As our cities grow, apartments become smaller and backyards almost non-existent, people are increasingly looking for a ‘third space’ to spend their time outside of home and work. Cafés are filling this void as a place to meet family, friends and colleagues or just to hang out alone. People are also cooking at home less and eating out more frequently than before. But just being there isn’t enough to ensure a café’s success, café owners and managers must become savvy business people to thrive in the competitive ‘third space’ environment.
Here, we look at the key drivers for success when it comes to cafés and what the best cafés are doing to ensure their tables are full from sunrise until late afternoon.
Coffee (and consistency)
It’s happened to all of us: you’ve had an amazing coffee at a café you happened across by accident, you make a mental note to return the next day to experience it again. But the next day a different barista makes your brew and it’s not as good, leaving a bad taste in your mouth (literally).
Invest in your baristas to ensure you are always serving the best possible coffee (as that’s the mainstay of your business) but apply the same consistency across the whole café. It happens with coffee, it happens with food, it happens with service. If your customer is expecting a certain standard (based on past experience) it’s in your best interest to keep this consistent across trading days.
Service and relationships
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the more enjoyable your customers’ experiences at your café the more likely they are to return. Great service comes from well trained staff but also from the relationships they develop with regular customers. Aim to become the best place in your area to work as this will make sure you attract and retain the best people.
Start by training your staff to be flexible and multi-skilled. So, if someone calls in sick one day, the café can still run smoothly. Then encourage your staff to be more than just waiters and baristas, but friends with your customers. Offering free cake on customers’ birthdays, supporting local clubs with free meeting spaces and donating to schools and charities will all strengthen your café’s relationship with the community. There are also apps like Skip the Q, which allows customers to pre-order and pay for their food and drinks and then simply pick them up, allowing you to provide your busy customers with more convenient service.
Just like consistency in your products, quality is one of the most important elements to your café’s success. We know Aussies (especially in Sydney and Melbourne) will happily line up to lay their hands on the best croissant, doughnut or coffee in town so make sure you’re making the best quality food and drink you can. Focus on buying the best, freshest produce and on preparation, presentation and serving of your coffee and food. This is the best way to generate positive word of mouth.
Are you serving the right snacks? Ensure you have the best Donuts, Muffins and Croissants available to ensure repeat purchase. These snack items are additional purchase items that people are looking for with their coffee purchase, as well as toast.
When it comes to your menu, of course you want to give your chef creative license and allow them to create a menu that suits both their cooking style and the needs of your customers. If your chef is happy cooking it will show in the quality of the food. With this in mind though, ensure you are offering customers enough choice so there is something for everyone. This can be as simple as offering the standard ‘egg on toast’ option with extras, or a toast and spread option with a buffet of delicious spreads (including NUTELLA®, for example, can significantly increase sales like toast in your café).
Food presentation is also important, and serving food that is “instagram-worthy” means your customers are more likely to take photos and share them on their social media with friends, which in return will drive more traffic to your social media pages. But it must taste good!
You want your café to be a place that people are comfortable to go to alone, set up with a coffee and sit while they work, read or relax. Even though this kind of customer may not seem like the most valuable, it is also them that keeps your café looking full and comfortable during slower periods, so look after them.
Invest in some comfortable seating and arrange them so there are some cosy corners with access to electric plugs for their laptops. Make sure you have a free wifi and if you want your customers to really love you, set up USB ports for phone recharging along your communal table.
The final item on our list is probably the number one factor for café success: cost control. Getting the balance of overheads and turnover right is incredibly difficult and getting it wrong can lead to disaster pretty quickly. The hospitality industry is characterised by low profit margins and because of that it is doubly important you minimise costs and wastage. Something as simple as providing portion control packs with toast (like NUTELLA® portion packs here) can help reduce the cost associated with each menu item. Make sure you are on top of your numbers by assessing your weekly costs and what profit you make and adjust accordingly.
Of course, there are so many reasons cafés do well (or don’t!). But keeping the above elements in mind will set you and your café on a path for success. Is there something we’ve missed? What do you think is the most important aspect for café success in Australia? Let us know in the comments.