Our eyes were drawn to a couple of – on the surface, at least – very different coffee news stories which popped up in the last couple of weeks. The first is that, in a bid to increase congregation numbers, the Church of England is trialling services set in a coffee shop environment. The second is that a bar in London is hosting a one-off pop-up café for people with dachshund dogs. It’s organised by a company which usually focuses on pugs – and it really does mean that the primary service is aimed at pampering pooches. Just goes to show that there are businesses out there which you’d never have dreamed of existing a decade ago. Why do we mention these different news stories? Because the shared theme is the venue and background theme: coffee.
What’s clear is that as the British high street becomes more and more service-driven and less and less outright retail, there’s some need to stand out among those service providers. There are three main schools of thought on this: focus on doing something simple to an exceptional standard; offer something utterly unique; or diversify to cater for a far wider customer base.
The fourth way
Perhaps the fourth way is best of all, for coffee shop owners at any rate: offer a simple coffee menu with unrivalled quality of bean, brew and service, in a unique environment where a diverse array of customers can still enjoy a diverse array of hot and cold food and drink. Of course, all this depends on the space you have available. But getting back to the faith groups and dog obsessives…
If you own or run a coffee shop, you should already know when your peak times of business are and when there’s a lull in trade, when footfall is minimal. The hours when you’re wondering whether it’s really worth being open and paying staff.
The answer might be a more convincing yes if you can tap into local community needs, and the larger your coffee shop, the truer this becomes.
In your town, there might be a dozen different faith groups. A couple of dozen different hobby groups, charities and community concerns, from a bridge club to neighbourhood watch groups. Outside of the larger faith-related organisations – and even within them, when it comes to providing a warmer and more comfortable meeting environment – few of these clubs or organisations have much in the way of funding or premises.
Our simple suggestion
If you have a couple of hours at a regular time of day, week or month when coffee shop custom is slow, reach out to as many of those groups as possible. Offer group discounts on coffee. Offer unlimited refills. Offer to let them bring their own baked goods as long as drinks are paid for. Or just offer a comfortable space in which to socialise and spend time as a group. Whichever makes most sense for your business model, space, and the organisation you’re talking to.
What have you got to lose? At the very least, you’ll raise awareness of your café, pick up extra customers and embed yourself even more deeply in the consciousness of your local community.