After crude oil, coffee is the most popular commodity in the world. In 2022, the value of the global market was measured at $433.6 billion, with the US accounting for $85 billion. The explosion of coffee shops on the streets of our towns and cities, both chains and independents, has been phenomenal. It’s a dynamic and intensely competitive market, so every player is looking for ways to increase sales and improve profit margins. So if you're reading this and thinking, 'How can I boost my café sales?' Here are some of the most effective tactics you can adopt.
It’s not fair to say that coffee is coffee wherever you buy it - different blends and barista skills can make a big difference to the taste and texture. However, sometimes it takes more than just the high-quality of your coffee to drive customers to your café in preference to other local establishments. That’s why it pays to make the experience you offer unique.
Give your café a recognisable personality. Turn it into a place where people don’t simply enjoy good coffee but also value the extras, whether it be the surroundings, the service, the music, the facilities or anything else that makes you stand out. Bars long ago discovered the value of showing sports events on TV screens. Why not go one better with digital signage that enables you to share any kind of visual content you like, from custom videos and news feeds to YouTube?
Use Digital Marketing
This doesn't really need spelling out, but the power of digital and social media marketing can’t be over-estimated. It’s more than just advertising - it’s a way to stimulate conversations, engage with customers and encourage loyalty. It’s also demographically ideal for the young coffee-loving professionals of the Millenial and Gen Z generations.
Coffee is an entirely discretionary purchase, so when customers are in the buying mood it’s not difficult to persuade them to spend a little more by offering them a bargain. You could give discounts when they buy food with their coffee, or make the largest drink sizes proportionally the cheapest. Buy one get one half price offers are good for customers visiting in pairs or groups. Remember to keep it good-natured however, and don’t insist that your staff should upsell aggressively.
Expand Your Menu
People are spending more time in coffee shops and cafés than ever before. 62% of Americans drink coffee every day, with millennials spending on average $2,008 per annum and 35-44 year olds spending $1,410. The likelihood is that if your café broadened its range of food, these customers would stay longer and spend more. Subs, sandwiches and salads as well as a wider choice of snacks and baked goods could significantly increase each customer’s spend. And with the healthy mark-ups these foods represent, profit margins will grow.
Start a Loyalty Program
This isn’t a new idea. Coffee drinkers have been earning stamps on loyalty cards for years. That’s now switched to apps. However, many loyalty schemes are unambitious and extend no further than simple mathematical benefits like ‘buy 10 and get the 11th free’. Be imaginative, without getting complicated. Broaden the range of benefits so that it feels like a genuine reward system rather than just a perfunctory replication of what every competitor does.
Form Commercial Partnerships
The sale of coffee is a highly portable service so it’s ideal for concessions in department stores, at sporting events and festivals, in pop-up stores and even at community occasions like swap meets. These are all great places for raising your profile and gaining visibility because people are there expecting to spend money. A delicious coffee will be welcome at the time and then the brand of the company serving it will be remembered, generating traffic to your café.
Book launches, community meetings, neighborhood events of all kinds - these are great ways to get people through the door. They don’t in themselves directly boost sales, but simply in the increased numbers of potential customers they attract, it’s likely you’ll experience a welcome sales spike.
This might sound less exciting than the other ideas, but it’s no less worthwhile for that. Although your biggest costs are probably your staff, there are usually savings to be made. The elimination of slow-selling lines and more efficient inventory management are good places to start. Always keep an eye on costs and be alert to ways of minimizing them.
Written by Lachlan Ross
Marketing Manager at Mandoe