There is no single rule to running a successful coffee shop — whether you’re offering gourmet roast or free Wi-Fi, or have a quick and modern Coffee Shop POS System or the most dedicated staff. One thing is certain: when the target audience understands your concept and likes it, they will choose your café over the competition.
The truth is, while there’s no one rule to help with running a coffee shop business, there are different tips and tricks you can implement that are sure to make a whole lot of difference. One such trick is to combine a suitable seating plan with ambiance and a nice menu.
Below, we compare the concept of traditional European-style coffee shops with the modern work-space cafés and examine how different types of menus, seating plans, and ambiances draw very different crowds.
Traditional vs. Modern Cafés
When a concept is cohesive, the elements combine to inform guests of how they should interact with the space, creating a loyal customer base.
From Portugal to Macedonia, the coffee bar culture across Europe is similar; it’s a culture a place where guests can be social.
The European-style coffee shop isn’t about speed and ordering coffee to-go; instead, the coffee is an excuse to meet with friends, hear the local gossip, and take a break from the responsibilities and duties of one’s day. Few customers bring their laptops.
The concept: A café where customers can sit as long as they like in peace, either alone or with others. Some of the oldest recorded coffeehouses date back to the 18th century (see: the Caffé Florian in Venice, 1720; or Caffé Greco in Rome, 1760), but little has changed and today traditional cafés still share the following elements:
- Ample seating, typically small tables and chairs to maximize what space is available.
- Consistently good coffee drinks.
- A diverse menu.
Why it works: The intention of this space is to sit and enjoy for some time. With a complete and satisfying menu presented to them, customers feel the invitation to stay intrinsically.
If this is your dream café to run, start with having plenty of seating. Not only does this mean more customers can be served, it puts less pressure on turning tables quickly. Have small tabletops to discourage laptop-users from parking for a few hours, making it clear that this café is for social purposes.
To guarantee your guests pass the time easily, offer a menu with hot and cold items; it’s acceptable to have a pared-down selection of both. In the event a coffee date turns into an hours-long affair, consider adding wine and beer to your menu.
Meanwhile, the coffee should be of high quality and well-executed. No matter how modest a European-style coffeehouse might be, you can usually find a dominating state-of-the-art coffee machine. The quality of the beans and, most especially—the execution, is an important part of the customer experience.
These elements combine to tell guests to not rush through their coffee or small meals but to linger and relax. Customers seeking a thriving social spot notice these signs and will tell their friends.
Consider the European-style coffee shop as the traditional concept; next, we review how modern coffee house successfully targets its own customers.
With the rise of the freelance economy, the demand for temporary office space has never been higher. For years, coffee shops have filled that gap, opening across the country to cater to the needs of roaming professionals. They offer peace and free Wi-Fi, and while they encourage coffee drinkers to sit for hours, they seek out a different type of crowd than European-style cafés: the freelance professional and student working away from their home or library.
For some restaurant owners, the freelance phenomenon has presented a conundrum. Their dreams of owning buzzing cafés were replaced with a reality of tapping keyboards and mute customers. This shift has encouraged some owners to turn off the Wi-Fi to reduce social media usage and promote physical social interaction. But for the owner with his or her pulse on the Zeitgeist, this is the ideal type of café business concept to run.
The concept: A coffeehouse that caters to the younger community of freelancers and students, offering large tables (space for both laptop and salad), free Wi-Fi, and healthy food options to sustain one through a working day.
Why it works: The successful work-space-devoted coffee shops target the freelancer and student crowds with a comfortable guest experience. These are the basic components:
- Comfy seating
- High-speed bandwidth
- A complete menu with healthy options
If you own or manage this kind of coffee bar, chances are that most of your customers will stay anywhere between one and four hours—so make sure they have what they need. Although customers can sit for hours with just a single coffee, entice them with a broad-range menu to turn a profit.
Not only will sales increase, but you’ll also create loyal patrons. Devise a menu that satisfies all the cravings that arise throughout the day with options like:
- High-energy protein shakes made with fresh fruits and nuts
- Healthy salads and meal choices
- Satisfying Sandwiches
- Snacking options
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner options
For the modern café, gourmet beans and unique brewing techniques draw a crowd, but loyal customers are seeking a more robust experience than what a traditional café serves. When they see qualities like multiple outlets for charging, an easy menu that keeps their energy high, and comfortable seating, customers feel welcomed to use your café as you intended—a work-space coffeeshop.
How customers use your space is up to you. Décor, music choices, Wi-Fi settings, and menu options inform customers what kind of coffee shop you are running. How well-defined is your café concept? With some simple tweaks and adjustments, you could attract a more specific customer base.
Do remember that as you build this brand persona, always keep your competitors in the rearview. Never lose sight of them as they seek to outdo you. Are there other businesses in your area doing something similar to what you doing?
At the end of the day, personality is business.
While it may feel exciting to implement all the above-mentioned niceties into building your brand image, you’ll have to keep in mind that there are others who want to outdo you in whatever way possible. Innovation is the key to being different at all times, you have to keep the ball rolling. People change, ideas change time flies and customer loyalty is somewhat fleeting.
Whatever it is you decide to go for, whether calm and relaxed, modern or antique, if it appeals to your customers, they are sure to stay.