How To Set Your OCS Business Apart

Oct. 5, 2015
Focus on the latest brewers, branding and engagement with your community and customers to get an edge in a crowded marketplace.

Getting started in the office coffee service business is more challenging today than in the past. From larger financial investments needed for equipment to lower margins on coffee, it can be difficult to grow and market yourself in a way that brings in customers. However, success can be achieved by spending money on the right brewing elements, marketing yourself and being a visibly active member of the community with a great service. 

Prepare more than a better cup 

“The best way to gain that competitive advantage is preparing a budget that will allow you to buy the latest in brewing technology,” said Steve Brehm, president of Berry Coffee Co. in Eden Prairie, MN. “Couple this with the best coffee in your region and make sure the water you are using is filtered with a good quick disconnect system.” Success in the OCS business is all about providing that great cup of coffee coupled with great service.

Brehm also believes a good logo that is placed on everything you own or provide is important, including trucks, equipment, business cards and company apparel. It helps establish your brand in the community and keep your name at the top of the client’s mind. In fact, there are many ways of getting the company name out in front of others.

“Never discount the importance of using all the tools the Internet has to offer including social media and a robust Website that is current and up to date,” said Brehm. This will increase your search engine ranking, a much needed tool as location managers more often use the Internet to search for items they want to buy or research service companies.

“Social and community engagement are very important,” agrees Jeff Deitchler, general manager of PrairieFire Coffee Roasters in Wichita, KS. Too often OCS operators look at their business and pat themselves on the back for a job well done — business is going well and there is no need to change. “But complacency can be a killer,” said Deitchler. Instead, he makes it a point to join what he calls “leads” groups, like the local Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club or the Lions Club. “Some cities have executive associations made up of business owners or top level executives,” said Deitchler. He stresses the importance of getting involved with these. One suggestion is to provide refreshment at community events, such as benefit races or walks. “Providing in-kind sponsorships builds awareness and relationships with others doing the same. Businesses like to support businesses that support them,” explained Deitchler.

Offer value beyond price

Getting out there won’t work without your value proposition, however. “If all operators are priced similarly in a market, service levels can be the difference,” said Deitchler. “Don’t say you will provide world class service unless your entire company is totally committed to delivering it.” The problem is customer expectation. If the client is told which day service will come, but that service goal isn’t met, it will cause a loss of confidence from the hard earned customer. “Don’t give them a reason to find your replacement,” said Deitchler. Part of the value is selling only top-quality products. When operators buy only the cheapest products from the wholesaler, their customers notice, warns Deitchler. “Remember the old adage, ‘If you win by price, you lose by price,’” said Deitchler. “Provide great products and back it up with outstanding service, and you can become the best operator in your market.”