As many college students, I am required to take a management class. Our class, 'Management Concepts, Theory and Practice', is using Biz Cafe(Business Essentials Simulation) by Interpretive Simulations as a major component in our grade(http://schools.interpretive.com). I had heard other students talk about it some, so I had some idea of what it was when our professor was describing it and how it would impact our grade. I instantly thought 'great I'll Google this and find some helpful tips', well i didn't find any. I did find some blogs, but they failed to convey much useful information and there was no explanation of mechanics. I am not a business major this is my minor but, as a Computer Science student I didn't want to loose any kind of video game to some business majors. So my group and I just did what we thought was best to win.
Currently, it is week 7 and my group is in first place(have been since decision 1) with a balanced scorecard of 92, with the next group at 81. So, we might not be the best every at this simulation, but what we are doing has worked well for us. So I'll start with a few tips that help you gather information about your competition and how you are doing.
A word about strategy, the two main approaches are, lower cost with higher volume and higher cost with greater product differentiation. Make this decision first as it is really not wise to change your approach later as the simulation is too short to make the switching cost work out. We went with higher price, high quality and maximize customer satisfaction. If you go with the lower cost approach, you will need to drastically outsell your competition as you make much less profit per cup.
This is where you can get most of the information about your competition, what the avg worker is getting paid,what cafe won different awards and various levels of customer feedback depending what you pay for. It is important to know what the average wage is, if you pay above the average you will lose less people and they will work a bit harder, this has some impact on customer satisfaction levels. Pay is very important with managers and you only have 2 or 3 (depending on weekend hours or not) so paying them better will not cost you much. This is under the 'Labor tab', this also shows the number of employees per shop, combined with other information this is helpful.
When it is available, you may elect to pay $500 for 'customer survey', this will increase the level of detail available on that tab. Customer satisfaction is important to compare to the average. The 'awareness' is very important, this is what percentage of the population knows about your cafe. The maximum for awareness is 99.2 percent and radio spots and general awareness newspaper ads are the best for raising this quickly, which you want to do in either strategy. As you go higher, the return on ads doesn't diminish, if you 5 radio spot and general awareness newspaper ads you will get there quickly. Awareness does not degrade over time. Coupons are not worth it until this is very high, then the might be worth it to steal customers from other shops but I did not find them worth the investment.
Under the newsletter tab, you can view the other cafe's menu. Three important piece of information are here, what grade of coffee the sell, the price and their hours. Knowing what your competition is doing helps you to make adjustment to your strategy. I found it best to maximize hours, sell the best coffee and charge a higher price. Keep in mind each tier of quality you increase your coffee only changes your cost by about six cents per medium cup. Charging a higher price for a better product worked well for me, this helped win product awards and have higher margins. Maximizing hours will help you win 'best hours' and you will sell more coffee with only some increase in staffing cost.