How to make your coffee shop stand out from the competition post lockdown

Over the last decade, coffee shops have become an intrinsic part of British life. They have grown in popularity to become places with unique atmospheres where friends, family and business associates can meet and catch up over a cup of coffee (or tea). It’s a fast-growing sector that provides relaxed social spaces, as well as flexible locations to work. However, as a coffee shop owner, you know that there is a lot of competition out there, and it’s vital that your coffee shop stands out. In light of the current situation, this is certainly more important than ever before.

Across the UK, steps are being taken to reopen establishments for indoor dining with considerable restrictions in place such as cafes and coffee shops. The guidance and permission to open does vary depending on where in the UK your business is based, for example, the country or where there may have been a more localised lockdown. Returning customers should be able to identify significant changes which have been implemented to keep them and your employees safe. Social distancing rules will need to be enforced with signs prominently displayed to remind customers and your staff to maintain 2m distance where possible and if not, 1m. Contactless payments are to be encouraged, and you will also need to collect contact details from your customers. If practical, separate entry and exit points should be established with hand sanitising stations available where possible.

In this blog, we have put together 12 ways to help your coffee shop grow and stand out from the competition post lockdown.

1. Know your brand to create a competitive advantage

What is a brand? A brand is not just for the big names on the high street. It’s your identity, it’s the colours you use, the font type you pick and the imagery that best represents you. A brand is the personality of your coffee shop business and the values you stand for. There could be a number of coffee shops on the same street but what gives you that kerb appeal? Why should people visit your coffee shop over the others?

You need to know who your target customers are, and the brand values you want to communicate. By doing so, you will be attracting loyal customers as well as bringing in new clients, so establishing an eye-catching brand that is instantly recognisable, and most of all memorable, is key.

2. Getting to know your customers better

Establishing your target audience requires knowing what your customers predominantly do.Is your coffee shop a quiet place for freelancers to work, and if so, what would benefit them? Free Wi-Fi is a must as it indicates that you don’t mind people coming in and working and, of course, staying for a while. If you have space, create quiet corners, or have a separate room with good lighting. You may want to limit the times that freelancers can work, perhaps to off-peak times as the number of customers that you can allow in at any time will be limited to ensure social distancing.

Are you trying to attract young mums? If so, your customers will need space for buggies, highchairs, and larger tables. Carefully plan how prams and buggies can be stored, and if these are to be moved by staff to a storage area, they will have to be cleaned for hygiene purposes. If you have play areas for children, they will need to remain closed at present, and it’s a good idea to let mums who regularly come along to meet friends that facilities are restricted for the time being.

Bottom line, what type of customer are you looking to bring in? Once you’ve established this, create a space that suits their needs. If you don’t know where to start, speak to them and find out what they would like to see in the space and what attracted them to your coffee shop in the first place.

3. The interior design of your coffee shop should reflect your brand

The décor and the furniture are amongst the first places to start, as these will immediately create an impression and will directly impact the experience of your customers. Your space needs to be visually appealing, yet comfortable and practical, and above all, warm and inviting. It’s worth considering a theme to bring your brand and concept to life, which could include creating a modern, rustic, traditional, contemporary or vintage image. Comfortable sofas and chairs will help your customers to relax, although these will need to be spaced to comply with social distancing rules, and sofas will have to accommodate fewer people. If you are trying to attract a professional working customer, you should consider power points and tables at a comfortable working height.If your coffee shop has self-service food and drink stations, including buffet-style food areas, with communal cutlery, glass, drink, and condiment stations, these should be removed, or access to them prevented. Customers must be served at their tables so that common touchpoints are minimised.

4. How to make your coffee shop more appealing

  • Colours – don’t be afraid to make a statement, choose from your colour palette and be consistent with your branding
  • Music – appropriate in both choice and volume level
  • Lighting – attractive fittings and fixtures with a right level of light to set the mood, ambiance and function
  • Crockery & glassware – invest in good quality to reflect your brand. Condiments will need to be removed and served in single sachets on request
  • Cutlery and napkins – these should compliment the table. These should only be brought out with drinks and any food that is being served
  • Artwork – ensure it is eye-catching and consider getting local artists to showcase their work
  • Menus – attractive menus will appeal to your customers. Consider revamping your menu and trim the choice to promote your best-selling dishes. Paper menus could be a good alternative, but if you continue to use laminated menus, they will need to be wiped down after every customer
  • Keep your coffee shop clean, including windows. You will need an enhanced cleaning regime so that customers can see that everything is spotless. Tables will need to be wiped down after every customer
  • Be consistent – from your sign to your menus, embrace your brand and the experience you are creating for your customers

5. Make the most of the exterior space of your coffee shop

If you do have an outside space, make this appealing. If it’s warm and the sun is shining, your coffee shop customers will love to sit outside, and a relaxing café courtyard with carefully selected and spaced outdoor furniture and decorated with attractive plants will create an area where people will want to bring their friends.

  • Put out pavement signs to get your coffee shop noticed by people passing by – make people smile with a clever pun!
  • Set up signage outside clearly highlighting safety rules and distancing obligations
  • Consider exterior lighting
  • Use canopies to extend outdoor seating to all weathers
  • Keep exteriors clean, tidy and fresh

6. Loyalty cards and promotional ideas for your coffee shop

Customers love to feel appreciated and valued, and a way to show this is to have a loyalty or rewards scheme. This can encompass different ideas, including cards that are stamped after every visit with a bonus after so many visits. You also could have a digital loyalty programme, bring-a-friend discounts or ‘Happy Hour’ – there are so many options, be creative, experiment and find something which works for you.

7. Make the customers’ experience the best it can be

Despite the restrictions, your customers will still want to enjoy their experience in your coffee shop, and it should still be somewhere memorable, where they are made to feel welcome. You and your team can really help here by making customers feel special. In order to control numbers, have a member of staff at the entrance to only allow customers in when there is room for them to drink their coffee safely and also to organise a queuing system.

The coffee shop experience is changing in light of recent events but this doesn’t mean you can’t make it the best it can be. You can keep your customers informed about the practices you are adopting to keep them safe while in your coffee shop, including conducting a thorough risk assessment.

If you don’t have one at the moment, you could implement an online booking system for all visits and for busy times. Reservations should be encouraged to stagger arrival times, and you will need to optimise the use of space and perhaps the amount of time any person or group of people can stay.

Where possible, collate customer information to assist with the NHS Test and Trace service so that customers can be contacted if required.

8. Make it easy for people to find your coffee shop online and offline

Being active and embracing social media has lots of benefits, including keeping your business in people’s minds. It allows your customers to engage with you by posting comments and asking questions, although it is best to see that these are answered quickly and in an engaging way. Welcome feedback and suggestions, and promote customer user-generated content.

One big tip – as a coffee shop owner, being on Google My Business is a must. It gives your listing the opportunity to come up with potential customer searches. It’s free and easy to set up a listing to include the information that customers will find useful and helpful. If you don’t know where to start with this, click here to check out our guide on how to set up your account.

9. Use social media to make your coffee shop stand out from your competitors

  • Know your brand
  • Use great photographs to sell your shop visually including pictures of people enjoying the new ambiance of your coffee shop
  • Ensure content is well-written and informative, particularly about the new arrangements to keep your customers safe
  • Consider the best platform for your coffee shop
  • Work with influencers
  • Advertise in publications
  • Introduce yourself to nearby businesses, working together with them to manage numbers and control queues
  • Use social media platforms to keep your customers up to date with the latest news for example, how you have complied with the Government guidelines, and
  • information on table arrangements, toilet facilities and your cleaning and hygiene regimes

There are many social media platforms to choose from. If you don’t have time to run a number of social media accounts, just focus on one.

If you are thinking about setting up a Facebook page and don’t know where to start, click here to check out our guide.

10. Be more visual to sell your coffee shop experience

A picture can speak a thousand words and can help sell the experience your coffee shop offers. Post pictures of your shop and customers that will show what makes you different from other coffee shops. You will be able to put up photos of the socially distanced seating and demonstrate that people are still having a good time despite the restrictions.

Instagram is an excellent platform to start with as it will allow you to post visually, sell a lifestyle experience. Industry experts proclaim it to be the one to go to for ‘foodies’ and ‘gastronomes’. You can also run paid promotions using Facebook ads.

11. Think ahead and make the most of the space in your coffee shop

You will have to think outside of the box to stand out, as coffee shops have the potential to be more than a place to grab a cappuccino. Options are limited at present due to the restrictions but think about the activities and experiences that you could introduce at a later date to appeal to your target audience. Events to consider are writers’ meetups, poetry and reading groups, displays of art and pottery, live music and open mic nights. While not possible now, it’s good to have the ideas to look to when you have the opportunity.

12. Make your coffee shop a safe and inviting place

A coffee shop can be a hazardous place, from spillages of hot beverages to slips and trips due to untidy cables, chairs and buggies. As a coffee shop owner, you should look for ways to reduce risks whilst creating your customer experience.

It’s important to strive for a safe environment not only for your customers but for your staff as well, from providing P.P.E., safety equipment and first aid kits, to providing training to ensure procedures are known and followed.

Completing a risk assessment on a regular basis can reduce the chance of incidents occurring. However, no matter how much you prepare, accidents do happen and when they do they can not only have a reputational impact but also a financial one. Typical claims relating to accidents include Public or Employers’ liability claims and claims for accidental damage caused by incidents such as fire or flood.

Who are The Retail Mutual, and what can we do for your coffee shop business?

The Retail Mutual is a specialist cover provider for businesses on the high street and we design your coffee shop cover to suit your needs. We can protect your premises, fixtures and fittings, and stock. To find out more about how The Retail Mutual can help protect you and your business, call 0333 2121 280 today or start your quote online.

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