Nestled beneath the train station in Lausanne, Switzerland, sits the retro coffee bar Ça Passe Crème. 20m2, this little gem is owned and run by the duo Davide and Steeve, coffee aficionados, baristas, entrepreneurs, and best friends.
Unperturbed by the pandemic, they have pivoted their operations to keep serving their loyal customers with a smile and ramped up their customer engagement online to keep their genuine and authentic connection going with their community of coffee lovers.
As we begin our chat, they welcome me with the signature greeting that meets every customer that enters their shop, “Salut, ça va?” (“Hey, how are you?”)
Hey guys, I'm good thanks! You are always so upbeat; I can feel that same warmth I get when I come into Ça Passe Crème even over Zoom.
Steeve: yes, it’s so important for us, that connection with our customers. We really believe that’s what is special about our place. We always strive for that authentic service for our customers, and of course a delicious coffee.
Davide: Everything comes from our passion for coffee. We have spent a lot of time researching and enjoying coffee culture, and we have tried to bring all the best pieces of this to Lausanne. We are doing something different from other places around, just returning to the simple elegance of a good coffee and nothing else.
Aside from your beautiful coffee, something that sets you apart from other places is your customer approach, both online and offline.
Steeve: We’ve tried to go for a Molotov Cocktail of great service and great coffee. When we set out, we really wanted our place to become a little “home from home” for our customers. Everything we do is about being close to our customers. We want them to feel welcome, to come in and share a moment with us and enjoy what we do as much as we do. We do everything ourselves; we are the owners, baristas, marketers, salesmen, and servers. When our customers come in, it’s us that they find, and we want that connection to always remain authentic.
Davide: Yes, that human element is central to what we do. Even online, we want to represent the heart of the company and keep that authenticity at the center.
TWISPER Business resonates with this ethos of bringing businesses closer to the customers that love them, through the power of positive recommendations. That authenticity expands the connection between business and customer into the online space.
You guys have a great online presence, how have you developed that over time?
Steeve: We know that social media is a great way to represent who we are and what we do. It’s a way of marketing for us, and a compliment to what we do here in the coffee bar.
Davide: A lot of the influence on our social media comes from our discovery of the craft in London. Before Ça Passe Crème was born, we started out with our Instagram page and that's how we started to understand what attracts people to coffee, how to photograph it and frame it.
Steeve: I mean, again we do everything from sourcing the coffee to serving it, so we don’t have lots of time to devote to advertising and marketing, but visibility online has been a good way to capture interest from people and bring them to us.
TWISPER Business has positioned the relationship between customer and business at the heart of our UX. Just as Ça Passe Crème has the signature “Salut, ça va?” when you greet your customers, TWISPER Business allows places to create a signature Thank You Message to send to loyal customers that enjoy their place.
What you’re doing at Ça Passe Crème works! When I was chatting to customers in the queue on Saturday, I asked the people waiting how they heard of you guys, and they all said either through your social media or through their friends.
Steeve: That word of mouth element is strong. When we started out especially, we got a lot of people coming through the doors through word of mouth.
Davide: Essentially our online and social media presence is an extension of that word of mouth, I guess the digitalization of that power. We are not social media experts, and we don’t have the time to create a complex strategy or blog, but what we do works.
Steeve: Exactly, the time we spend on social media doesn’t have a direct ROI, but at the same time, it’s not something we can put a price on. We have noticed that our customers like to share their experiences online, they love taking pictures and recommending us, so they have done a lot of the work for us.
Davide: We have always tried encouraging that connection between us and those that love what we do. In our first year we threw a party for 180 of our clients to celebrate our anniversary and thank them for their support, and we did a fondue Christmas party last year for another 150. I’m not sure what we’ll do this year, given the current restrictions, but we’ll see. It’s important for us to recognize that loyalty.
Speaking about the current restrictions, how have you approached doing business during this time?
Steeve: Well during the first wave we stayed relatively calm, the situation was new for everyone and we didn’t know what was coming next. We closed the shop completely, but we really saw a great level of support from our customers. We sold 200kg of coffee during two months in the first lockdown, which is amazing for our little shop. I think that it’s a testament to the connection we have with them.
Davide: The second wave has been a little trickier, and we’ve decided to open the shop on some Saturdays or weekends for takeaway and throughout the year we have tried to limit our costs and expenditure. We have a lot of cool things coming up, and we’ve launched an online shop for our coffee and machines so that our customers can still enjoy a good coffee at home.
Steeve: There have been sacrifices, it’s part of what we do in hospitality; this is our baby, and we work in an industry with very tight margins, so you must be convicted of what you’re doing. But I think that having that interaction online has been vital to our success. We have seen a lot of restaurants trying to position themselves for this second wave, with takeaway and delivery, but because they have not maintained any online presence during the first lockdown it’s been harder for them to get anything going.
What have been the positives that you have taken from this year?
Steeve: we have been grateful to see an amazing continuation of customer support, and seeing our customers spread the word that we’re still open on social media and keep coming back for a coffee or ordering online.
Davide: and help us pay our rent! We had an online campaign with restaurant Le Montriond, where our customers managed to raise a couple of thousand Swiss francs to help us through.
Steeve: the future is uncertain, but as always, we owe our success to our customers and we know that by maintaining that genuine connection, whether in the physical space or online, will keep us doing what we love and always keep our customers supplied with a “bon café”.
TWISPER is on a mission to bring fairness and positivity back to the hospitality industry. During this unprecedented time, we hope to cast light on the grit, resilience and determination that are an inherent part of the industry. We know that these qualities will lead to recovery and restoration as we look to the future. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram to get the latest industry news and TWISPER announcements.