How to Retain Customers Using the Bagel Strategy

How to Retain Customers Using the Bagel Strategy

You know you’re a dyed-in-the-wool marketer when you leave the local bagel shop with more than pastrami on a sesame seed, spicy mustard and pickles.

Some of the best marketing lessons come when I’m away from the computer…and this past week didn’t disappoint.

So I’m sitting with a cup of coffee at Georgie Bagels before heading to the office, reading my latest copy of GKIC’s marketing newsletter – and sorta listening to the chatter between the regulars and Georgie the owner.

Now George is about 5’ 5”, early thirties, born and raised along with two brothers in New Jersey by a single mother who worked three jobs to make ends meet.

What do scrappy boys do in South Jersey? They learn to box. So Georgie gets real good and moves to Pennsylvania with a dream of creating an empire of bagel franchises while training young boxing talents below his main shop.

A retired couple walks in and Georgie calls out, “Hey, good to see ya guys again! Lemme see…that’s a plain, not toasted, cream cheese on one side, lox on the other. And a poppy seed, toasted, butter on the side?”

“Yep – same as always, Georgie!”

“You got it!”


For the past four months, there’s been on-going construction on Main St. with any available parking in front of the shops cut by 70%. So now, long-time customers of Georgie Bagels are driving another couple of blocks and stopping at Dunkin Donuts for their bagel fix.

Their bagels can’t compete with the real NY style (boiled then baked) of Georgie’s, but all it takes is a new routine…and getting customers back is tough as any small business owner will tell you.

Still drinking my coffee…the retired couple stands up to go, and Georgie calls the lady over. “Here – use this the next time you both come in. Bagels and coffee are on me. You both are good customers.”

She carefully files the coupon in her purse, smiles at her husband and thanks Georgie.  “It’s good to be back. No place like Georgie’s.”

You see, this couple had been coming every Sunday morning with two other couples for years.  Since retiring, the husbands had routinely met a few mornings a week at “their” table in the corner with their regular orders and a copy of the local paper strewn around the four-top.

It wasn’t unusual for one of them to go over and help Georgie out by making a pot of coffee.

But the construction interrupted their routine and Georgie lost them to Dunkin.


Do the math. A bagel with cream cheese and a small coffee is four bucks.  Three times a week plus Sundays is $16 a week. Add in two buddies – and we’re at $48. Three wives on Sunday’s, and we’re looking at $60 a week of lost revenue.

For four months that $60 was going to Dunkin’ Donuts.  That’s a total of $960 in lost revenue.

How about a year?  That rings in at a cool $2880!

Sometimes all it takes to get a valued customer back is a random “we appreciate you” gift…nothing more than the price of a bagel.

And remembering those personal details that make your customers feel special.

The value of great customer retention?  Henry Ford said:

It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.

Automated marketing is phenomenal. Campaigns that systematize internal processes and save us time and man-power rock.

But caring about our customers is how small businesses not only survive, but thrive.

Seize the day!

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