Doing it Different: Point of Difference

Fri 24 May, 2019

Trends are created by innovators, popularised by early-adopters and destroyed by everybody else. Cafe trends come and go, so positioning your cafe to be on trend is a short term game that needs to be managed with long term strategy.

Tall Poppies & Business Personas: Lessons in Point of Difference.

The drive for innovation is fuelled by individualism. Market disruption is caused by a unique approach to the status quo.

There are more cafe operators in Sydney than ever. Customer expectations are high, unrelenting and forever shifting.

Defining yourself in the industry is crucial to becoming recognised and acknowledged for your hard work. Remaining unique is near impossible, as an established operation you will be a source of inspiration for many. Remember, imitation is the finest form of flattery, and saturation is a surefire trend of failure. To stay clear of this, you need to be creative and forever evolving.

What is it to be on trend?

Trends are created by innovators, popularised by early-adopters and destroyed by everybody else. Cafe trends come and go, so positioning your cafe to be on trend is a short term game that needs to be managed with long term strategy.

Many operations make the crucial error of designing their space with a popular ideal in mind. This is an easy way to rob your walls of personality, and if you make a quick observation of the leading outfits in the coffee industry of Sydney, you will see they all have tonnes of personality.

Sure, they’ll serve products which come and go with popularity, but if they’re industry veterans it is because the business both weathered and benefitted from the ebb and flow of many popular trends.

I heard someone describe their menu as “Rustic” the other day, so either I’ve dipped over the horizons of taste, or there are some misguided concepts on how trends should be adopted to benefit your trade. Learn the difference between a fad and your story.

The key ingredients.

Making magic out of four walls, a tight budget and a splash of sleep deprivation takes a spark that not everybody has. If you’re looking to plaster the walls with supplier branding and let their reputation build you up, Sydney’s cafe market is no longer for you.

The majority of us are naturally a little bit anxious, if you aren’t familiar with a new venue’s menu or you don’t feel comfortable making snap decisions during a customer service interaction you will generally comfort order. A comfort order from a new customer is wasted interaction.

An inviting cafe will generally have a personality carefully whittled into place with the below elements in mind.

  • Fitout, furniture & feel - We’ve spoken in previous articles about “hospitality” as a general term, and how it’s forgotten in the industry. You need to be hospitable and welcoming. How do you create a space that represents a special piece of you, a place that you can invite everyone to spend a bit of their precious time in?
  • Customer service - Not exactly “would you like fries with that?”

Unique customer service interactions take experience, education and confidence in the product. Run your training sessions, taste your products and make sure your team know it all in-and-out. Quiz them on it, and make sure it’s a constant process.

  • Preparation & Presentation - Work with your team to sort out recipes and presentation standards, and follow them meticulously. Remember, in the dog-eat-dawg of Sydney’s cafe scene, quality, consistency and aesthetics are key.
  • Packaging - “I actually feel good about leaving that on the floor of my car”
  • Attraction & Magnetism - Setting a lasting impression that will bring them back, tell their friends, post about it, talk about it, whatever. Your strongest marketing strategy is giving everyone who interacts with your business something great to talk about.



Invest time into selecting furniture and fitout to suit your desired business personality

Overspend due to laziness or obsession; a centrepiece must be loved by all, not just you

Invest product, wages & time in staff education; a knowledgeable & confident team member means a happy customer

Miss an opportunity to increase the value of an interaction by rushing a customer or providing poor customer service

Define standards for preparation & presentation to ensure quality & consistency are maintained

Sell a product you wouldn’t eat, photograph or give to your mother

Spend to be sustainable and stylish on takeaway packaging, people notice

Cut packaging costs at the expense of the environment; it’s tasteless and shit

Go the extra mile to ensure a return customer; spend more time on service, help them get comfortable, introduce them to a new product

Be inflexible unless absolutely necessary; you never know if that half soy/half skim customer is going to sting you on Google

Be humble and be welcoming.

If you’re a cafe connoisseur, take a moment to collect the memorable details of your favourite spots… What did you end up with?

For myself, it’s the finer details that draw my intrigue and forge a lasting impression, whether it be an endearing icon, a charming tag-line, tastefully chosen ceramics or a well placed figurine.

What repels me, and judging by the current popularity of some of Sydney’s finest, a lot of other consumers, is the dominating presence of light-up signs, tacky logos, saturated branding or sleazy marketing campaigns.

An important relationship dynamic to keep in mind when building your venues personality is the Push//Pull Dynamic. This dynamic is often addressed in relationships between people, but in the instance of hospitality, every customer interaction has a degree of push & pull.

Pushing items and marketing campaigns on unwilling customers will minimise the value of their interactions, if you even get a transaction.

Pulling customers in with tasteful intrigue and having consumers engage your service teams, your menus and your business persona will provide many more opportunities to recommend, upsell and provide value-based interactions.

Most people don’t like to be around that loud drunk guy at the party, if you’re overt and obnoxious with your branding and presence, no one will want to talk to you.

The humble persona will always draw interest, intrigue and curiosity. Be humble.

- Sebastian Shearman.

Sebastian is our Wholesale Partnerships Manager here at Mecca. He takes a great deal of pleasure helping people make their concepts a reality. If you want to get in touch with him or one of our coffee gurus, head over to our wholesale enquiry page here.

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