What Your Customers Are Looking For

Workplace, haven or local pitstop. I’m sure we can all agree: there’s nothing more satisfying than a visit to your favourite cafe. Minutes can quickly turn into hours and every second inside somehow gives you exactly what you need.

It’s like therapy.

Take a mental snapshot of that place. Note whatever comes to mind and save it for the end of this article. There are many things that go into owning a cafe that is more than a convenient stop.

Knowing how to run a coffee shop is one thing, but knowing how to run a successful cafe is another. Here are some simple, low cost tips for owning a coffee shop that adds value and generates long-term business.

Product. Product. Product.

Not just any products, the best products. A word to the wise: you aren’t the only ones looking to one-up your competitors.

Competition is tight.

In addition, costs are increasing, general standards improving and product information becoming more accessible. Expectations are pretty high, especially when you’re paying a little more than you used to.

How do you meet them?

Serve a good product and make sure you know everything about it.

Nowadays, information cards and product descriptions are a bare minimum. People want to know more, especially when there are plenty of options to choose from. Being transparent and providing information about your products will give customers a reason to trust you more, and help build long term connections with your brand.

This is the difference between gaining a regular customer or serving a one-hit wonder.

Regularly train your staff to ensure you always meet the expectations of your customers. With so many options, a quality product is just the tip of the iceberg.

A good experience.

It’s not news: the atmosphere you create plays a huge role in attracting and retaining customers.

Part of knowing how to run a successful cafe is knowing how important it is to make your customers feel comfortable and welcome.

The most successful coffee shops all serve people with a good attitude. Customers are very impressionable, in both a positive and negative sense, so make sure you serve them well. It’s very unlikely that you’ll get a bad review for being too accommodating and friendly.

If you’ve managed to serve people well, move onto creating a positive dining experience. If people don’t hang around for very long, look at the design and layout of your cafe. Is there enough seating? Is the furniture comfortable? Do you have enough power points? Is it wheelchair and pram friendly?

Trying to squeeze customers in isn’t the best look, so try to make sure your space is set up to be as accessible as possible.

If those things aren’t an issue, consider other things that affect the atmosphere, like the music, cleanliness or smell. High tempo upbeat music might be great to get people going in the morning, but it’s not ideal when people are trying to wind down at the end of the day.

All of these things will help you run a coffee shop that is accommodating and fits the bill for a wide audience.

Don’t be afraid to get outside perspective from people you trust (or even long-term customers) if you’re unsure where to start. Your customers spend the most time in your space; they’re your target audience and know what people like them are looking for, so their feedback is like gold.

A word of advice: buy used furniture. It’s cheaper and more sustainable. Customers recognise and appreciate those things.

Something different.

You know what you can get from every cafe?


You know what you can’t get from every cafe?


This is your time to shine.

Got a childhood recipe that has a unique story? Trial it and add it to the menu if it is easy enough to fit in and is a hit. If people aren’t ordering it, take it down and replace it with something else. The worst that can happen is getting customers to ask questions, how bad.

Don’t skip past the basics: make sure your menu caters to different dietary needs as well. You want your cafe to be accessible to as many people as possible.

Go one step further and include your staff (if they are comfortable with it). Customers are interacting with you and your staff on a day-to-day basis. Make the most of the relationships you have and give them a reason to keep coming back. This is your space, so make it uniquely yours. This is especially important when you are opening your own coffee shop.

On a final note, engage with local artists or musicians to build community and interest in your cafe. The more value you can add, the better. Running a coffee shop is one thing, but people want more: they want connection. Work hard to add value and connect with your customers whenever you can.

A brand they are proud to support.

If you’ve done the hard yards and nailed your product and space, work on building a brand. Take a second to look around and notice the brands people are representing: you might not recognise a few of them, but you’ll remember the few that look good enough.

Here’s the thing: people want to promote the things they feel connected to.

It’s quite simple, the more people know about you, the more likely they are to trust you. If they trust you, they’ll buy from you.

You don’t have to break the bank to do this. There are affordable ways you can start a coffee brand that is unique, but still personal enough to connect with your existing audience. Start with the basics like your takeaway cups, and then move onto things like branded keep cups or other small low-cost merchandise, like stickers or key-rings. You don’t have to sell shirts to be successful in this area.

Stand out.

Take note of these things and see how you are going. Our goal is to equip you with everything you need to know how to run a coffee shop that adds value and retains business. If you are opening a cafe with no experience in hospitality or working behind a machine, feel free to reach out or check out our article on cafe design to get the ball rolling.