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Populating your coffee shop after the A.M. rush

With just about two-thirds of Americans drinking at least one cup every day, coffee is the fuel that kick-starts our mornings. Fortunately for coffee shop owners, 34 percent of those cups were bought outside the home in 2016, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year.

More and more consumers may be hitting up your cafe for their jolt of Joe—yet the vast majority of sales occur between 7:30 and 9 a.m., during which time your shop is bustling with regulars. After that, foot traffic slows to a trickle and is spotty the remainder of the day.

Here’s how to keep a steady stream of customers coming in and out of your door from open to close.

Accommodate “laptop squatters”

Encouraging people to use your shop as a coworking space is the easiest way to entice customers during non-peak hours. As we detail in our post “Business problem turnaround: A smart wifi strategy for your business,” a plethora of tables and chairs, comfy lounge seating, outlets, and fast, secure wifi turns your cafe into a workplace for independent workers, students, and those wanting to hold business meetings outside the office.

Offer private space

The majority of your accommodations should be for drop-in customers and solo workers. But as number of freelancers working from home and the number of traditional employees with flexible work environments increases, so is the demand for comfortable locations where someone can hold in-person meetings. Invest in built-ins, freestanding bookcases, decorative screens, or other room separating furniture to carve out a private area in a quiet corner or the back of your cafe. Charge a rental or reservation fee for the space and offer patrons the opportunity to order food and drink in advance so it’s ready upon their arrival.

Diversify your menu

Lattes and scones may be your top sellers, but to entice customers during off-peak hours, you’ve got to offer a wide variety of options beyond traditional breakfast fare. Busy workers will appreciate pre-packaged lunches that they can grab and go when in a hurry. (The bonus for merchants: Customers spend more when items are packaged together than if each is offered a la carte.) Others will appreciate the luxury of having a delicious, affordable lunch prepared for them.

Go the extra mile

Not only do customers want to go where everybody knows their name—they want to go where everybody knows their order. Create a subscription service that allows regulars to designate their favorites (collect the information via your website or an in-store form). Once ready, they can drop in and pick up their order in a designated area or an employee can run the packaged meal out to their car.

Offer classes

Teach members of your community what you do best: brewing the perfect cup, creating impressive cappuccino art, baking the best bread around, or perfecting a delicious quiche. These opportunities could be single classes offered occasionally, exclusive offerings available only to those booking private parties, or an ongoing series. Demonstrating your skills will cause them to appreciate your expertise even more.

Sell take-home products

What’s the next best thing to eating a tasty baked good in your cafe? Having a customer able to make it in her home. Package ingredients in kits so patrons can make their favorite products on their own. These kits will never replace your in-store product, but they’ll make your regulars feel connected and invested in your coffee shop. How could you ask for more?

This blog post originally appeared as a part of Business Problem Turnaround series in the Clover Blog.

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