Caffe Fratelli Fleet

About 7 years ago, a new coffee shop called Caffe Fratelli opened in our town.

It was a bit of a risk: there were at least 5 others including the big chains, Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero . And to be frank, I didn’t expect it to be around for long.

However to everyone’s surprise. Not only is it thriving, but it’s rejuvenated the centre of town. Far more people come in to town and use the local shops – and there’s a real sense of community spirit returning. This really is a coffee shop marketing success story.

I’ve been in there so often I know the business and it’s owner inside out now. And I’ve picked out three lessons from how Antonio, the owner, has marketed Caffe Fratelli that I think that those of us in Construction can learn from. Particularly if we’re a small business or one-man-band.

Antonio competes against the big chains in other local towns – Starbucks, Costa, Cafe Nero. Just as you might compete against Carrier, Otis, Siemens etc.

Positioning. The first thing Antonio got right was the price positioning of the business. It’s not just a “like Starbucks but cheaper” – pricing is roughly at the same level. He recognised that we don’t choose a coffee shop because it’s a few pence cheaper than the alternative. We choose it for taste, atmosphere, food – a whole bunch of reasons.

Yet so many M&E specialists position themselves as “like X, but cheaper” (substitute the name of a big firm for X – usually the firm that they used to work for).

The thing is, you’re not like Carrier, Otis or Siemens. You’re not a big name that no one got fired for hiring. You’re not a boring but safe bet. You’re an individual with a whole load of things to offer that you need to focus on rather than just being a cheap version of a big firm.

Personality. What Caffe Fratelli has in abundance is personality. It’s a reflection of Antonio really. Quirky, fun. You go there and you feel part of the family. The staff are all like that too.

As individuals or small businesses that’s something we can do too. We don’t have to conform to a bland corporate image. We don’t have to please everyone. We just need to find a few clients who can love us for life.

If we put our personality and our passion into our business we can stand out head and shoulders compared to our corporate competitors. Yet so few of us do so.

Instead we hide behind our smart suits and corporate websites. We speak in corporate tongue rather than in the plain English we’d use at home or with our friends. How many solo professionals’ websites have you seen that say “we” when there’s only the one of them in the business (sadly, mine used to be like that too – though thankfully I’ve grown out of it).

We shouldn’t be trying to copy the corporates – we should be trying to find our own unique personality and voice.

Innovation. That’s a big word. Can a coffee shop really innovate? Well, yes in the sense of constantly trying out new things to see what works and abandoning things that don’t.

Antonio started up with a kids area and crèche. Didn’t work.So he changed it.

He tried hosting themed days and celebrations. Worked brilliantly.

He tried live music. Didn’t work. Stopped it.

He tried changing the menu, adding new food and sweets no one else was doing. Worked brilliantly.

He’s used Facebook for marketing. Installed free WiFi. Worked brilliantly.

The big chains don’t have the flexibility or the bravery to allow their stores to try out new stuff like this. They all have to be the same.

And that’s a huge advantage you can have over your big competitors too. In the time it would take them to set up a committee to look into doing a feasibility study to develop a business case to maybe think about something new – you can have tried it out and figured out whether it will work or not.

Yet how many of use use that advantage? How many of us are constantly trying out new offers, new services, new marketing tactics?

Caffe Fratelli has been such a success they’re now franchising the model out across the country. Maybe we ought to think about what we can learn and apply to get our own equivalent success.

And, of course, if you’re ever in the little town of Fleet in Hampshire – do pop in to Caffe Fratelli and you might well see me in there.

Need some help? Pick up the phone or send me an email

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