You only get One chance to make a First Impression

The university open day season is upon us and if you like us have teenage children trying to decide where to study, you will be visiting a few new places for the first time over the next few weeks.  You will realise why first impressions matter so much for your business.

This is the second season of the open day tours for us, so we feel quite seasoned travellers and know what to expect. Yesterday on our visit to Plymouth University in Devon, we were absolutely blown away by the whole day and our son left very excited over the prospect of going there to study.

On the journey home, we reflected on what they did so well to have this effect on us. There are so many lessons for a coffee shop or restaurant owner to learn from it.

The Welcome

Starting at the welcome, which was in the form of a massive inflatable arch at the front of the university, clearly showing you where to go.

  • How clear is your signage from 100 yards away?

The smiles and cheery welcome, not only from the very first person we met but everyone we met throughout the day.

  • Is everyone in your business as cheery and welcoming?

The Organisation

The registration, where we were greeted individually by a member of staff and asked to register using the ‘chimpadeedoo’ app from MailChimp on an iPad.

  • Do you get all your customers details so you can follow up with them?

 The overall organization was great, a good guide with simple summaries of the talks and clear timings of start and finish times as well as a guide for parents.

  • How clear and easy to understand is your menu?

 Every single talk started and finished on time, with separate handouts for you to take away and a well-facilitated question time included.

  • Do you always open on time and deal with your customers concerns or requests respectfully?

Every talk had an associated display of work from current students with testimonials from lots of happy students.

  • How well do you use your current customers to market your business, do you use testimonials and reviews to your advantage?

There were tea and coffee available at every session and free food available on campus. This kept us engaged for longer, as normally our day is spent looking for places to get a drink and some food that is away from the main campus.

  • What do you do to make sure your guests stay longer and spend more?

Finally, it seemed that the town was geared up for the influx in customers as well, with busy restaurants and bars.

  • How much notice of local events do you take when planning your week trade for staff cover and food prep?

Follow Up

The next day we received a parent follow-up survey as well to find out what we thought about the day

  • How many times to you ask for feedback from your guests?


Plymouth University did everything so well and out of the 10 university open days we have been to ,it was by far the best. Our experience has only made our son more likely to apply there.

With the cost of a university course being nearly £50k and with only one chance to get your business, they have maximised their chances of being at the top of the application form.

In the same way, it’s the lifetime spend of your guest you are trying to capture on their first visit.

You only get one chance to make a first impression – that’s why First Impressions Matter



About the authors

Andrew and Claire Bowen have run their own coffee shops for the last 8 years starting as franchisees and moving to develop their own independent business. The knowledge and experience gained from this have been used in the development of Café Success – the UK’s best resource for the coffee shop, café and tearoom owners. Free to Join at it is growing to cover all aspects of setting up and running a coffee business. Please link in with them and join the Coffee Shop Owners of the UK discussion group on linked in.