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      • Tis the season to stay open – why local coffee shops should go the extra hour or two

      • It’s the most wonderful time of the year, if you keep the customers happy. What we’re about to advise actually applies all year round, but December through to January usually brings quite a few opportunities for independent coffee shops to draw in new customers and win new business.

        The savvy coffee business – whether you’re in fixed premises or running a mobile coffee van – knows that local word of mouth is make or break and that local events are the ideal opportunity to stamp your mark on the community’s consciousness. The Christmas period is a prime example. Let’s say that, like most coffee shops, you close most days between 5pm and 6pm. Standard. You know that the big chain coffee houses sometimes remain open an extra hour or so, but the volume of customers makes it hard for you to justify that. Cleaning your coffee machines and tidying the shop after close takes time, after all, and you’ve got a life to live. But… there are times when you just have to make an exception and keep feeding beans into the grinder.

        The key to knowing when:

        Keep a close eye on your community’s events calendar. It’s seldom available all in one place of course, which is why it’s a good idea to be active on the main social media streams (take a look at our advice on social media for coffee businesses when you’ve finished here), check your local paper in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and stay friendly with your town centre management team or BID team.

        You’re looking out for things like carol singing, Christmas light switch-ons, Christmas markets, food fairs and craft fairs, pop-up ice rinks, pantomimes, lantern parades and more. Shops often run late-night shopping in the final week or two before Christmas, too. All these events attract not just the usual people you’ll see in town during the day, but people who spend their working week out of the area, extended-family members and friends visiting from other towns. And lots of those people are going to want a hot cup of coffee to clutch between their fingers on a cold winter’s evening. If you provide hot pasties and sausage rolls, soups, snacks and nibbles, so much the better.

        Not only should you see more revenue through staying open an extra couple of hours, but you’ll be raising awareness and seeming festive and community-spirited. Those are all good things that can help build the business longer-term. What’s more, since last-minute shoppers are still on the lookout for stocking filler and top-up gifts for loved ones, you might find takers for packs of your finest coffee beans (ground or whole), and your stock of reusable takeaway coffee cups, plus any other coffee-related paraphernalia you offer.

        And while we’re in the final few days before Christmas and you might think the opportunity is all but gone – most towns host evening activities of some sort or another throughout the year. Make a point of searching out local events information every week or month – and plan your opening hours to match.

        Good luck, and have a very merry Christmas!

        With the right commercial coffee machines, the best tasting ingredients and barista skills, plus the savvy to follow through on all the marketing tips we’ve shared here over the year, you could make 2018 something really special.