Our tips on running a successful coffee shop

We could fill a book with our tips on running a successful coffee shop. We have our own coffee shop in north Norfolk and are constantly learning. Here are just a few tips we think are important to gain and retain customers:

  • Always welcome, thank and say goodbye to your customers
  • Make the customers visit as straight forward and pleasant as possible
  • Serve great coffee and customers will keep coming back for more
  • Great service & great staff are key. Both need to be the best
  • Have a wide range of cakes and pastries which change daily
  • Clear & clean tables as soon as customers leave. Who wants to sit at a dirty table?
  • Keep your coffee shop spotless
  • Maintain your hygiene records meticulously
  • Ask every customer if everything was okay for them when paying. Give them an opportunity to give you their feedback. 


It’s a business

Always remember that your coffee shop is a business. Most of us open a coffee shop because we love coffee, or cakes, or sandwiches, or we like people. However, when all is said and done, we need to make money to continue with our passion.

Running a successful business means knowing your margins or mark-ups on every product you sell, knowing how much money you need to take each week to be profitable, paying your suppliers on time, paying your staff on time, producing staff rotas well in advance, completing VAT returns, along with many other less exciting chores. Once you know your numbers and have all this under control, you can serve your delicious coffee with a smile.

The coffee business is interesting and exciting, and we all get to meet lots of people we probably would never have met otherwise but it is important to remember the paperwork side of things.

Opening our coffee shop was the most exciting thing we had ever done. We had planned the layout completely by ourselves (lots of plans were thrown on the fire though) and we got a firm of local builders in to do the work…which seemed to take forever, although it was only a few weeks. Hopefully you will feel the same.


Your lovely staff

You staff are without doubt your biggest asset. Good staff can be difficult to come by but when they do, do your utmost to keep hold of them. Constantly re-training new staff is costly and time consuming.

Train your staff to the highest standard and expect the highest standards from them. Ensure you have easily workable and efficient systems in place, you don’t want misunderstandings when your coffee shop is heaving with customers on a Saturday morning.

It is important that your staff can build relationships with your regular customers and make them feel welcome when they walk through the door. A “Good morning” or Good afternoon, how are you?” will brighten anyone’s day. Some people are great with people, others not so. Bear this in mind when interviewing.

Consider giving your staff free bags of coffee to take home or free cake every now and again. Little perks can make all the difference and let your staff know that you appreciate them. Our staff free lunch every day they are at work. You don’t have to do these things but they certainly help in what is usually a fairly low paid industry. We always thank our staff for their hard work at the end of every day. You would be surprised at the difference this makes.



We have already mentioned having systems in place for everything to do with your coffee shop. If everyone knows where everything is located, how all the coffees and sandwiches are made, exactly what to do in any given situation, it will save a lot of time and effort and make things a lot easier for you too. We have manuals for everything, and quite a few checklists too.

You need time off, so make sure all your staff know absolutely everything there is to know about your shop. It should run like clockwork without you and if it does then you know you are heading in the right direction.


Your Customers

Your customers are the people who are going to determine whether your coffee shop is a success or not. Building up a loyal customer base from scratch is hard work without a doubt. You obviously have a head start on my other establishments because you will be serving amazing coffee and delicious cakes and pastries which will soon get around on the grapevine. The key is when those customers first step through your door to get them coming back over and over again.

We mentioned right at the beginning of this page that greetings and farewells are very important, as is cleanliness and prompt service. Some customers will be very easy to please and others less so. But it is essential to treat every customer the same pleasant demeanour. We have customers who come in every single day of the week, Monday to Sunday….quite a few who come in twice a day every single day of the week. Say they have a coffee priced at £2.50 each time and a pastry with one coffee that works out at over £50 each week that customer is spending with you. You get just a small number of similar customers and it becomes a significant figure. LOOK AFTER ALL OF YOUR CUSTOMERS WITH A SMILE.

Your reviews on Trip Advisor and Google can bring a lot of new customers your way. This is especially the case with holiday makers and visitors who use these sites to find the best places to eat and drink…and find where serves the best coffee of course. However, should you happen to get a review which disappoints you, don’t despair. There will always some people who you will never please however, hard you try.

We always ask every customer if everything was okay for them or if they enjoyed their visit. This gives people to give you valuable feedback or say if they were unhappy about something. 95.9% will say it was delicious, 4% will say something like it was fine and 0.1% will grunt something inaudible. Then you will get the one oddball who will post something detrimental on a review site. When we got our first bad review after a year it nearly broke our hearts…something to do with no parking in the town which is hardly our fault. It took us a while to realise that there a very, very small number of people who just like to moan, they are just having a bad day. They often tend to moan not face to face…..but by hiding behind a keyboard, which can be frustrating. These people are best ignored; unless they have a valid point of course, in which case you need to rectify the issue immediately.

If you do happen to get a complaint in the shop, we find the best way to diffuse any situation is to offer a free coffee, which works every time. In an extreme case just tell the customer that the visit was on the house; “I am sorry about that Sir, we won’t charge you today”. It is best to diffuse a situation before it becomes a larger issue.

That said, the vast majority of your customers will love everything you do and look forward to visiting you.


One last thing

Always take the orders of customers in the order they walked through your door. DO NOT give preferential treatment at any time. This can prove to be awkward at times, especially when people asked to be served quickly but if you stick to this rule everyone knows where they stand and it avoids resentment if someone always gets served before others. If you are busy (and hopefully you will be) just tell people that their drink will be a few minutes and hopefully they won’t have to wait too long. Customers prefer to know rather than standing around wondering what is going on.


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