Café Business 101: 6 Clever Ways to Attract Customers and Keep Them Coming

In the foodservice industry, cafés and coffee shops are exceptionally popular due to their profitability.

What makes these establishments so profitable goes beyond just the products they sell — it’s also about the ambiance. In short, the most significant advantage of café businesses is that they are popular hangouts for people from all walks of life.

From students and business people to coffee buffs and food lovers, cafés cater to just about anyone who likes to get a quick snack or spend an entire day engrossed in a novel with a cup of delicious coffee or tea in hand.

Considering this, you shouldn’t have any problem attracting customers to your café business, right? Well, not exactly.

Since customers prefer these shops, competition has also grown significantly. If you want to be successful in this highly competitive industry, it pays to learn these six creative ways to attract customers and ensure that they keep coming:

1. Give Out Samples

Are you offering a new product? Whether it’s from a new supplier and your own creation, selling anything “new” can be challenging, especially if the price is higher than your usual offering.

Before you can make it into a regular menu item, the smart step to take after you master the art of tea cakes is to put the product on a test run with actual customers. Give out samples. Once they’ve gotten a taste of your desserts and realize how heavenly they taste with your own brew, they’ll surely get hooked with the combo and return for more.

Of course, this is effective for more than just introducing new products. Since everybody loves free things, you can also offer giveaways for purchases of drinks, pastries, and bagged beans, and push new traffic up to your storefront.

To improve your sales more, consider coming up with a raffle system. Assign a purchase requirement and get every participating customer to give out their names and email addresses. This will also help you grow your email marketing mailing list.

2. Improve Customer Service

While the smell of fresh brews and delicious baked goodies is enough to attract people to your store, the quality of services is what keeps them coming back. Any food and beverage business can only reach its full potential with good customer service, so you must make sure that your café or coffee shop levels up in this aspect.

Want to know how you can improve your customer service? Try out the tips below:

  • Anticipate your customers’ needs: This can come in the form of offering water or tea refills when they are nearly halfway through the glass.
  • Occasionally check in with your customers: Asking customers how they’re doing from time to time also helps you get a good idea of their satisfaction level. Don’t forget to ask whether they’re enjoying their food and drinks.
  • Have your servers try your best offerings: Give your servers a taste of your most popular offerings and let them watch how these are prepared. With this, they can offer your customers genuine recommendations and upsell the products on your menu.
  • Practice careful and gentle handling of dinnerware: Instead of slamming down plates and cups, train your servers to set and clear the tables carefully. This will remove any impression that your establishment is unwelcoming.
  • Streamline payment processing: Quick processing of payment is also crucial in customer service. Besides, doing this can also help you improve your table turnover.

3. Include Healthy Options in Your Menu

“Health is wealth.”

This adage has become even more appropriate today as more and more diners and coffee shop goers become health conscious in their buying decisions. Since this trend is expected to stay beyond 2020, you should include healthy options in your menu options.

One way to do this is by offering vegetarian or gluten-free options. Even small tweaks like adding avocado toast to your breakfast menu would work.

4. Reward Loyalty

Want customers to come back to your restaurant? Reward them. People like to feel special and appreciated, especially when it comes to loyalty to a specific shop.

Starting a loyalty scheme is simple. First, print out matte-finish business cards to distribute to the customers. These should include boxes where you can put a stamp or sticker every time they purchase from your café or coffee shop.

Then, offer a prize for those who complete a certain number of purchases (e.g., a free coffee for every seventh cup they buy). This is a minimal price to pay in exchange for continuous customer patronage.

5. Come Up with Seasonal Products

Offering the same old drinks with the same old treats can get old real quick. When you’re in the food and business industry, you need to pick up your pace and keep up with trends.

Make use of your ICCA fast track patisserie course training and develop unique combinations of foods and drinks that play well with the current trends. Mix and match flavors and taste that reflects the season, like floral-infused teas in spring, pumpkin-spiced drinks in autumn, gingerbread during the Christmas season, etc.

6. Get Active on Social Media

Everyone is on social media these days, so make sure you use this in bringing more customers to your storefront. To catch potential customers’ attention on social media, keep a lively and active presence on the most popular platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Choose at least two platforms – these should be where most of your target market is in. Then, decide on a brand identity for your café and stay “on-brand” to build recognition and better recall. You can do this by thinking up clever names for your recipes based on a specific theme (e.g., a shop for movie lovers can have drinks named after popular film titles or characters).

Once you’ve established these, come up with social media content regularly to make sure that your presence is “felt” in the virtual world. Don’t forget to respond to comments and queries actively.

Post regular updates. Three times a week during the “peak hours” (e.g., lunch or dinner) should be enough to get your target customer’s attention. Be sure to include eye-catching images of your best offerings, if not the wonderful ambiance in your café.

Keep Customers Coming

Piquing your customers’ interest is only half the battle. You also need to keep them coming to ensure the success of your café or coffee shop.

Let this article guide you through the best tactics and make sure you do more research to tailor each one according to your chosen target market.


Shanaaz Raja is the Course Director at International Centre for Culinary Arts – ICCA Dubai.