Choosing to use them because your customers like them is exactly why it's a bad idea. Customers would like $1 lattes and free foot massage too, but I don't think you'll be doing that. If that's the only way you feel you can get people in the door, you need to re-evaluate what you're doing. Either you lack confidence and shouldn't, or your product needs improvement.
This sort of thing goes along the same lines customers requesting you to add soup, a lunch menu, more flavors, Vegan pastries, Vegan gelato, whole grain breads, etc. ALL of which I say "no" to.
The use of discounts as a mechanism to drive customers into your door, (other than at Grand Opening, and possibly with the introduction of a new product), will not produce a good foundation for a long term customer base. If you get 500 customers coming because of the coffee coins, the majority will leave when you cut them and anything like them. If you get 500 customers coming because of your product, unless they move, you'll probably have about 500 customers.
I have good things to do with my time, but if I take the time to answer a question, be certain I'm not merely posting my opinion. People wiser than me are saying the same thing, and have been for years. I like to see businesses succeed, get on the right path. I'm selfish, if there's a chance you can be great, I'd like more places to go. There a shortage of spots worth visiting, and for those that are starting, it'd be great to see you around long term, focusing on your product rather than the gimmick.
The fact that you asked the question shows you know your focus should be elsewhere, but you're just not sure how. And, as many new owners you are worried about slow beginnings and get caught up with the "numbers through the door" this sort of thing brings. Beware of the long term consequences, that's all I'm saying.
From time to time you can give a customer the gift of one "on the house"-- those who deserve it. Otherwise, reward your customers with what you do best. Why would they ever want more?
I apologize for calling it an opinion. That was a mistake on my part.
This discussion has lead me to an experiment with my product. As soon as I get my website back, I will implement a strategy on what's been learned here. I'm sure the results will prove positive and will bear fruit.
If and when they do, John P will get a bonus.
As a long term position, it will take longer to see some of the results, but sourcing higher quality ingredients and focusing on your espresso, (the source of your drinks), and the quality of your coffee offerings, will have an immediate impact.
Example: In our third week of business, we had a high end restaurant owner from New Hampshire park a block and a half away and walk... on his way to the airport, because his experience the prior day was so memorable. He said it had been nearly thirty years since he'd had anything like that. Now, whenever he flies in on business, he stops on his way to and from the airport. That's the kind of impact I'm proud to say we have. If the coffee/espresso is better than anything they've had before, it can truly be a life-changing experience. The key is to know you can always improve something, always learn more. It's not enough to love it, to have passion.... you have to be good at it too. Educate yourself first, that's the first step in educating your customers.
Ok got in here late but this is my take. My wife and I use coins in our shop and the previous owner did too. Yes there a gimmick but were in a small southern town where people love gimmicky things. We changed the format from using just coins to now using coins and cards. Business cards with a frequent buyer program that we stamp with each purchase on the back. Lots of people were complaining about not liking to carry the coin, especially men because it wont fit in their wallet thus its one more thing they have to stuff in their pocket. The previous owner used them because not many people cashed them in, but people disliked him and he didnt have much business.
We use them in denominations of free 12 o.z latter/mocha, $1 off, $5 gift cards, and $10 gift card. Weve pretty much stopped giving out free 12oz coins because we noticed a ton of people coming in to use them and then wont come back because there not coffee people, or we are not a national chain(curse of the small town). There is a chance you hit someone whos really into coffee and they become a regular, but chances are those people have already found you anyway. Also subconsciously people dont value something as much if its given to them for free as opposed to seeking, finding, enjoying, and paying for it. Considering all that, we now just give out $1 off coins if were trying to lure in a potential customer(rarely). We mainly give these out to folks that patronize our competitor across the street so they can see how superior our product is. $1 off coins dont hurt my bottom line as much as a whole free drink. Women especially love the $5 and $10 gift coins.
Overall, you need to have the highest quality coffee and ingredients possible then work on this. If I ran a store in a large city then I probably wouldnt bother with the program but its hard to turn people onto coffee in the rural south so we use anything we can. Solely getting people in the door is not the reason we do this. Most coins/frequent buyer cards are not even given out until a customer makes a purchase or purchases a gift coin. We mainly do it to reward loyal regulars and to get people back in a second time to try and make it a habit. Most regulars would come in regardless of the coin.
I've seen those coffee coins at coffee fest, and must admit I thought they were stupid. Who would carry those things around? I wholeheartedly believe if you always offer discounts, your product will be perceived as inferior. Might as well go to 7-Eleven for your coffee.
You need to make people want to come to your place and pay what you ask. Make them think it's a privilege for them to drink your coffee. In fact, I may start charging people a cover just to get in the door, maybe put a velvet rope out front and a bouncer. Ha.
Kidding aside (actually a I like the velvet rope idea), what JohnP said about customer's expectations is spot on. Kohls has 'trained' me to never shop at their store unless I get the 20% discount coupon in the mail. Prior to being bombarded by their flyers each month, I shopped there without coupons. But now I never go there unless I have them. Whoever came up with that marketing strategy for Kohls cost them a ton of money. And my perception of them has declined, I used to think they had decent stuff, but now realize it was just overpriced.
I saw this thread a while back and although I'm not a big fan of the idea of sales and discounts I keep gravitating to this thread.
I'm thinking I might be able to talk the highschool art teacher into having the honors art students make me a bunch of ceramic coffee coins and then they could sell them as a school fundraiser. I would recoop the cost of my drink plus maybe a little extra and they would have a great fundraiser. The customer wouldn't really be saving much money by buying the coins but it would be a fun way to support our local school and enjoy coffee. I don't know if it would be best if the coins sold at regular drink price or 50 cents cheaper than regular price but I think it would make a great fundraiser for the school and advertisement for me.
I'm still probably 2 years away from opening my coffee shop- anyone want to try this with their local highschool or college and tell me how it goes?