The Power of the Cup

Why is it that some restaurants are destined for success while others are relegated to a slow demise? We see it happen everyday – our favorite restaurants close their doors and hang the dismal “out of business” sign out front, only for another restaurant to sprout in its place.

The dining industry is a world of cutthroat competition and unpredictable sales. It’s incredibly difficult for a young restaurant to carve out a stake in the market and capture the hearts (and stomachs) of local eaters.

Still, as restaurant-goers, we can tell when an establishment does it right. With a single visit, you can almost predict if a restaurant is destined for failure or success. It only takes that one initial visit for a customer to decide if they’re coming back or not.

Some dining experiences simply feel complete – the staff, the food, and the atmosphere work together like a fine-tuned machine, each complementing the customer’s overall experience.

This is what separates the good restaurants from the average. The business that can provide the most complete experience from top to bottom is the one that is going to stay afloat.

In the restaurant industry, we tend to devote too much of our focus on the big things like having a great menu, a great location, or a great concept. We often neglect some of the small, minute details that are the foundation of a successful brand.

Let’s imagine a local, independent coffee shop called Jenny’s Java. It’s in a great location, offers a tasty selection of espressos and cappuccinos, and has a staff of talented baristas. Is this enough to compete with behemoth coffee shops like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts? The answer is probably not.

Simply having great coffee isn’t going to cut it. Today’s businesses need to stand out from the rest, attracting both new and returning customers on a daily basis, by creating a popular and recognizable brand. In order to outpace your biggest competitors, you need a way to remind people why your company deserves their business.

So, let’s return to Jenny’s hypothetical coffee shop. What steps is she taking to build a powerful, exciting brand?

Like most other businesses, Jenny hired a graphic designer to create a distinctive logo and then contracted an outdoor signage company to put the logo on the front of her store. She decorated the interior, hired and excellent staff, and bought the nicest espresso equipment on the market.

Now, this might sound like the start of a successful coffee franchise, but Jenny has made an enormous misstep in her company’s marketing strategy.

For every cup of coffee that she sells, the caffeinated beverage is poured into an unlabeled, white cup with an unappealing black lid and cardboard sleeve. Even though her product tastes great, it looks like customers are drinking coffee from a local gas station instead of Jenny’s Java.

When customers sip on their morning coffee, they should be reminded of the great store that sold it to them and, more importantly, show others where they just made a purchase. With the simple addition of Jenny’s logo onto each cup, her store has suddenly jump started an advertising campaign that will keep business booming.

Case in point, anyone can make coffee, but only one person can make your coffee. The only way to distinguish a cup of Starbucks from a cup of Folgers is the cup that holds it. A cup isn’t just an apparatus for drinking – it’s a unique reflection of the person holding the drink and the brand they are choosing.

So, by branding a cup with your company’s logo, customers are walking testimonials for your product. Someone will casually ask where they purchased the beverage and suddenly your own customers are advertising for you.

How can your business continue to get the word out? Of course, they can turn to newspaper advertisements and local coupon books to lure new customers, but those steps should only be taken after perfecting your in-store brand – that means brandishing your restaurant (and its products) with your distinctive logo.

Brand recognition is a slow process, but it all starts with displaying your logo wherever possible. The ultimate goal is that when people desire a specific product they think of your company instead of a competitor. You think coffee, you choose Starbucks. You think hamburger, you go to McDonald’s.

All of these branding powerhouses started off in square one – publishing their logos and slogans on napkins and cups and straw wrappers.

Your business logo is a powerful tool when it’s a pervasive symbol around town. On your coworker’s desk, in the center console of a friend’s car, or even sitting atop a trash can, the world should be a canvas for your brand.

It might sound too good to be true, because it is. Branding is the most important part of a growing business and the key to capturing an audience. Neither of those things is possible without a supply of custom branded cups to deliver a complete experience to your customers.

Lindsay Graves
Lindsay Graves