Archive for the ‘Hugh Gilmartin’ Category


We have now moved this blog over to our dedicated server at:


At the moment the main page defaults to the blog too but that will be changing soon. Make sure you set your bookmarks for the /blog extension.

We are just finishing off our big Free Report and Video which we are launching at the end of this week.  This is the first of a variety of reports on the industry that we will be putting out at a rate of about three per year.  We will be dealing with a number of key issues that affect operators and all these reports will be free.

To get the free report you need to go to:


The report highlights the 10 key factors we feel that you need to be concentrating on to survive the recession/credit crunch and we have a sequence of ten videos with myself and Hugh describing the main issues within each section.

Additionally within the report we have managed to nail some of the biggest names in the coffee business world for their “one key piece of advice” that they would offer operators in the current economic climate.  This advice is priceless and fascinating since it comes from many seasoned industry professionals who, like myself and Hugh, have been through at least one recession before.

Please read and let us know your feedback on the new blog.

Many thanks for all your support and we wish you a very profitable and prospersous 2009.

Johnnie Richardson


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On Sunday and Monday of this week Hugo and I were speaking at the Hotelympia show in London.  Ultimately both talks went very well and we had good audiences at both but it was a graphic illustration of the need to have a strong “reason why” in terms of promotion.   There had been very little promotion for the talk and we were simply billed as “Ireland’s Coffee Boys – John Richardson and Hugh Gilmartin“.  The first days talks were all delayed and we ended up speaking nearly an hour after our billed time.  This meant that people who had specifically come to see us had to rearrange their day to fit in with the disrupted schedule.

But we were the lucky ones.  The lack of “reason why” meant that the previous speaker ended up speaking to the grand total of two people.  When you’re Donald Trump you can rely on people turning up for your name alone but for the rest of us you must provide some clear benefit to spending the time to sit and listen.  Our “reason why” is that we help people to make more profits with less time working in the business of coffee and when clearly articulated it’s a strong message.

But exactly the same principle applies in your business too.  You have to provided a clear, articulate message about why customers should visit you.  We spoke to a great many people at the show who simply weren’t busy enough in their businesses.  We put together a questionnaire to establish what the main problems operators are having and I will be publishing the results of it on here in the very near future.  A quick glance on the plane back home revealed no surprises though.  The big issues are:

  1.  Not busy enough.  Not enough customers, not enough turnover, not enough profit.
  2.  A difficulty in recruiting and keeping great people.

In both cases “reason why” is a big issue.  When pushed and questioned more closely most of the people we talked to clearly were not providing their customers with a strong enough “reason why” to spend money or a strong enough “reason why” for great people to come and work for them.

Times may very well be tough for the next year or two but even as it stands it is a very competitive marketplace out there for coffee bars.  You simply won’t survive if you don’t provide a clear reason for people to visit and spend money with you on a consistent basis.  Likewise it is impossible to expect great people to work for you if you don’t provide a great job and your expectation is that they should be lucky to have a job at all and that you pay 10p more than the average rate.  Those days are long gone.

So why should people visit your business?  What is it that differentiates you from the competition?  What is it that you do so well that the sales rep makes a 5 mile detour just to get the chance to buy?  What is it that you sell that is so great that the office worker in the building across the road cannot concentrate on her work because she can’t stop thinking about the taste of it?  What is it that makes people walk past Starbucks in their prime location to visit you in your location which is a little bit further down the road?

And likewise why would somebody want to work for you?  What is it that makes your business a great place to spend eight hours a day?  What do you provide that makes the person working in the big chain down the road think “I’m fed up here, I’m just a number, I’m going to see if XXXXXX have any jobs – apparently they’re a great place to work”

I’ll give some examples of great “reason whys” in the next couple of days but in between the frantic “doing, doing, doing” of today try to grab five minutes and watch your customers to observe why they might give you money.  Also ask your staff why they like working for you.

Johnnie Richardson 

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I have been on my travels in the last 6 weeks and thinking of my trip am reminded of a brilliant comment a Brazillian made to me ;  

Coffee is like Sex …. Everybody wants it but not many know what good is! 

Businesses spend a lot of time and energy extolling the virtue of their coffee. Its always exceptional quality, can be hand selected, roasted, brewed and is usually always better than the rest.  

The truth is that it is generally mediocre and the main reason for this is that the operators and resellers of every kind simply don’t invest enough time into their coffee service or solution.

Probably the number one thing that all of us selling coffee need to focus on is that it is a business …… and we have all heard somebody sometime say that any business has to sell something and to do that you need to know your product and know your customer. Wise words indeed. It is probably not that surprising then that most coffee salesmen (and that is probably you!) don’t heed those wise words. Many are selling coffee and know very little about it and even less about how to prepare it properly. 

Coffee is most likely the biggest margin product you will sell and so should command a significant part of your planning and execution time. To make good profits you need to hook and addict the customer with a fantastic tasting product and that means that you have to control the brewing factors.  Don’t know what they are or how to do this ….. then get hold of a good coffee supplier and ask the right questions. They are out there … but you have to do a bit of homework to find the good ones!  

More on how soon ….. 


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Its easy to make this point, and I realise like many things we all know the adage that ‘Show me your friends and I’ll tell you what sort of a person you are’, however, it is very difficult to convey the profound meaning of it and in the business of coffee like many others it is a fact that ;

You are your customer/client list.

Call it many things ; Selective sell, 80/20 rule, Individualisation, PR strategy, Focus, Niche , VIP or (God forbid) Key Witness Account the bottom line is that You are your Client portfolio. You are professionally defined by who you do business with.

So make your customer list count. Spend time planning it. Take great care deciding who. And be prepared to say No. Those businesses who grow by acquiring the wrong type of customers are never going to become great. Think about how this very obvious strategy can apply to your business …. yes its about location and taste and quality and service and on and on but your secret weapon can be serving the right people …. every £1 is not equal …


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Want to know where to go for great food when visiting somewhere ? …. or if you are like me want to know where the best coffee places are in a new city ? Trying to figure your way through the jungle of information that is available on the internet, or guidebooks ? You are certainly unlikely to let your fingers do the walking in the phonebook. You will probably ask a respected friend, acquaintance or colleague where to go.

Now switch sides.

If you are a Restauranteur or Coffee Bar operator how could you tie into that network of friends and experts who advise potential customers? Most sales of complex products and this includes Restaurants & Coffee Bars come via word of mouth. You can be just as organised and systematic about word of mouth advertising as other marketing tools. You never see a word of mouth section in any marketing plan – it is such an obvious communications medium that most people don’t take the time to understand it properly. Of course much of the word of mouth information is beyond your control but that means that there is an opportunity to use it to your advantage. Simply plan a good word of mouth campaign and have clear outcomes that you are trying to achieve.

Once you work out your message then you must decide who should receive it, and just as important is who should deliver it. By the nature of word of mouth it is not possible to spread the message too widely so a bit of patience is required because there is actually no need to. The 80/20 rule applies here because 80% of the world is influenced by the other 20%.

Your challenge – Be in that 20%. 


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When a typical small customer enters your business you should see £100,000 stamped on their forehead. This is why;

If your average spend is £3 and an average customer visits three times a week then that person is likely to spend around £400 per year if they come in regularly. Over five years that adds up to £2,000. Suppose that this loyal customer tells only a couple of people every year how good the experience is then this gets the potential value up to around £6,000. This does not include above average spend that this regular customer is likely to deliver and is very conservative in terms of actual spend and real potential referral power.

Now there is a third step to this idea. Figure out how many customers a member of staff handles in a day and multiply by that to get the lifetime value of your customer portfolio that the individual deals with each day. That person only has to directly deal with only 16 customers a day to get to £100,000!

The implication is clear : If you look at your customers in this or a related way you are likely to take a new view to a complaint from a small customer. It makes it very easy to give them a free coffee without question to keep them happy. This is the why the big multiples offer no quibble money back even if you just change your mind. It also then may change your attitude to your staff and to how you are hiring, training and compensating.

Changing the way we think is vital in a growing business and this simple quantifying device provides a great way to realise people’s potential.


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Today I met a very sharp restaurateur who is in Day 3 of his new Italian Restaurant on Belfast’s trendy Lisburn Rd. He buys his coffee from somebody else. We had a great chat about the challenges & pressures of opening a new business and I decided to try him out. The pizza was delicious, service excellent and overall experience perfect. Well done indeed to him and as I left he asked me how it was. I told him that I thought it was perfect and then came the simple but brilliant question – “What do you think we could do to make it better ?”

This reinforced with me that this was a business that cared and no matter how good I told him it was had a genuine desire to do it better. Fantastic. We should all be brave enough to ask our customers this question more often.


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