When you first launch your coffee business venture, there are a number of different things to think about, including start-up costs for your coffee shop.
While you must have a overview of these considerations if you are to operate successfully, however, it is crucial that you prioritise while focusing on the factors that will have a direct impact on the quality and profitability of your brand.
In this respect, one of the most important (and complex) considerations is the selection of a suitable coffee supplier. Not only must the coffee that you serve to your customers reflect the core values of your brand, for example, but it must also be within your budget and capable of driving the required profit margin.
Whether you're just starting your very own coffee shop or you've been established for several decades, offering the best tasting coffee to your customers is one of the most fundamental parts of a successful cafeteria.
How to Choose a Coffee Supplier that suits your Brand
With this in mind, let's take a look at the process that you should follow when sourcing a potential coffee supplier before making an informed decision. Consider the following: -
#1 - Translate your Brand Values into the type of Coffee that you require
When sourcing coffee, it is easy to become fixated on single-minded elements such as cost and origin. In the current climate, there are many brands that also become fixated on selling Fair Trade or organic coffee, without considering the quality of the beans or their own profit expectations.
This can hinder your ability to make an informed decision, so you need to have a clear understanding of your requirements before entering the marketplace.
It is best to start by making a list of your coffee brand's core attributes, before translating these into the type of beverage that you want to sell. You may have created premium coffee brand that is driven by quality, for example, or perhaps you have a niche outlet that looks to sell exotic blends from all over the world?
Either way, exploring your brand's values will help you to create a profile of the type of coffee that you should look to sell. From here, you can narrow your search and target a host of potential suppliers before focusing on more practical considerations.
#2 - Ask for Samples for Potential Suppliers
With the field of potential suppliers narrowed, you can begin to contact suppliers and interact with them on a more personal level. One of your first actions should be to request samples from suppliers, or visit an in-house tasting session to experience the range of blends that they offer.
This not only offers you a chance to engage your senses and form an instinctive impression of the coffee available, but it also enables you to inspect the quality of your supplier's beans first-hand. It is common knowledge that dark and oily beans are an indication of dated roasting processes, for example, which could serve as a red flag against any potential supplier.
#3 - Check out Customer References and Testimonials
Taking your remaining options in hand, the next stage is to ask for customer references and testimonials. The majority of firms should provide a detailed list of clients on their website, so it makes perfect sense to note down their contact details, get in touch and question them on the quality of coffee and the reliability of service that they have received.
Some suppliers may also provide testimonial evidence on their website, but if not you can approach the firm correctly and ask for a list of their most treasured clients.
A great deal can also be garnered from the response of a supplier when you ask for access to their customer base, as those who seem reluctant may have something to hide and are likely to have experienced service issues in the past.
#4 - Make a Final Shortlist
At this stage, you should have removed several suppliers from contention and left yourself with a select few options. This is therefore the ideal time to draw up an official shortlist of options, before you begin to explore these in greater detail and enter into direct negotiations concerning costs and volumes.
Creating your final shortlist now affords you clarity of thought, while it also ensures that you are only focused on the most suitable supplier options.
This is crucial, especially if you intend to invest more of your time into investigating these suppliers and liaising with their representatives.
Such a process will certainly involve more detailed questioning, for example, as you look to determine how long they have been in the business and the level of knowledge boasted by their staff members.
#5 - Visit Local Cafes that are Supplied by firms on your shortlist
While you may have sampled a select few of your potential supplier's beans, it is important that you are able to guarantee consistency for your customers.
The only way to achieve this is to visit local cafes that are supplied by the company in question, using the contact details that you sourced earlier in the process.
This enables you to sample the quality and consistency of the blends being produced, while there is also an opportunity to speak to the manager of the shop and the baristas to gain further insight into the standard of the beans.
You can also raise any potential concerns surrounding the service provided by the supplier in question, and whether the cafe has had any issues with inaccurate or late deliveries.
Just remember that while this information is useful, it is not necessarily 100% accurate. After all, opinions on service are always subjective, while the quality of equipment and the baristas in question can impact on the standard of each individual beverage.
You need to factor these variables into the equation when visiting local cafes to ensure that you form an accurate impression.
#6 - Negotiate with your Preferred suppliers
The time has come to take the final plunge, which is to negotiate with the remaining suppliers and negotiate a deal based on the volumes that you intend to order.
This will be the determining factor in your decision, especially as the suppliers left on your shortlist will have already satisfied certain criteria in terms of values, quality and service.
Be sure to contact all of your potential suppliers to discuss pricing, affording them accurate information about the quantities that you will be ordering on a regular basis.
It is important to be honest during these negotiations, as prices are based on volume and you must be able to complete a minimum order in order to capitalise on these going forward.
Hopefully, this process will help you to identify the best coffee supplier for your needs, taking into account factors such as the requirements of your brand, the need for quality and your financial budget. The steps listed here will also provide peace of mind, as you look to make an informed decision that helps your business to grow successfully over time.