During my time in coffee shops, I've helped entrepreneurs with customer acquisition. Newly-opened cafes often face the problem of having a small customer base, a contrast to the envisioned morning rush. Owners often fail to anticipate a period of low morning activity. However, it is possible to build that customer base but it takes time and consistency. From what I have seen, it takes anywhere from 8 to 14 months for a coffee shop to secure a regular customer base. Keep on reading if you are looking to start a coffee shop or improve yours.
Customers Retention In Coffee Shops
The risk of trying
The primary challenge in bringing morning clients lies in understanding their mindset. Often, people are in a rush, following a tight schedule between kids and work, and are hesitant to explore new coffee shops. Discovering a new café is too much of a risk that could leave you short on coffee. Their routine creates a strong bond with their familiar coffee shop.
The less busy time of day
Offering lunch could bring you more customers in the morning. That may seem counterintuitive but people are more inclined to explore new places during lunchtime. Most of the cafés I have helped have their first rushes around lunchtime. Focusing on proving great service during lunch will build confidence with your customers and could then boost your morning visits. Building a trusting relationship with customers during a less stressful time increases their likelihood to visit in the morning hours.
Knowing Your Customers
Morning customers require effort to gain but often become daily visitors. Lunch customers, due to their inclination to alternate lunch destinations, are less regular. A well-operating coffee shop might have a customer visiting five times in the morning and once or twice during lunch each week. The weekend crowd varies from the weekday crowd and has a unique set of routines, making profitability more difficult.
Managing the morning customers requires a delicate approach. During weekday mornings, the key is not just working rapidly but also creating an impression of speed. Customers might be a little grumpy and, adding to the urgency, are likely craving coffee. Both the cashier and the barista must work together to expedite orders, no matter the crowd size, as the underlying assumption should be that every customer is running late and eager for their caffeine fix.
Service Is Essential
Kindness is KEY
In the world of coffee shops, nothing packs more punch than good service. It is a relatively low implementation cost, and it adds immense value. I've seen coffee shops with okay coffee but excellent service doing way better than coffee shops with excellent coffee and mediocre service. A failure to provide good service can obliterate any other investment made by the business. As a customer, I value good service above good coffee. If I come across a cafe where the product is just fine, but the service is outstanding, I'll undoubtedly return. But a spot with excellent products, paired with poor service? They've lost my business forever.
Coffee equipment, a money pit?
If you want to improve your coffee offering, you can look to invest in grinders, beans, machines, filters and no end of other expensive gear that can easily run into thousands of euro. This may improve the coffee offering - if you know how to use it - but it will set you back a fortune and nobody will care if the service is bad.
Service Over Coffee
If your goal is to have the best possible coffee, you might consider investing in high-end grinders, top-grade beans, sophisticated coffee machines, and more. While these investments can potentially enhance the quality of your coffee, they will undoubtedly incur substantial costs. If you're looking to have a profitable business, it might not even be worth it but that's a subject for another time. All the fancy gear won't mean anything if your customers receive poor service.
Often, service is the aspect most businesses leave until last when considering where to invest their time and money. Yet, I frequently engage with my staff to discuss the profound impact that service has on our operations. The simple "hello" as a customer enters can make a significant difference in their perception of your coffee shop. The same things is true for "thank you" and "goodbye". Forgetting to say "goodbye" is missed opportunity for a coffee shop to earn a loyal customer.
You’re On The Right Road
Driving your café's success is largely about securing that customer who will return day after day. In the exhilarating early days of your café's opening, it can be tempting to focus solely on the quantity of customers, but it's the quality of the repeat customer that truly matters. If you see those familiar faces reappearing, that's your confirmation of being on the right path. It's a game of patience and continuous refinement of your offerings. Persist with this approach, and the results will manifest as a substantial, loyal customer base.