Brewing Up Success: Tips for A Profitable Coffee Shop

November 2022

Opening a coffee shop in your neighborhood is an amazing way to bring people together.  

But it’s a challenge to manage all the moving pieces!  

You want to create an enjoyable experience for your customers.  You want to create a safe and productive environment for your employees.  And you want to be profitable.

As management, you must balance it all.  The good news is - you can do this!  And we’re here to help.

Here are 5 tips to help you keep customers and employees happy and keep your store running smoothly.

1.  Management Is An Art Form You Can Master

Just because you love the coffee stuff doesn’t mean you can dodge the management stuff.  There are several different management styles and it's important to know which one works best for your personality type in order to be effective.

  • Take time to learn about different management styles.  Pick the one that’s right for you based on what you do well and what needs improvement.  You are not in it alone!  Your honesty about your areas of strength and weakness will help you staff and organize your operations properly.
  • Remember: it’s how you make people feel.  Ensure you are approachable.  Work with someone you trust to ensure your demeanor is warm and open.  You will learn much and more from your employees when they know they can bring their concerns to you and that you will be fair.  Reinforce the respect you build with them by taking prompt action on problems that need solutions.
  • Set clear expectations and repeat repeat repeat!  Remind your team of your mission, and of the jobs to be done.  Do this in a way that honors neurodiversity and the different ways people learn.  Talk about it.  Write it down.  Give your employees time to reflect and come back to talk again.  This style of engagement will have the added benefit of helping all your employees stay on the same page, regardless of tenure or experience.
  • Make time to connect and have fun with your employees.  Building rapport will give your team the ability to problem-solve and handle the pressures of busy cafe life.  Doing this in a fun way helps you relate to each other as human beings and makes it easier to assume positive intent from each other and work together towards shared goals.

2.  Customer Appreciation Leads to Regular Customers

Adding thoughtful touches to show customers you care builds the bonds of loyalty.  It doesn’t take a big bash or a flashy campaign to demonstrate your commitment to your patrons or generate buzz to draw new customers.  You can show you care through small, everyday gestures.  Customers who feel valued will return and share their experience with others, and your customer base will grow organically.

  • A warm and welcoming environment goes a long way.
  • Engage with customers who are willing to share what they like and what they want - simply being willing to listen gives customers the validation they crave and gives you precious insights that can help your business grow.
  • Learn your regulars’ names and encourage your employees to greet customers by name - a personal experience turns customers into loyal, repeat business.  You and your team might even make some new friends!
  • Provide some amenities, like free wifi and great lighting.
  • Share samples to delight customers and introduce them to new things.
  • Donate day-old baked goods to a local charity - your good deed will not go unrecognized.  Those who are impacted will see your gesture of good will and so will those who operate the charity.  They will come away with a positive impression of your business and carry that name recognition out into your community.

3.  Employee Education Builds Customer Awareness

You’re the expert who can spread knowledge to your employees so they can be helpful and supportive of customers.  Whether it’s a recommendation or the answer to a question, each employee is a link in the chain of your customer experience.  Set them up for success!  And it’s not just a one-time investment - embrace continuing education because everyone is human.  It’s natural to expect employees to need reminding and refreshers to be their most helpful and provide excellent support for your customers.  When you empower your team with knowledge about your industry and your products, they will be a better stand for quality and the customer experience.  They may even surprise you with amazing ideas that will drive more efficiencies or better interactions at the shop.

4.  Technology Is Your Friend

Leverage some of the new tools out there to help reduce your workload and ensure your employees are focusing on the most impactful things - providing a quality experience to your customers.

  • Leverage a point of sale (POS) that is easy to use and gives customers the option to add a tip and get their receipt via text message or email.   Many will opt-in, and your employees will benefit from the extra income, and you’ll reduce paper waste.
  • Consider automating your re-ordering through trusted suppliers and use your historical data to guide your choices.
  • Use time tracking and employee scheduling software that eliminates the need for tedious manual scheduling and disorganized communication.  This is particularly helpful when employees need to adjust their availability, or when it’s time to create a new schedule or adjust staffing plans.

5.  Pay Attention to What’s Working

Data can seem like a black hole of scariness.  But it doesn’t have to be that way, once you see data as a thing that points you to what’s working and what’s not.  These insights help you double down on the positives and shed the negatives so they don’t bog you down.  If you are not tracking and using your data, you are losing out on all the efficiencies they will bring you.

  • Assess the add-ons and impulse buys that do well with your customers, and ensure those things have a place of pride and can be featured by your knowledgeable staff.
  • Understand which items are the most profitable, and place those in the areas of highest visibility and easiest access, so your customers can grab up the things they love.
  • Likewise, look at wasted inventory and tasks that take a lot of time so that you can eliminate or optimize them.
  • Examine when your peak customer hours are, and where the foot traffic is within your shop, so you can adjust everything from staffing to the location of your displays.
  • Reflect on vendor relations - whose shipments are on time, whose reliably fresh, who deserves your partnership because they value your business.

You are already generating data!  Don’t lose out on all the benefits it gives you - it is a neon sign that points the way to even more profitability and efficiencies for your coffee shop.  

Your customers, employees and wallet will thank you!

Jenn Sammarco

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