Tricks and tips that can help a local café to thrive

Running a café can be a wonderful way to engage in business as part of your local community, spending your days talking to your customers and helping them get to know each other – all while serving them delicious food and drink. There’s always a lot of competition in the café business, however, so how can you make sure your place is noticed and attracts customers? These tips will help.

Set up signs

Websites are all well and good, but most people make decisions about where to eat when they’re out and about and their stomachs have started to rumble. You need to make sure that your place is visible to grab their attention. That means you need signs, and ideally ones that change every day. Along with accessories and examples of your produce in the window, they’re the number one way to draw customers in, so check out where to buy chalk, get yourself a blackboard and get creative! Remember, tall signs are best because they’re more likely to be noticed by people walking down the street.

Make more of your menus

You could be preparing a great selection of delicious food from around the world but if all you have is a plain text menu, most people will opt for something safe and never discover your other offerings. They’ll also view your menu as being uninspired. To turn things around, make your menus bigger, set them out in a more dynamic way, and add pictures. The Japanese say that food should be tasted first with the eyes, and there’s nothing like a photo of a mouthwatering dish to get your customers excited and ready to experiment with something new.

Give free samples

Everybody loves free stuff. Miniature versions of your finest dishes can tempt people in, and what’s more, you can take them out and about. Visit other local businesses with them as a way of introducing yourself and you may get yourself a lot of new lunchtime customers. Hand them out at local fairs or student events, and make sure you hand out flyers with them so that people know where they can get more.

Get smart about offers

Another great way to get people to try your food is through special offers, but you need to be smart about how you use them so that you don’t just end up giving away free food for no gain. Offering discounts on particular dishes helps to get customers exploring your menu. Also, offer price reductions to people who sign up to your mailing list, that provides an opportunity to get your marketing out there and to develop a loyal customer base.

Make it to-go

Not everybody has time to sit down in a café for lunch, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like the chance to eat what you have to offer. Making up food and drinks to go can get you a lot more customers without taking up any extra table space. That is why many places offer discounts on food to go. If you get creative with packaging you can use it to increase awareness of your establishment and key things about it (such as its design themes or its ethical stance).

Provide little luxuries

Little things that don’t cost very much for you can make all the difference when people are choosing one café over another. Make sure you provide Wi-Fi and have plenty of places where people can plug in their mobile devices. Keep a stock of different phone chargers for customers who have forgotten theirs. Provide comfortable seating. Tempt customers to linger by keeping a stock of books and board games, or even simple musical instruments. If you want to make families feel welcome, it’s also helpful to have a box of toys that the kids can use.

Talk to local media

Want some free publicity? There are all sorts of ways you can get attention from local media simply by making yourself useful to them. Talk to local journalists, invite them to enjoy a free meal, and make yourself available as a source of comment when they’re covering food-related stories. The more often you appear in the media, the more you will be thought of as an expert. You can back this up with a blog and take the opportunities to talk about your business.

It takes time, effort and sometimes money to draw attention to a new café, but it’s well worth it. These endeavors have a cumulative effect and can begin the process of making your new business venture become a cherished local institution.