It seems there are new restaurants opening on every corner each week. With a market so flooded with competitors, it’s tough to get started. Many eateries fail quickly because they never got a quick start to establish themselves and pay off some of that early investment. As you enter your first days and weeks of operation, here are four ways to drum up business for your new cafe.
Before social media, we all knew how important it was to establish and maintain contact with the so-called movers and shakers in a community. They are the food critics, radio personalities, and elected officials who draw attention to their culinary pursuits. Once the concept of going viral came along, this strategy fell by the wayside, but wrongly so. Getting the mayor, a local DJ, or food blogger to visit your cafe will give it an old-school boost that lasts much longer than a Facebook post.
Many times the buzz around a new restaurant easily draws in large crowds, often to the point of giving the owner unrealistic expectations that such traffic will be sustained indefinitely. The fact is that it’s easy to bring in big numbers when you’re new, but you need to be able to engage customers to bring them back. After all, another little bistro will open next week. Using tools like peer to peer text messaging helps keep you present with previous customers while other establishments jockey for their business.
No matter how middle-of-the-road you might think your menu is, it has a personality and a place. Even if you think you’re just another coffee and pastry shop, there is something unique about your place. Push those identities to the forefront. People can buy coffee in dozens of places, but you can promote the source of your coffee to stand out. Is it sustainably produced? Ethically harvested? Emphasize what sets you apart in more ways than just flavors.
There’s nothing more destructive to a new business than disorganized operation. Have your staff practice and practice. Make sure they know the menu and can answer questions. Be sure you can meet the day’s demand for each item, and if you have too little or too much, adapt quickly. Give all your technology an aggressive test run so that you know your POS system, telephones, and food prep equipment is all ready to handle the demand. A bad experience is unlikely to encourage people to return.
Your new cafe can go one of three directions: straight to the top, straight to the bottom, or to the mired also-rans in the middle. Long-term success depends on hitting that first group and staying there, and a good start is key to making that happen.