10 things every cafe owner needs to know to grow a sustainable business

Michael Elligett cafe sustainable business sustainable business ideas sustainable business strategies TCS news

You want your cafe to grow into a sustainable business. No one starts a cafe and expects it to dissolve instantly like a spoonful of sugar in hot coffee. 

Of course, there are roadblocks. Like a super competitive industry, changing customer requirements and economic upheavals. With so many factors to worry about, you need to think of ways to keep your cafe afloat or to make your businesses stand out

But business viability should remain your goal. It’s definitely possible to achieve with these 10 sustainable business ideas for a cafe’s long-term success.

 1. Product

No one wants to go to a cafe and drink bad coffee or eat stale biscuits. There’s little chance that your business will attract new or repeat customers unless you consistently serve a range of quality products. 

So, serve your customers the best. That’s the foundation of all sustainable business strategies.

When you’ve firmly established this foundation, you can then expand your offerings by creating products that are uniquely yours. 

Ask yourself: what drink will my customers associate my cafe with? Is it a Snowy (what is a snowy latte) Latte? Or perhaps a Chai spiced coffee?

Since you want to serve the best, sustainable business strategies require you to invest in the best as well. The best equipment and materials that is. Using quality coffee equipment is vital. But don’t neglect the details as well. 

For example, consider your product’s packaging.

A study of 459 coffee consumers in Belo Horizonte discovered these attributes that critically affect buying behaviour: 

  • product features
  • brand and tradition
  • food safety
  • availability and product offering
  • packaging 

Some people actually call packaging the “silent salesman.” So, don’t ignore the impact your coffee cup or biscuit wrapper has on your customers. 

 2. Community

One of the main things to consider before opening a cafe is location. After all, you’re selling more than food and drinks. You’re selling an experience. 

Normally, cafes and coffee shops are popular places to socialise. Or pass the time relaxing or studying. Or holding informal business meetings.

So, part of your sustainable business strategies should be to find a place with great foot and vehicle traffic. Somewhere that’s convenient and accessible to all types of customers. People who need to make a difficult turn just to get to your cafe’s parking lot may change their mind and go to a more accessible shop.

You want your cafe to be the go-to place of the community.

But even if your location isn’t ideal, you can still transform your cafe into a social hub. Think interior design that encourages interaction even with social distancing measures in place. Or an online group where customers can share stories even in a virtual space. 

 3. Customer service

Have you ever entered a cafe and was instantly welcomed by its employees? How did that make you feel? Now, imagine entering a cafe where you have to practically sing and dance just to get the attention of the barista? Which cafe would you go back to?

This little exercise shows how crucial customer service is when it comes to sustainable business strategies. Customers are already judging your service even before they order their first latte. And they will take that judgment way after they’ve left your shop. So, if you offer the best products, perform the best customer service as well.

 4. Price

During normal times, many cafes fail not because of bad coffee or poor customer service. They fail for financial reasons. 

For example, apps and websites have made it easy for customers to check and compare prices. So, you need to walk that delicate tightrope between price and profit.

You want to price your products fairly according to current industry pricing. But you also want to earn income to keep your operations running. 

Since we’re talking about sustainable business ideas, consider buying wholesale or joining a buying group. Either way, you get supplies for less, have access to promos and expand your professional network.

 5. Promotions

As stated, the food service industry is highly competitive. So, you want people to know why your cafe is great. The only way to achieve this is to promote your cafe.

Great news: you don’t have to take out a loan for marketing. If you invest in the right kind of technology, you can easily engage and interact with your customers through different channels. From your physical shop to your digital platforms. 

Even if your customers can’t visit your shop, you can: 

  • Tweet about a new drink. 
  • Share memorable stories through your blog. 
  • Raffle off coupons on Instagram.
  • Show how you create a popular drink via YouTube. 
  • Highlight your partner organisation on Facebook. 
  • Start a loyalty group exclusively for repeat customers where people get advance notice of promos.

These examples require some creativity. But these ideas for a sustainable business help you continue to engage with and promote your cafe to customers.

 6. People

Since customer service is important, it’s obvious that your employees play a crucial role in your business. 

It’s tempting to hire just anyone, especially when there's a labour shortage. But we’re talking about long-term success. For your cafe to grow, you need top-notch staff who will help you achieve your goal and stay with your cafe for a long time. Your business could lose quite a lot of revenue if employee turnover is high and you keep training new staff. To use the cliche, that’s money down the drain.

Speaking of training. When you’ve put together your ideal team, don’t skimp on training. Educate your baristas not just on your processes. 

  • Equip them with the soft skills for great customer service. 
  • Give them trivia they can wow customers with. 
  • Familiarise them with every ingredient you use and what allergies these may trigger. 
  • Reinforce the importance of food safety and hygiene. 
  • Encourage them to share ideas on how to improve your operations.

Your staff are the first point of contact with customers. So, they should be part of your sustainable business strategies.

 7. Personalisation

More than having staff who will stay with you for a long time, you want customers who will be loyal to your cafe for a long time.

So, you want people to become repeat customers. Loyal customers could spend 67% more money on your cafe than new customers.

One crucial step towards customer loyalty is personalisation. Use your customers’ preferences to guide your promotion, customer service and product creation. 

But how do you get information so you can personalise your products and services? Through feedback. There’s the usual route of putting out feedback forms—paper or digital. But there’s one method that cafe owners sometimes forget: personal service.

Yes, it feels like you don’t have enough time to do all the tasks that need to be done in a day. But don’t just be present in your cafe. Be engaged

People feel extra special when the owner talks to them. As the great Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

So, block off some minutes to take orders, catch up or even just greet your customers. Time spent conversing with a few of them is time well spent. 

Plus, this method motivates your staff to emulate the type of customer service you want for your cafe. If you really don’t have time, a manager can be your proxy. But nothing beats direct customer service from you.

 8. Productivity

Time is one of the most valuable resources your business has. Here’s where technology comes in handy.

Tech tools like point-of-sale (POS) systems can efficiently reduce time spent on tasks like inventory updates or staff scheduling. Marketing could be automated with customer relationship management (CRM) software. Just one click and you can send out thousands of personalised emails.

But one of the best sustainable business ideas to reduce time and other resources is to partner with other owners and suppliers. You can leave the price negotiations and logistics to your partners. This frees up a lot of your time for other tasks.

 9. Planet-friendly

“Sustainable” refers not just to viability but also to environmental practices. Use eco-friendly materials and packaging. Institute recycling processes. Be mindful of food waste. These practices impact three important aspects of your cafe’s operations:

10. Adapt

Cafes are inherently affected by social changes. The most obvious example is the recent spate of lockdowns. Since people can’t go out, food service businesses have had to go to their customers. Adapting to this new normal has meant:

  • Increased deliveries.
  • Optimised menus. 
  • More cashless modes of payment. 
  • New staffing patterns and regulations. 
  • Increased online presence.

What this means is that you need to always have a finger on the pulse of the industry. When you feel a shift that affects your cafe, you need to be creative with how you adapt. To do this, you have to keep up with the latest news. Read more books. Look for more promos. Offer your take on the latest fad while maintaining the quality of your regular products.

Final thoughts

Sometimes, a cafe can maintain only a slim profit margin. So, it’s crucial for you to manage your costs while maintaining your connection with customers through quality products.

This seems like a big challenge. But remember this: you are not alone. You have your employees. Your customers. And the TCS team. We all want your business to succeed for a long, long time. So, include us in your sustainable business strategy. Contact us today.

Older Post Newer Post