Like many coffee businesses, you likely get a rush of customers in the morning followed by slower business throughout the rest of the day. Some down time is good, providing you the ability to get things done around the shop. But if the flow of customers becomes too leisurely, you may need to ask yourself: "What you can I do to increase sales during down times?"
There is no single answer, so you'll need to experiment. The beauty of it is, you have free resources at your disposal, if you choose to use them:
Your Employees Can Have Great Insights
You might be surprised by what your employees on the front lines can tell you. They are hands down the best resources you have, due to their constant, recurring contact with customers. Your employees can bring a whole new perspective to decorating the shop, putting on events, structuring the menu, and deciding what menu items to promote. They will also appreciate the chance to be more involved in the business.
Your Customers Are Often Right—But Filter Their Feedback Accordingly
Listen to your customers, keeping in mind that you can’t please everyone. You might mention ideas for the business when you’re ringing them up or taking a drink to their table. Be openminded about their feedback, but take their ideas as just that—a proposition you can either build upon, or disregard. They might not always understand your goals and aesthetic, and instead see your solicitation of feedback as an invitation to throw wild ideas at you.
After you've gathered input, it's time to take what you've learned and combine it with what you already know, and put it to the test. Maybe you offer a late-night happy hour when students need a jolt to finish that paper they meant to finish last week, or you start runnign specials from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.when people need energy to make it through the work day. Offering samples of signature drinks at peak times can draw customers back later in the day for a special afternoon or evening drink. Or showcasing local musicians for free may draw a crowd on weekends or evenings.
Maybe input from employees and customers will spark an even better idea of your own. Whatever inspiration you decide to act on, if it doesn’t catch on, don’t hang onto it. Take a step back, brainstorm and try something new.
Marketing Your Ideas On The Cheap
Let’s say your promotional ideas are catching on and have great potential to grow, if only more people knew about them. Don't fear. Word of mouth travels fast and telling customers will cost you nothing. Table tents and flyers on your door, in your shop or on college campuses can draw attention. And, if you do have a bit of money for advertising in weekly or college papers, give them a try.
Remember that marketing doesn’t have to be costly to be effective. Keep it simple, be creative and have fun. You’re probably more marketing savvy than you realize.