Customer loyalty is key to the long-term success of any café or hospitality business.
It doesn’t matter how lucrative those Sunday morning breakfast rushes are for your café. It’s the repeat, local customers that come through the door rain, hail and shine that keep the wheels spinning at every great café.
When it comes to building a successful café business, there’s more that goes into it than great food and coffee. The reality is that almost 60% of restaurant and café start-ups fail in the first year, and of those that survive the first year, another 20% will close by the end of year three. So, to give your café every chance of success, it’s essential that you prioritise loyal, long-term customers that bring consistent revenue.
In this article, we’ll take a look at seven tips that everycafé can implement to increase customer loyalty and retention, and improve business profitability.
1. Great Staff Create A Great Experience
Great café staff is the backbone of every successful café business. Not only do your staff fulfill orders and ensure that customers are treated with fairness and respect, but they also have the ability to make customers feel welcome and appreciated.
Great café staff know their menu inside and out. They can answer customer questions without running off to the kitchen or coffee machine, and they are able to make accurate and timely recommendations to your customers.
Invest in great talent, train them well, and make sure that they have a positive working environment that keeps them there for the long term.
Bonus schemes and staff incentives are always a great way to keep employees motivated to provide a 5 star experience.
2. Provide Consistent Food & Coffee Experiences
Great food and coffee may be the key to winning new customers, but it’s consistently great food and coffee that will keep them coming back. Without consistent quality, customers are less likely to return, and less likely to recommend the café to their friends and family.
In order to keep food and coffee consistent, it’s essential that staff are trained and understand the importance of precision when preparing, plating, and serving food.
This means using the same recipes, following them to a T, measuring ingredients, and ensuring that the food and coffee that comes out of your kitchen is as consistent as possible. Even if that means sticking up photos of every single dish in the kitchen as reference.
The key to customer retention is ensuring that your favourite customers can count on coming back to your café for the same level of experience on their first visit as their 100th visit.
3. Reward Loyal Customers With A Loyalty Program
A loyalty card program is an effective, time-tested way to reward café customers and create a sense of loyalty. With a loyalty program for your café, customers can accumulate points each time that they make a purchase, and enjoy incentives like free coffee, discounts on food, exclusive access to new menus, and birthday specials.
Customer loyalty programs also encourage your most loyal supporters to spread the word and encourage friends and family to visit your café. Word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most effective free marketing tactics.
Creating your own Café loyalty program with Stamp Me is an inexpensive and highly effective way to cultivate new levels of loyalty and support from your regular customers – while also digitalising the old-fashioned paper loyalty card.
4. Let the Locals Know You Love Them
Just like in the TV sitcom Cheers theme song, sometimes we want to go where everybody knows our names and where they always seem glad we came.
When it comes to running a successful café business, you need to make sure that your local legends feel loved and valued. From the moment they walk in, your locals should be met with a familiarity and warmth that lets them know that they’re more than just a coffee and muffin order to you – they’re a valued patron.
Remembering orders, picking up on changes, and asking about how their last coffee or meal was goes a long way in building familiarity with your locals. Every great café is underpinned by the locals that are there for them all year round. Make sure that you get to know your local customers and make them feel appreciated.
5. Cater to Different Dietary Restrictions
Never forget that people have different dietary requirements and eating preferences. According to the latest data, 10 percent of Australians classify themselves as vegan or vegetarian, with another 12 percent saying that they are reducing their meat intake.
Customers who feel well taken care of for their preferences and intolerances are more likely to return and contribute to an increase in long-term business revenue.
While it is impossible to cater to everyone, offering a vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and pescetarian option on your menu means that you’re not shutting the door on winning regular café customers amongst different dietary groups.
And if you’re not sure exactly what your customers want or where the hole is - ask them! Customer surveys are a great way to ensure you stay at the forefront of what your customers actually want from you. Plus, it’s a great way to make your customers feel heard and valued.
6. Stick to Your Operating Hours
Having consistent operating hours (and sticking to them) is one of the most important factors in building a successful café business. When customers depend on you for their morning coffee, breakfast, lunch, or late afternoon snack, you need to honour your trading hours and be available.
Consistent operating hours creates a sense of dependability and reliability amongst your customers.
By having regular, consistent opening and closing times your customers know exactly when they can enjoy their favourite coffee or snack. This consistency helps to build trust between a café and its customers and means customers are more likely to become frequent, long-term patrons.
7. Post Regularly on Social Media
Nothing sells your café quite like images. Sumptuous treats, perfectly poured flat whites, and daily specials should all be posted on social media so that your users will wish they were there – even when they’re not.
Posting on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Google Business, and other platforms means that your customers are always thinking about you and even prompted to come and visit when they’re hungry or in need of a perfect batch brew.
Not only that, post about your staff too. Put a story, fun facts, and personality behind the faces to help build that all important relationship with your end customer. After all, business in the cafe industry is just as much about the people as it is about the food.
Consistently good experiences create loyal customers. Loyal customers create a thriving café. By implementing the above tips, you will create a better experience for your customers and build a community of loyal customers for your café.