Friday, December 12, 2008

Café also brews freebies for clients

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:52:00 12/12/2008

Filed Under: Restaurants & catering, Beverages

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines — Frequently giving away freebies may be something strange for a high-end business, but for Boston Café it is a customer care strategy that has led to its success barely a year into the business.

When Boston Café opened its second branch on Nov. 10, a long queue of customers greeted its owners, which only proved the patronage of its target market—students and professionals.

Eight young professionals who graduated from different reputable universities are behind the coffee shop that is now setting trends among similar businesses in town.

Michelle Catahan, 28; Lee Anthony Grajo, 28; Rodel Munlawin, 29; Gary Bacani, 29; Francis Benedic Alpas, 29; Marlon Vallarta, 29; Ellen Castillo, 29; and Heidee Ballesfin, 28, had dreamed of a coffee shop similar to those where they always hung out.

The eight friends decided to venture into the business, giving birth to Boston Café, which they own.

The café has emerged as one of the favorite hang-out places in town, packing in students and professionals alike.

The owners of Boston Café needed around P1.4 million to make the coffee shop fully operational.

After a day of deliberation, they decided to name their business as such since they envisioned a local business that would introduce international blends and fine coffee to local residents.

Before the café formally opened, the owners had started experimenting on the different drinks that they could introduce.

Alpas, marketing director of Boston Café, recalled that in college, three-in-one coffees used to be enough. But there are better types of coffee that students and professionals can drink.

Boston Café takes pride in introducing the international taste of coffee in every cup to Los Baños residents.

It was formally opened on April 8, 2007 at the Robinson’s Town Mall in Los Baños. Last Nov. 10, a branch was opened a few meters away from the University of the Philippines campus in Los Baños.

There are at least five other coffee shops near Boston Café’s new branch, but the owners “don’t treat them as competitors that could threaten our sales,” said Alpas.

Alpas said the greatest challenge in putting up Boston Café was in introducing Los Baños residents “to fine coffee.”


Boston Café has been popular in Los Baños for its unique marketing and customer care strategy.

Often, baristas of Boston Café give away free coffee, which management calls “Pleasant Surprise.”

Boston Café has also been popular for frequently giving away tumblers to customers.

When its second branch officially opened last November, the first 20 customers who ordered, received their free tumblers.

These do not include the other promotional activities in which they also give away freebies.

Customers who share their Boston Café experiences via the establishment’s website also get something special in return.

Interestingly, Boston Café holds Open Café, an event where patrons can have free coffee.

Giving away products may not be the tack of most business owners, but the management of Boston Café has considered Open Café as a major factor in the success of their business.

In their second branch near the university campus, Boston Café also gives away “bluebooks,” the university’s exam booklets, and pens for free.

Boston Café also offers free Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) connection to customers and allows them to charge their laptops at the café.

‘Barista’ benefits

Ballesfin shared that they had also come up with beneficial programs for their baristas.

The Boston Café management encourages baristas to save their earnings—something that could help them in cases of emergency.

The baristas are also given social security and health benefits.

Having succeeded in putting up their second branch in just after a year, the people behind Boston Café are now in the process of setting up more branches.

“We have also more plans for our loyal customers,” Alpas said.

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