What is the ultimate beverage/snack combination?

Since I had to take members to task for meandering into a conversation about coffee and tea making in comments on Mark Lee's recent SA marketing article, it's only fair that we give such discussions their proper place on the site. To give Tax Teddy his/her due, the digression started innocently enough with the comment that many accountants have ads in the Yellow Pages that state, "and we serve great coffee".

So - can the beverages you serve make a serious contribution to a firm's marketing effort? And if so, what is your recommendation to really wow those prospects?

Later on in the thread (in spite of my urgings), johnjenkins switched tack and introduced chocolates into the mix. If you're laying on top drawer coffee or tea, why stop there. Surely you can make an even better impression by complementing it with the perfect companion biscuit, sweet or snack? As chance would have it, Gina Dyer tackled this important subject back in 2009. Strangely, in the cross-fire that followed very few members bothered to stick to the subject - so no change there!

This time, however, we're looking for the ultimate port & stilton-style combo. And I'll see if I can get our commercial guys to wrangle a special Aweb "Time Out" package deal (hang on, I think we're on to something here...)

I'll put forward two contenders:

  1. Celon Tea , brewed in a pot for 3-4mins and accompanied by a chocolate HobNob.
  2. Machu Pichu coffee and some of those rectangular Belgian Destrooper almond biscuits.

Since these are "statement" refreshments, I would recommend Free Trade brands as ostentatiously right-on and expensive as you can find. They'll demonstrate that you are a firm of rare refinement, but with a social conscience. I'm particularly fond of the Machu Pichu stuff, but find that after a while even really good coffee loses its appeal and it's best to hunt around for a new brand every so often.

Comments
Flash Gordon's picture

Top drawer?

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

Sorry John but it has to be a decent cup of English breakfast tea (or 'bog-standard tea' in my lingo) and a choice of biccies! I'd suggest a couple of McVities chocolate homewheat (milk chocolate) for the chocolate lovers, hob nobs for the 'proper' biscuit brigade, maybe a ginger nut for the dunker, and something like a garibaldi or fruit shortcake for the rest. Maybe bourbons too. I'd avoid custard creams now given that certain shops have changed their recipes recently to such an extent that I've binned whole packets!

I'm guessing no-one would be thinking my firm was exactly top drawer material when they got their refreshments but then they'd know that once they'd spoken to me! Though a plain rich tea probably suggests 'we really don't care - and we've eaten all the decent biccies already'. A good cup of tea is seriously under-rated. And it really should be a mug, no bone china round here :)

ShirleyM's picture

I must be a cheapskate

ShirleyM | | Permalink

I don't normally offer tea, coffee, or anything! The only time our clients get anything is if they turn up on time but the meeting is held up because of something that isn't their fault. Then they will get a cup of tea or coffee, but it's just Tetley teabags and Nescafe Gold Blend instant coffee!

I don't have any millionaire clients (unless the money is well hidden in Switzerland) and if I give clients a cuppa they tend to drag out the meetings until they have finished their drink, or they get embarrassed because they haven't drunk it all.

Oh, I forgot. If we arrange a meeting in our office with an IFA, an insolvency practitioner, or some other specialist, we will make them a cuppa then.

 

Flash Gordon's picture

In reality

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

I don't encourage clients round here and most wouldn't get a cuppa because it wouldn't occur to me until afterwards. And you can guarantee I wouldn't have any biccies left. The cupboard is full at the mo but I wouldn't be sharing my Cadbury's Festive Friends with anyone! But if I was the social type (and organised) then my first answer would apply :)

I don't often accept tea (if offered) at clients on the odd visits I do because it never cools down quick enough for me to drink. (Penny drops - that's why FT was asked for a 2 hour meeting!) Nothing worse than having finished what you need to discuss but still having most of a cup left (and a burnt tongue from the bit you did manage)

I'd have biccies for a vat inspector though, the full selection - treat 'em nice, see them leave quicker :)

johnjenkins's picture

Shirley

johnjenkins | | Permalink

you have been to scotland too often, the thrifty side of you is showing.

Perculated coffee on the go all day but not given in a big mug. Tea on demand in a china cup. Client or HMRC  offered refreshment as soon as arrived. Now snacks. We have a client who has snack boxes in various locations in the UK for the purpose of making donations to local childrens hospices. Now how can visitors say no to a snak for £1.

Can anyone beat that for marketing?

great topic . I feel the need for a snack

sarah douglas | | Permalink

Hi 

I love giving my clients a cup of real coffee or cup of tea and a nice sandwich or some handmade or cup cakes.  My clients are really generous back when I go to visit them .  I have one client who always makes me lovely sandwiches and a prawn salad with cherry tomatoes, when I go to see them every couple of months . 

Most of my clients always buy something nice, whether it is an nice biscuts ,muffins or Marks & spencers sandwiches,  sometimes we might go for a nice meal.  

I held a meeting with one of my clients and a couple of tax specialists,  so I was feeling a bit overrun that day and made a pot of tea for six.  This went down really well with Jaffa cakes.  I think there was some good  memories of tea pots and it relaxed everyone.

I don,t run my business strictly 9 to 5 .   I always leave loads of fruit out , which goes down well. The favourite has been my Victoria plums or mini grapes .  Sometimes my clients bring homegrown tomatoes in September as they know their my favourite .

All in all ,it all works out about even , and makes the working day more pleasant.  

Shirley Carte Noir Instant is nice . My clients always comment on it. 

The main thing is everyone is comfortable .  My clients pay for their meeting times and sometimes they are just wanting some stress relief it sometimes might not seem that important but they trust your opinion .  It usually leads to extra paid work.

 

 

ShirleyM's picture

@johnjenkins

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Yorkshire is just like Scotland for being thrifty ;)

When I started my practice, research showed me that Yorkshire had the lowest average accountancy fees in England.

I love your idea of snack boxes to support hospices though. Yorkshire folk are very generous where good deeds are involved.

ShirleyM's picture

@sarah

ShirleyM | | Permalink

I admire your client care and your generosity, but if I did something like that my office would be full of clients all the time and work would never get done!

Now that's an idea :)

I have plenty of spare space, and a cafe springs to mind .... but I couldn't be bothered with all the Health & Safety stuff, and it would probably be a dead duck if clients had to pay, so probably better to pass that idea by ;)

Old Greying Accountant's picture

I don't know about clients ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... but we have a willing band of loyal tradesmen queuing to do work for us on account of my wife's home baking, her banana cake is an especial favourite.

cathygrimmer's picture

Good coffee!

cathygrimmer | | Permalink

I don't have many business visitors (and given that I had to rush around cleaning up a dead bird that the cats had brought in just before a client came yesterday, maybe that's a good thing!) but, when I do, I always offer them coffee or tea. Being a caffeine addict, I have an excellent espresso machine (full caffeine, half caffeine or decaf) or they can have yorkshire tea, green tea with ginger, or camomile tea. But it would never occur to me to offer them biscuits - probably because we don't really eat biscuits as a family unless we've been baking.

On the subject of baking, like OGA's wife, I do always make cakes when I have workmen in the house - and give them real coffee - and they always go the extra mile for me!

Cathy

johnjenkins's picture

Loved your last paragragh

johnjenkins | | Permalink

sarah!

@OGA have you ever tried banana cake with banana beer? It's quite wierd that the only milk shake that really tastes good is banana although now you can have a ham sarny milk shake.

@Shirley M. I can arrange for you to have a box in your office. If you are keen just privately e-mail me.

What is refreshing though is that we haven't got any postings about vending machines.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

John ....

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

the Kentucky in Portsmouth used to do cherry milkshakes that were to die for.

Drink vending machines are the spawn of the devil, no matter what you choose it all tastes the same! That said some of the upmarket ones that gobble up a satchet of high quality tea or ground coffee and spew it into your cup are passable. The biggest problem is the milk, and as long as you add fresh then you can get a drinkable beverage, and also the vessel - nothing tastes good in plastic; paper; or styrofoam - bone china for tea, ceramic for coffee!

However, part of the enjoyment of a hot drink is the making of it, whether it be fresh coffee of teabag tea, it is still a relaxing ritual that sets you up for the drinking experience in a way just pressing a button cannnot!

I would just say to Cathy, in my humble opinion, the phrases "good coffee" and "espresso machine" do not sit well together as that method lacks the sensual experience of gently grasping the rounded knob of the cafetierre and plunging the filter disc down through the dark and swirling grounds, sometimes slow and easy, sometimes fast and rough - dependant on your mood - and then the gentle splashing of that bounteous elixir as you pour it in to your eagerly awaiting cup, your tongue tracing lightly over your upper teeth and slightly parted lips in tense anticipation of the pleasure soon to come.

Flash Gordon's picture

Cheap thrills?

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

Wow OGA, you do know how to make everyday tasks into 'something else' don't you?! Somehow I don't seem to get the same thrill from squidging the tea bag against the mug, wiping the worktop where I've sploshed over the side of the mug, wiping the floor where I've dripped carrying the tea bag to the bin...... I'm obviously doing it all wrong :)

johnjenkins's picture

Tell me

johnjenkins | | Permalink

you haven't got a part time job with those 0900 numbers OGA.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

Flash ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... there is nothing every day about making coffee.

(although I do it every ... , hmmm!)

 

Top tip - take mug with tea bag in to bin, extract bag with mug over bin - Lakeland, amongst their many gadgets and gizmos, I believe have a tong type implement with drainage holes specifically designed for such a task (avoids burnt finger tips).

I think I have my poetry mojo back, hurrah, I have had a bit of a block for a month or two :o(

 

Old Greying Accountant's picture

May be ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

.. I should get a job making flake adverts - lol

johnjenkins's picture

If Flash has problems with tea

johnjenkins | | Permalink

bags can you imagine what he would do with a flake? Shouldn't have said that should I?

ShirleyM's picture

hehe ... maybe ...

ShirleyM | | Permalink

We should keep OGA for the flake adverts and put Flash on Blue Peter to demo how to make Tracy Island ;)

Both would be a storming success :)

Flash Gordon's picture

Chocolate covered bean sweets

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

and stick-type glue coming up! I'm thinking a special item that you can make and give to your favourite auntie or granny. You'll need 3 loo roll insides, 5 used teabags (preferably not pyramids), a hibernating tortoise and more chocolate covered bean sweets to replace the ones that the Blue Peter dog ate :)

And don't forget, when we use the scissors you'll need an adult to supervise you (but not auntie or granny as it would spoil the lovely surprise they're going to get!)

 

ShirleyM's picture

@Flash

ShirleyM | | Permalink

I just knew you would be a natural! :)

I could be the dog trainer ... 'Get down Shep! Shep! Get down!'

Wasn't there a song about Shep & John Noakes?

Old Greying Accountant's picture

Were my ears burning ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink
ShirleyM's picture

brilliant OGA :)

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Thanks for finding it :)

I've just been having a right old laugh listening to it, oops ... should have said 'a reet owd laf', and just had to go back and edit my earlier post :)

 

johnjenkins's picture

How do you do that OGA

johnjenkins | | Permalink

post an answer before the question has been asked?

ShirleyM's picture

Ooooh ... that's a bit scary John ....

ShirleyM | | Permalink

... does that mean OGA can read my mind????

Old Greying Accountant's picture

Unfortunately not ..

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

(and fortunately Shirley can't read mine!)

It just means the post was edited, the time changes to the time edited and does not refer to the date the post first made.

ShirleyM's picture

lol

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Got yer :)

You thought we were serious ... hehe .... and who says I can't read your mind?

Some minds are like an open book .......

EDIT: oooh! I'm sounding scary now! Only joking, OGA. I can't read your mind, but I'm a good guesser!   ;)

johnjenkins's picture

That's the funny thing

johnjenkins | | Permalink

about women. They really can read minds. My wife knows I'm going down the pub for a pint after work before I do. (no I don't go everyday or the same day everyweek).

Old Greying Accountant's picture

Sorry to go back ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... but it has just occured to me why I prefer Cafetierre to Espresso - I like things long slow and satisfying, not a quick whoosh and its all over, but I know what you mean John, my wife always tells me she has a headache just before I fancy a nice cup of coffee!

johnjenkins's picture

The trick OGA    1 thanks

johnjenkins | | Permalink

is to pre-empt the headache. Give her a tablet and a glass of water and when she says I haven't got a headache you can sprinkle a bit of chocolate on your coffee.

petersaxton's picture

Above and beyond

petersaxton | | Permalink

I usually only give clients a coffee or tea.

I don't think people are expected to come round because of the quality of the refreshments but the adverts show an accountant cares in a light hearted way.

Once a client I liked but I'd let down by leaving his accounts and tax until 31 January so I asked if he could come over and answer questions while I prepared his accounts and tax. I gave him coffee while he sat there and answered the odd question. I was then in a position to do some work without needing him. We decided it would be a good time to have a shower - no, he wasn't smelly! After his shower we offered him a glass of wine. I don't drink so he went through the whole bottle himself. By the time we'd finished the accounting and tax work and submitted everything he was wanting to drive home. We wouldn't let him so my wife drove him home and my daughters boyfriend drove his car home - he has a job in a bus company that means he's insured to drive practically any vehicle (I'm not convinced it covered these situations though!).

ShirleyM's picture

Wow Peter

ShirleyM | | Permalink

That really is going above and beyond :)

I would go the extra mile if it was my fault, for instance clients are offered a drink if I am the one holding things up.

I try to take a long term view, and am always a bit wary of starting something that may become a problem later.

KH's picture

bottle of wine

KH | | Permalink

I used to give new clients a bottle of home-made elderflower champagne ... bloody good it was, too. Now I drink the wine myself, order a bottle of 50-year old single malt from a fantastic little PO-cum-general stores in Constantine Cornwall as celebration, and just thank the new clients for taking me on as their accountant ... must be the recession!

John Stokdyk's picture

I suspected it wouldn't take long...

John Stokdyk | | Permalink

before we got the booze out!

A tricky one in a professional setting, but it's probably mandatory to have a bottle of bubbly on ice for those big M&A deals or property purchases. But at what point do you switch from the tea and biccies to the hard stuff, and what do you serve?

Peter Saxton's above and beyond the call of duty performance was one even Paul Dunn and Steve Pipe would be impressed by, while I wish I lived in Cornwall and could be a client of KH's to share a bit of that 50-year-opld malt.

If alcohol is allowed, I reckon a well stocked office should have a nice bottle of white or two and a few interesting lagers/ales around, plus a bottle of red (Rioja/Bordeau would do) and perhaps some pleasant non-alcoholic drinks for drivers and teetotallers.

Since I work from home, that's quite easy for me. And if you think the presence of so much booze is ill advised, you should know that we have a 4pm "Beer O'Clock" tradition at Aweb headquarters in Bristol every Friday - but restricted to a can of beer or cider per employee... could that be the beer trolley I hear them stocking up in the kitchen???

Henry Osadzinski's picture

Beer O'Clock

Henry Osadzinski | | Permalink

Now you all know why my posts have typos on a Friday afternoon ;-)

KH's picture

whoever mentioned sharing !?!

KH | | Permalink

"while I wish I lived in Cornwall and could be a client of KH's to share a bit of that 50-year-old malt"

Whoever mentioned sharing the 50-year old celebratory noggin? No way, this is personal celebration only ...even the dogs don't get to sniff it, and thankfully my wife drinks nothing harder than herb teas. But that doesn't mean to say I think any the less of you John ....... or maybe it does ......... who's to know?

johnjenkins's picture

Been there KH

johnjenkins | | Permalink

I couldn't believe it when I first walked in. Every conceivable drink, although he didn't have a rather tasty beer called "pigs ear". There's a pub in Invermoriston that does a few rather smooth malts. £25 a shot. Scottish shots are larger than ours though.

mwngiol's picture

Combo

mwngiol | | Permalink

Has to be coffee and a Penguin. Bite two opposite corners of the Penguin (only small bites mind!), dip one bitten end into the coffee and suck up the coffee from the other corner. Lovely!

Old Greying Accountant's picture

MWngiol ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... I have heard that works with a Twix too, personally I like to dunk a Mars bar in tea (but obviously not in polite company!).

johnjenkins's picture

Marriane Faithful

johnjenkins | | Permalink

springs to mind OGA!

Old Greying Accountant's picture

I hate to ask John ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... but as that is outside my terms of reference ..?

johnjenkins's picture

Unless you're

johnjenkins | | Permalink

Mick Jaggers' Accountant  lol

Old Greying Accountant's picture

I suspect ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... you are being extremely (c)rude, but as I have no clue about that to which you refer I can only surmise - but as Mars bars are involved one is led to inevitable conclusions!

Steve McQueen's picture

Menu

Steve McQueen | | Permalink

I used to have a full menu of 20 or so items, including 3 types of coffee three types of tea, a few beers and wines. Visitors loved the idea and it was a real talking point, but very few ever asked for anything other than "a coffee please" or "a tea please".

The one person I rememeber who did ask for the champagne was another accountant from a competitors who had come to see me for our occasions "chats"

The problem was, I had nicked the champagne the previous weekend for myself (and my then lady friend) so the office junior was sent on a secret mission to buy a bottle of sparkling plonk quick.

We palmed off this gentleman with a bottle of £4 fizzy rubbish and he was never any the wiser and told everyone at every CPD / annual dinner about my menu and serving champagne.

I quickly got a reputation!

Flash Gordon's picture

@ Peter - above and beyond

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

I've read your above and beyond post a few times now Peter and I'm wondering if I'm missing something that's so obvious to everyone else but.... why did your client have a shower at your place?! It sounds like a plot for a porn movie to be honest, though I'd have expected the wine to be before the shower - client brings round books, client gets offered wine, client heads to shower, accountant says 'I'd like to audit your assets' and gets in shower too (presumably with the wife as well!), lots of steamy action that I can't tell you about because it's before 9pm, and I won't even mention the daughter's boyfriend! Shocking, quite frankly sir, shocking!!

Do please enlighten me about the real reason.....

 

(And I may quit accountancy and start writing & directing dodgy movies instead!)

petersaxton's picture

It was all innocent, honest!

petersaxton | | Permalink

I was busy doing the accounts and tax but I don't know what everybody else's excuses were!

I think the reason for the shower was that he'd need one sooner or later so it was something he could get on with there and then. I hate wearing the same clothes after a show, though!

Old Greying Accountant's picture

That's all well and good Peter and Flash ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... but I am still pondering Mick Jagger' accountant (that's not you Peter is it?), Marianne Faithful and the Mars bar - may be that is the sequel (or may be the prequel and hence the need for a shower!)

Old Greying Accountant's picture

I have to say Steve ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... my theory on Champagne is the cheaper it is the better it tastes - give me a nice glass of Piemontello any day - lol

petersaxton's picture

Not Jagger

petersaxton | | Permalink

My client was a driving school owner, a part owner of a sign business and had property rental income.

He's now moved to Thailand and is not working but has a good income at 50.

johnjenkins's picture

Mars bar dunking

johnjenkins | | Permalink

posted by OGA just took me back to the 60's. It was quite a topic of conversation and hit the headlines.

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