We're going on our second year, and I've been crunching some numbers. We are open 7am-6pm, and I'm starting to realize that we really only make $30-40/hour after 4pm. So I'm thinking about closing at 4pm, but I'm a little scared of turning away potential customers. But I've got to think about the bottom line. My labor rate is a touch high I believe from these slow hours bringing up the average. I currently have two shifts/day, 6:30-12:30 and 12-6:30. I am thinking of moving those to 6:30-12:30 and 10:30-4:30, so same amount of labor, but more overlap meaning potentially better ability to handle more customers.

My question is what is your philosophy about being open? Do you think it's better to maximize all hours, or take the bad with the good and average it all out?

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after looking at your menu, you're obviously focused on pastry. to me that 4pm-6pm slot would be the time i'd be least likely to buy pastry... most places in asheville that i've seen be successful with pastry have been packed late at night (8pm-10pm) when people are done with their dinner and want dessert. have you ever been open that late or considered it?
This is not an easy question to answer. There are many factors which you may want to think about, location, being one of the most important ones.

Where I'm working, the hours are 06:30 to 23:00; that's broken up into three shifts. You'd think that the morning would be the big one, but, when we look at weekly figures it turns out that the afternoon is the winner. But not by much. In the past, the late shift did poorly, and it was seen as the "clean and prep" shift. Today, though, that's not the case; the evening and morning shifts match up. Evenings far out perform mornings on the weekend; Mondays and Tuesdays are quiet.

The reason for the increased evening sales is largely due to an attitude change. Rather than being in a rush to kick customers out the door at 23:00, I tell people they are welcome to stay until midnight, though I won't be able to serve them while I'm cleaning and mixing syrups for the morning staff.

For what it's worth, I'm also getting traffic as a result of my little web page. Go figure.

If you think that you could offer evening events, like live music, art shows, etc., then you may find that you can draw people into your store.
yeah, we are largely in a business district, with mostly mon-fri business, near 3 major hospitals. Saturdays are very very slow.

Yes, pickings are slim in the afternoon pastry wise. so one thing I have been thinking is rather than throw in the towel, maybe this is an opportunity for me to grow my dessert business, but really it depends on whether the location would allow that to be successful.
Hmm...near to three hospitals. Visitors like coffee and cake. Hospitals usually have crappy chain coffee shops and worse than crappy donuts.

Can you find out the visiting hours for the hospitals and adjust your hours to match?
Whatever you do, keep the store hours consistent. Nothing is more annoying to me than a schedule like;

Mon 10am-8pm
Tue 7am-8pm
Wed 7am-8pm
Thu 7am-8pm
Fri 7am-9pm
Sat 8am-11pm
Sun 9am-5pm

Though it may make sense for labor, it's just annoying and i can never remember when a place like that is open.
It sounds like you have two sets of customers. The hospital/office workers who are you main base. Then the locals which sounds like a small demographic. If the local companies closes at 4 pm so I would I. I would look for a ways to build my income during 6:30 to 4:00. Have you thought about doing deliveries to local companies for a min 20 order. I used to do this and it worked quit well. Put coffee carts in the lobby of the hospitals. Add WIFi internet service. To build the afternoons do a happy hour discount or put out a coupon that is only good for afternoon hours.
Sales drop after 4, but does the place clear out? You may lose business from people who are coming in to study/finish up work by closing earlier because they will have to go some place else to get work done.
stephanie crocker said:
yeah, we are largely in a business district, with mostly mon-fri business, near 3 major hospitals. Saturdays are very very slow.

Yes, pickings are slim in the afternoon pastry wise. so one thing I have been thinking is rather than throw in the towel, maybe this is an opportunity for me to grow my dessert business, but really it depends on whether the location would allow that to be successful.
I just wanted to point something out that you probably already thought of, but in case it got overlooked I will mention it. I have no idea what your store is like or what the layout is, so this might not be a factor at all, but that overlap in hours also means twice as many people to run into in a fast paced environment. Productivity can only be increased to a certain point before it starts going back down again. So doubling the amount of people behind the counter that your staff is used to having there can be quite a shock. :)
Jonathan Aldrich said:
Sales drop after 4, but does the place clear out? You may lose business from people who are coming in to study/finish up work by closing earlier because they will have to go some place else to get work done.
I agree this is a very good point. If you decide to close at 4pm that'll also mean some people who would have come in at 3pm to order and then get stuff done may not.

Also, how many people on shift 4-6:30 when it slows to ~$35hr? May be slow but still enough to justify one person rather than closing and no person AND no $35hr gross income. Sure closing earlier may lower overall payroll per hr average but it will also lower your total gross income. If those slow hrs your payroll is even 50% gross so what, the overhead will be there regardless open or closed. Say you only net $10 4 to 6pm M-F, that's $200 additional NET INCOME per month. Screw the averages, the bottom line is what really counts.

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