March 16, 2016 Rodney Cowled

How to Run a Great Cafe – We Asked the Experts

Think because you’ve got great beans that you’ll have a great cafe & loads of business? Well, you’d be wrong.

Before you even begin to register in the minds of your potential customers there are several things you’re going to need to get right. We’ve spoken to a bunch of successful cafe owners and baristas to find out what makes them stand out from the rest.

BUT before we get into what makes a great cafe, let’s discuss how to be a good cafe first (baby steps, you know?).

The Basics – How to be a Good Cafe?

Customers view every industry with an, often subconscious, list of base minimal requirements. These are their minimum standards, the bare basics required to enter into someone’s consideration set.

Having these factors right won’t make you rise to rock star status (read: great cafe), but not having them will surely mean your demise.

So what are they?

The Costs of Entry

These are the costs of entry into the market as a cafe owner. You’ll need to get these right if you want to stay in business. These standards vary based on your location and change over time but the below should get you started.

Great Coffee

yep, crazy I know, but I can’t count the number of cafes I’ve been to that have had horrible coffee. Also, it must be great, consistently, not every now and then.

If someone moves to the neighborhood, tries your coffee and it’s great one day then horrible the next – you may as well wave them goodbye, they won’t be back. Train your baristas and train them well. It doesn’t matter how great your beans are if your barista burns them to death.

Quality Service

From the moment they walk into the moment they leave, make your customers feel like you want them there. (You do right?). Make them feel welcomed and be grateful for their patronage. It doesn’t have to be complicated; a warm smile and saying “thanks” can make them remember your cafe next time they’re running low on caffeine.

The speed of Service – this will vary based on the type of cafe you’re running, but being prompt is always best. If you expect most of your customers to be the grab-and-go type, ensure that you can deliver, quickly. If they’ve got to wait 15 minutes and they miss their meeting…The cafe across the road will become their regular. [A Story on Customer Service]


Make your space one that actually people enjoy being in. Keep it clean, play great music, & have places for people to sit and enjoy your great coffee. 

If you’ve got all of these down then you’re official on your way to becoming a good coffee shop.

Let’s not stop there, we promised to share how the greats become great. So how do you go from “good cafe” to “great cafe”?

From Good to Great – How do you run a great cafe?

1. Find a Clear Point of Difference

This becomes your winning edge, the thing that customers will talk about. Maybe it’s going to be awesome food, a signature drink or added value like free magazines or live music. Finding this “POD” will set you apart from your competition, make you a great cafe, and ultimately make you memorable.

2. Build Your Brand

A name & logo is the start, but what do you want your cafe to stand for? Hipster cool vibes? Chilled out, yoga-like zen. Fast-paced CBD office warriors? Pick one and build it into every aspect of your fit-out, menu, and atmosphere. 

3. Get People to Try it Out

Once you have point 1 & 2 in place, start to build awareness. A killer Instagram account is a good place to start. Find a friend who takes professional photos to showcase your cafe at it’s best. Ready to go to the next level? Try Facebook advertising targeted at people in your area who fit your vibe. [What happens when you get it right?] 

Here’s a great example of a cafe killing it on Instagram:

We know buddy, we want it too. Draft Latte cans will be available to order online next week! #SoClose #DraftLatte

A photo posted by La Colombe Coffee Roasters (@lacolombecoffee) on

4. Keep Them Coming Back

Want to build loyalists? How about a coffee card program designed to reward frequency? Special events that only your loyal followers know about? Or it could be as simple as having your staff learn the name and coffee preference of people who come in every day. It’s as simple as “your usual Matt?” which will make someone’s morning easier and you their cafe of choice. [How To Cultivate Super Fans, who’ll do your marketing for you]

If you’ve got any questions about how to make your cafe great(er), leave them below!

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