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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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I. Background

Aroma Espresso Bar is one of the fastest growing chain cafés in the state of Israel to date. Founded in downtown Jerusalem by Yariv and Sahar Shefa in 1994, Aroma began as a small idea that has since expanded internationally in seven countries. The two brothers borrowed the U.S. equivalent of $16,000 to start the business. Consisting of high-quality coffee and made-to-order sandwiches and pastries, the now wildly popular, eclectic, Mediterranean-inspired staple café is dubbed by many as the "Starbucks of Israel.” Quality is Aroma's top priority, which led the founders to negotiate a partnership with the Balestra family in Naples, Italy. The Balestra family partnership with Aroma was huge for the new company, as they are well known for their gourmet coffee roasting. Their coffee tactics were solely learned from the Italian family. Employees roast the coffee beans in Aroma's roasting facility, which opened in the Valley of Elah in 2004. The roasted coffee is then packaged and shipped to Aroma locations globally. Separating itself from its competition, Aroma focuses on the freshness of their food, delivering produce to each location daily to ensure vegetables are looking fresh every day. Employees bake the pastries and bread fresh every day, to further Aroma's goal of keeping food fresh. Their bakery's bread and pastries are made with whole wheat and no preservatives or artificial colors.

Aroma serves classic foods, but also offers Mediterranean dishes like Halumi sandwiches (grilled cheese with roasted eggplant, tahini, and pickles), Burekas (pastries filled with egg, feta cheese, tomatoes, tahini, and pickles), and Shakshuka (a breakfast dish with eggs in a tomato sauce). Aroma also differs from other coffee chains with its ambiance. Rather than providing a relaxed, standard coffeehouse feel, Aroma always strives to invoke a more upbeat, energetic, fast-paced environment. The company works diligently to always provide the best for its customers around the world.

II. Mission Statement

Our insistence on natural, wholesome and innovative food freshly made to order, world-class coffee roasted to perfection and friendly, efficient and professional service has helped establish aroma espresso bar as a leader among fast-casual restaurants. Stores are held to the highest standards and our Operations team moves swiftly to continually improve every aspect of the aroma experience for our loyal customers. We believe in raising the bar and offering an elevated experience that goes beyond espresso. We believe caring makes the difference and business is always personal. We strive to treat our customers the way we would expect to be treated. We believe in keeping it fresh and are always creating, learning, innovating and evolving. We believe in doing the right thing and always with integrity. Most of all we value our customers and want to hear from them. (Aroma, 1994).

III. Statement of the Problem

With more than 120 branches, the customer-dubbed “Starbucks of Israel,” claims to strive for perfection and freshness. Starbucks was even rejected by the state of Israel; having failed within a couple of years, with many claiming the coffee and food was not qualitative. A research survey conducted by an Israeli marketing company found results that contradict the reasoning for Starbuck's failure, revealing that Israeli consumers are looking for what is quick, fresh and affordable. The underlying issue of this information is that Aroma, to an extent has also failed to deliver this fresh, cheap fast food.

Aroma was under fire due to a recent discovery that is a complete about-face from their values and mission statement. Some of the chain's locations were hit with multiple health violations. The most recent health violations occurred both in Israel's locations and in the espresso bar's Miami location in August 2018. According to the Miami Herald, “The inspector swung by Aug. 10 and saw "approximately one live roach in ice machine in front service area. And approximately four live roaches in the kitchen area on prep table next to ice cream machine where soup is located. Plus one near the storage area." Also near the ice cream machine — standing water. Once the inspector pulled out a food thermometer, the Stop Sale orders flew. Kept at too warm a temperature were salmon, whipped cream cheese, butter, milk and whatever was in the aforementioned ice cream machine.” Previously, the chain was hit with health violations in their Israel locations ranging from roaches to mold.

As businesses franchise, especially abroad, the question becomes one of quality. Owning and managing one business location is much simpler than managing multiple, therefore one can make the argument that as expansion increases, quality decreases due to a lack of control. Aroma in previous years was in hot water with major health department violations that may be a result of the loss of control and/or attention to detail the franchise once had in its startup years. These components from a public relations standpoint will be my primary focus going forward, as they entail opportunity to recover from a major crisis that struck the chain.  Using primary and secondary research, I intend to discover how these components affect the consumer and sales for the company, as well as what opportunities stem from the research results.

IV. Research

A. Research Goals

• Investigate what operational strategies were implemented and/or altered that led to Aroma's health violations.

• Modify any operational patterns between locations that led to health violations.

• Establish what communication needs to be done in order to prevent a business loss.

B. Research Methodology

1. Primary

a. Qualitative

• Participant observation is an excellent strategy for collecting data about customers within the setting. Observing customers throughout the day that continue to go to Aroma after the health violations were made apparent is one strategic research method to gain qualitative knowledge about what the customers are thinking at this time.

• Focus groups are effective in eliciting data required to understand the effectiveness of what Aroma is doing to fix the problem. A focus group of 15 people, each ranging within the company's targeted audience, is a great way to discover people's overall thoughts about the company, the extent of their loyalty to the brand, and their view about the current situation and how it affects them as a customer.

b. Quantitative

• Quantitative surveys are an excellent way of having a clear, concise point of what Aroma's customers believe about the business as a whole post-scandal. Customer surveys will allow Aroma to have an idea of the level of damage done in terms of consumerism at the chain. Targeting regular customers with these surveys via email, promotions on receipts and social media is an efficient tactic towards receiving results.

2. Secondary

• A case study on previous health-related incidents among cafés, and what was done to solve the situation.

• Research about other cafés operational strategies regarding cleanliness and preventative measures.

V. Situation Analysis

• Strengths - Internal characteristics and considerations that could help achieve goals

o Over the years, Aroma invented itself as a chain known for freshness and quality; a message they can continue to enforce as a key value as they rectify the situation at hand.

o Aroma is the most popular chain in Israel, which may make it more difficult to take the company down in the face of a scandal.

o Aroma was quick to handle the previous health violations situation they had, (quick, efficient damage control).

• Weaknesses - Internal characteristics and considerations that could work against achieving goals

o This situation came up before, and for it to be repetitive is a poor reflection on the company's preventative measures.

o The most recent situation was abroad, therefore may make the situation more difficult to control.

o Aroma may have overly franchised, which makes it difficult to prevent this issue from arising again.

• Opportunities – External trends, factors, considerations that could work to organization's advantage

o Aroma's healthy food options are wildly popular, which has always been a factor that the company uses as a campaign opportunity.

o Restaurant shows serve as an opportunity, as Aroma is able to invite a camera crew into their kitchens to show new improvements as part of the campaign.

o Demand by customers and potential consumers for Aroma to make certain changes in terms of their kosher policy may serve as an opportunity for the company to deflect from the present situation, should the comply.

• Threats – External trends, factors, considerations that could work to organization's disadvantage

o Other Israeli cafés such as Café Greg, and Café Hillel, began picking up traffic, therefore Aroma now has more competition.

o Individual self-awareness about what we put in our bodies poses a threat when Aroma is exposed for having items stored at the wrong temperature, bugs, and mold discovered in their kitchens.

o Aroma's well-known track record of shut down locations due to similar health violations.

• Strategic Implications (SI)– Applying critical thinking to the four sections of SWOT, what are the major conclusions and insights that will affect the design of the overall campaign?

o The previous scandal may make Aroma's campaign less credible to the targeted audiences.

To discover an establishment one goes to is unclean in any way may influence their decision to continue their loyalty to the company. Anyone aware of Aroma's previous health violations prior to its most recent issue may feel less inclined to go to the café due to their inconsistency to remain clean.

o Aroma is a strong brand that can turn the scandal around by focusing on positive attributes as they handle the negative aspects behind the scenes.

Being a top culinary company in Israel, Aroma has a huge influence as to how much positive involvement they have had internally and externally. Focusing on such positive attributes may help deflect from some of the bad press since the violations were revealed.

o Aroma will need to focus on more preventative measures following their most recent string of health violations.

Focusing on more preventative measures this time around will show customers that Aroma is serious about cracking down on the situation and resolving it as quickly as possible with a means of ensuring that such violations never happen again.

Analysis: While Aroma's situation was repetitive, the strength of the company is what allows them to have another chance. Their luck includes the fact that the majority of the chain is clean, with the exception of a few restaurants, which are now being cleaned up entirely as the company works with the health department. Aroma wants to ensure that they have a handle on all of their locations and will continue to strive for quality in every branch of their chain.

VI. Communication Goals

• Improve Aroma's image by showing that they are capable of upholding proper health standards, as well as quick to handle the present situation.

Showing the public that Aroma is capable of coming back from the health violations, cleaning house and preventing occurrences like the one at hand gives the necessary transparency between company and customers that will allow customers to feel comfortable in continuing giving their business to Aroma.

• Increase customer awareness about Aroma's health initiatives both in terms of cleanliness and quality.

Many come to Aroma to purchase food and or/drinks, not fully aware of the company's values and narrative. Emphasizing the company's foundation and ongoing practices to provide the best, fresh quality for the customers may increase customer interest in the company.

• Appeal to the importance of the health and safety of Aroma's customers.

Openly working with the health departments to obtain an A grade and maintaining open communication with the media that covered the initial stories of the health violations is key. This is a way of communicating that the company cares and will continue to work for the customer first.

VII. Objectives

• By January 1, 2019, regain all A-grade ratings in all Aroma locations.

a. Regaining A ratings will show customers that we took the matter seriously, and we were compliant with the health department to ensure customer safety.

• By December 1, 2018, increase media favorability by 15 percent amongst the overall targeted audience range.

a. Gaining media favorability will be necessary for understanding how customers are feeling about the brand, and Aroma will qualitatively know what needs to be implemented in order to continue the upward trend.

• By November 1, 2018, raise employee awareness about the importance of maintaining health regulations by 90 percent, as well as operational strategies set by Aroma.

a. Employees are responsible for maintaining the health standards of each location. Retraining employees to know what they need to do is a great step towards preventative measures.

Analysis: These three objectives highlight what overall needs to be done in order to rectify the situation at hand. Aroma needs to understand what their customers are saying and feeling both about the situation, and the company as a whole. In addition, the company must also be taking the necessary steps towards regaining and maintaining A grades in their locations in order to show that they are taking the matter seriously, so customers

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