Strategies for Building Revenue in Your Coffee Shop or Restaurant

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Coffee shops and restaurants are as much (or more) about customer service than they are about goods and transactions—though the goods need to be good, no doubt. A purely transactional business can earn revenue without an owner’s presence, but a coffee shop or restaurant needs the owner’s regular involvement. Customers expect it, and staff are more engaged when the owner at least occasionally takes orders, makes coffee and is actively watching over the business.

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Beyond your undying attention, following are some good ways to build revenue at your coffee shop or restaurant.

Use loyalty cards. They really do work, and you can see the proof when a customer’s face lights up after you give them the free drink they’ve earned. Better yet, give a new customer a card that has all but one of its holes punched, so their very next drink is free. Easiest—and possibly cheapest—customer acquisition you’ll ever make.

Limit choices. Choice paralysis is a real thing. A classic example is two jam tastings that took place at a grocery store, where one gave the option of 4 jams to buy after the tasting, and the other gave 15 options. The tasting that offered only 4 jams sold about twice as much jam.

Take care of the key categories, with three or four flavors, three sizes, three or four sandwich options, etc. Each item you add to your menu increases management costs, and possibly without adding to your revenue stream or customer satisfaction.

While limiting choice, also promote multiple sales. A coffee shop needs to sell about two items per customer to pay the bills, with roughly 40% of those sales being coffee. Put muffins, cookies and scones near the point of sale, and offer hot and cold food, to maximize your potential for multiple sales.

Pre-make as much as possible. Customers see you as the expert on your menu, and look to you to suggest what food and drinks they should order. Leave the customized orders to the coffee and pre-make paninis (ready to go on the grill), salads and maybe offer a soup or two.

Pre-making food increases sales overall during rush periods, helping you pump out orders instead of making food. And you could end up being a go-to for quick breakfasts and lunches.

Target takeaway business. Despite the trend toward comfy couches, free Wi-Fi and in-house entertainment, the most financially successful coffee shops often have a limited number of semi-comfortable chairs to encourage shorter stays and takeaway business. You’ll serve 10 takeaway customers in the time your Facebook-surfing customer has gotten up from his seat to get his free refill.