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Coffee Shop Sales 101: Sell more than coffee to succeed

Knowing how to sell a variety of menu items is vital to your coffee shop’s success.

Cafes with a mostly-coffee strategy can be busy all day, but still not generate enough profit to keep their doors open. Since your main product has great gross profit margins but low overall ticket averages, you've got to up your game from the get go to pay your bills. Bringing your ticket average above $4 or $5 is crucial to the future of your business.

A “coffee plus” strategy (coffee plus pastry or other food item) is in order. Coffee should be no more than 40 percent of your weekly sales—about two item sales per customer transaction.

Here’s how to get there:

Remind them that they're hungry. Keep your pastries, cookies, panini (ready to be grilled/pressed or heated) and more right where people will see them while ordering their latte.

Sweet and savory options. Notice the above references to panini. Carrying even a cursory sampling of sandwiches, wraps, etc. will attract the light-lunch or large-snack crowd.

But not too many options. While you want to bring more folks in and up your average ticket, too many choices can overwhelm people on the go. (Three flavors are enough, three sizes are enough, three types of food/drink are enough). Every menu item also creates added management effort (costs), potential loss in quality, and may not improve your revenue stream or customer experience.

Stay stocked, and fresh! The amount of waste that is common in a well-run cafe can be a little surprising. But don't let that tempt you to hold onto food items for too long, or to stock too little product. To build your business to sustainable levels, your display case needs to be at least half full and nothing should be even remotely stale.

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

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