Café holds a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2015 for its high standards.
The business continues to grow and with continued implementation and development and EC support, we will aim to maintain further growth.