Updated: May 17
Running a cafe is not as simple as it may seem from the outside. The daily tasks of ordering, stock management, staffing, wages, accounting, posting on social media, troubleshooting, cleaning and serving can really take its toll on you, and it is easy to forget about some key factors when growing your shop.
All Cafe owners start out with very similar goals. You’ve probably envisioned your ideal cafe serving amazing products, while building a devoted and passionate community of regular customers. You’ve likely dreamed of the perfect little oasis that your community can come to to enjoy and share in your amazing service and products.
All of this comes down to the decisions you make: how should you style and set the layout of your shop? Where should you source your bread from? Which locally roasted coffee should I supply?
Once you’re up and running, the daily challenges keep piling on and suddenly the fridge needs fixing, the roster needs writing, and so on. With so much to do you can easily get side-tracked from the goal of growing your cafe’s exposure.
No matter how good your breakfast is or how amazing your latte art is, if you aren’t actively working towards growing your cafe it can start to lose relevance.
It may sound harsh but I have seen it happen many times where a cafe owner works tirelessly on the setup and foundation of their cafe, but once it has been running for some time and they haven't updated or grown their offering or communication channels they start to lose traction and relevance in the community.
I am not saying you need to spend thousands of dollars every few months to renovate your shop or change menus or suppliers. I am saying that working on your engagement with customers is key to perpetual growth of your cafe & brand.
I don't write this to scare people off, but to try and help cafe owners who are looking to continue growing their business through long-term goals.
Below are some key actions you can take to continually engage with your existing customers, whilst also expanding your brand awareness in the greater community.
1. Music - Set The Mood
It may sound silly but the atmosphere really matters when someone is walking past, or first entering a shop. Before you even have a chance to say hi or interact with them, they are exposed to the environment and if that environment is cold and quiet it can be awkward and even intimidating to enter or break that silence. Alternatively if they enter a space that is filled with welcoming and engaging music they immediately come to know more about you and your shop than you would ever realise.
Play music that is appropriate to your cafe, but make sure it’s the kind of music that you and your staff actually like. It shows if you don't.
2. Boost your Social Media / Community Engagement
I know Social Media can become a bore or even a chore but it holds so much importance when you are wanting to become part of a community or part of someone's routine.
Posting regularly- be it once or twice a week- is a great start, but having structured content pillars is the key to clear and consistent content resulting in increased engagement and growth.
We totally understand why this might be the last thing you want to deal with, which is why we work with our good friends @thecoffeedit. They’re a social media management agency who assist in many ways, from complete management of your platform, including creating, posting and engagement, to something as simple as a review and content pillar guide for your business.
3. Set up Google Reviews
Google It! When people are travelling to new areas or wanting to try something new their pocket tour guide is almost always Google. This means if you are not properly set up you are going to miss out.
It is quite a simple process to set up a Google Business Account. Once this is live Google will start to prompt people who have been at your cafe to leave a review or photo, ever growing your business’s reach. It doesn't take much maintenance once set up, but it truly is one of the best free advertisements you can have.
4. Offer Special Menus: Coffee & Food
Once you have a devoted following it can be easy to think “don’t change what is working”. But this can be a dangerous mentality, as you may start to fall out of the mind or routine of your customers.
I'm not saying you should recreate your menu every four weeks or anything crazy, but having a healthy rotational special board for both food and coffee is a great way to continually start new conversations with regulars and bring previous customers back.
Be it daily muffins or a weekly special board, offering variety when it comes to food is a proven success for engaging with customers.
That said, the new and exciting way to offer variety is with your coffee offering. If you begin to offer an alternative alongside your main coffee blend you can start to share some rare and exciting coffees with your customers. This can be from your current supplier, or you can even start to reach out to new roasters from across the country. This is referred to as “Guest Coffee”
5. Brand your Cups and Coffee Bags
You have worked tirelessly to build a name for yourself with your cafe, but in a lot of cases you are sending people out of your cafe with either no branding or with someone else's brand!
This is a major missed opportunity which can be solved in a couple of ways quite easily. You can start by creating your own ink stamps or stickers that your staff can apply to plain cups during downtimes.
We also work with our clients on creating custom branded coffee bags, as this is proven to boost brand awareness, loyalty and sales, both in retail and in coffee in general.
Implementing any one of these five key actions is both easy and affordable. It may take a little more time and effort initially, but trust us, you’ll be amazed at the results in the long run. People will come to love and know your cafe like never before!