The “Coffee Plus” Strategy For Success at Your Café

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A selection of menu items—and knowing how to sell them—are vital to your coffee shop’s success.

The rub at a retail coffee shop: your main product has great gross profit margins, but low overall ticket averages. Since you pay your rent in straight-up dollars—not as a percentage of your profit—bringing your average individual sale well above $3 or $5 is crucial to your success. Cafes with an only (or mostly) coffee strategy can be busy all day, but still not generate enough profit to keep their doors open.

To realize your dream of coffee retail success, you need a “coffee plus” strategy (coffee plus pastry or other food item). Coffee should be no more than 40 percent of your weekly sales—about two item sales per customer transaction.

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Here’s how to get there:

Make them look at it. Keep your pastries, cookies, Panini, bagel-wiches (ready to be grilled/pressed or heated) and whatnot located right where people will see them while ordering their quad espresso. You’ll remind them that they’re hungry.

Man cannot live on scones alone. Notice the above references to bagel-wiches. Carrying even a cursory sampling of sandwiches, wraps, etc. will attract the light-lunch or large-snack crowd.

Limit the assortment – While you want to bring more folks in and up your average ticket, too many choices can overwhelm people on the go. Cover the necessary categories, but with limited and strategic offers. (e.g. three flavors are enough, three sizes are enough, three types of food/drink are enough). Every item you add to your menu can also create added management effort (costs), potential loss in quality, and may not improve your revenue stream or customer experience.

Stay stocked, and fresh! - Many newbies to the food game are horrified by the wastage that is inherent in a well-run cafe. So, they begin to reduce the amount of product on display or they hold on to food items longer than they should. Trouble is, you will never build your business to sustainable levels if your display case is nearly empty and customers experience even the hint of stale food.

Remember: coffee may be the prime motivator for customers to walk through your doors, but they must leave with multiple sales if you are going to be successful.