There are tons of coffee shops out there. Every high street has at least one Starbucks, a Costa and probably a few more chains. They’re in shopping malls, out of town shopping destinations, on high streets, in parks and departments stores and even smaller towns and villages have large coffee shops. These massive chains dominate the market. They make a lot of money, offer enormous product ranges, employ countless members of staff, and they are always busy.
But, that doesn’t stop small independent coffee shops springing up. Some of these, do well. They become customer favourites and build a loyal fan base of people that wouldn’t dream of deserting them to visit a chain branch. Others, fail to get noticed, struggle to pull customers in and find themselves going out of business within a year or two. So, how do you compete? How can you make sure your independent coffee shop can compete with the much larger chains?
Keep it Simple
One mistake many small coffee shops make is actively trying to compete in terms of products. A large chain with off-site bakeries and the budget to order in, can offer a massive menu, with countless drinks options, full meals, biscuits, baked goods and more. They can run special offers, bistro nights, different menus at different times of day and 12 different milk options.
You can’t. Instead, keep it simple. Think about what’s important to you, what your target market wants, and what you want to sell. Stick to a small menu, offering all of the basics with a few different options to cater for allergies and groups.
You should also keep the process simple. Have your customers order at the bar or offer table service but have a clear structure to your service style and make sure your staff are well trained and knowledgeable. Simple processes and a small menu mean you’ll have more time and need less staff.
Offer Great Products
Sticking to a small menu gives you an opportunity to do things well. Invest in high-quality Barista Coffee Machines, train your staff and buy quality coffees. When it comes to food, take the time to bake everything onsite if you can. Remember, quality is much more important than quality and your customers will be able to tell the difference.
Fantastic Customer Service
Service is as important as what you are serving. As a small store, you have an excellent opportunity to make connections with your customers. Do this both in store and with your social media profiles. Get to know your customers, involve them in your store and give them your time. Consider running events, hosting parties and getting involved in the community to help boost these relationships and your reputation.
Get the Location Right
A large chain can open a store almost anywhere, and people will come. As a small store, your location is much more critical. You can spend time and money marketing your business and getting the word out online, but if you want to grow, you need to be somewhere that people can find you. You need there to be great passing footfall and a lack of direct competition in the area. But, it’s also essential that this footfall contains the right type of people. The people that are walking by need to be people that would be interested in what you’ve got to offer.
Think about your target market. Where are they? Where do they spend their time and what do they like to do? Are there other coffee shops there already? Could you do it better or offer something different? Don’t rush this decision. Getting the location of your business right could be the difference between success and failure.
We’ve talked about keeping your menu small, but it could help to be even more specific. To have a smaller focus. You could serve Italian coffees, with Italian food and treats. You could add Italian elements to your designs and décor and make the whole place feel chic and stylish to fit your theme. You could go retro and serve your coffees in antique cups or retro mugs. A theme or focus can be a great way to make your shop stand out and get noticed. It’s a great talking point and will help you to stick in people’s minds.
Build a Brand
You don’t need a vast chain to have a brand. One small shop is enough. Think about logos and colour schemes, as well as fonts, other designs, and a brand story. Display them, use your branding consistently and be bold.