Our shop is located in a county seat courthouse downtown area. We are also 3 blocks from a small college with 900 dorm students. What would be recommended hours to focus on the college crowd, and what is the best way to market those hours?

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I would first create an environment encouraging the students to buy, not an environment for them to hang out. If you establish that from opening day, you will alleviate a lot of headaches.

That being said, I would do form a half hour before the first class of the day until half hour before last class of the day. 

Our shop is in a small town on the square that has a college a bit bigger then that. We wanted to create a good night crowd so we decided to stay open till 9pm during the week and 11pm on the weekend. It's been perfect. Our day crowd is and our night crowd does tend to be heavier on the college side. 

I fully agree with John, you have to create a culture of enjoying coffee while they are in the shop. It'll take a kind but firm enforcement of it (and very consistent w/ your entire staff).

My thought on hours is that it's always easier to extend hours then to cut them. Also, the perception is never good when stores cut hours. 

Currently our hours are 7a.m. - 2 p.m. Mon - Sat, we reopen on Thurs and Fri nights from 6-10 p.m. Getting the student out of their comfort zone has been difficult so also looking for unique marketing opportunities if you have any thoughts. I usually have only 3-4 students during the daytime hours.

Brandon, here's an idea:

  1. Make sure your coffee shop is on FindMeCoffee.com. (Sorry, this is a bit of self-promotion.) We have a very nifty set of marketing tools you may find handy, including a web site, a mobile web site, and apps for iPhone and Android and soon Windows Phone and Blackberry. (Them college kids love their smart phones.)
  2. Claim your listing (or create the listing if it isn't there) and add a description and your hours of operation, plus any amenities you have like WiFi. (Them kids love their WiFi). 
  3. Ping me when you've done that, and I'll send you a sticker to put in your window that has a QR code pointing to your listing. The sticker will say "Share us with your friends!" or some such nonsense. Then they will be able to share that listing on Facebook or Twitter. (Them kids love them some social media.) They can do that right from the mobile app or website. Very soon we'll be allowing reviews on the apps and mobile site as well, and those will also show up in Facebook.

Then boom - you are generating word of mouth among the college kids, and your operating hours are part of your listing. And all for the low low price of free!

I hope this helps!

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