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How to Run a Successful Coffee Shop

Revel’s Tips to Brew Up Business

Given the growing demand for specialty coffee and tea, the opportunity to thrive in this industry is wide open. And with over 100 million Americans drinking coffee every day, there is a huge and captive market for your brew.

Many see this opportunity though, and with opportunity comes competition from chains and independent coffee shops alike. So, what steps can your shop take to stay competitive and stand out? It’s a question many independent coffee shops think about. Check out the tips we compiled to help you run a successful coffee shop.



Lead with the Coffee

This step is a quick one. Ultimately it’s your coffee that will bring customers in your doors and keep them coming back. It’s important to consistently serve a high-quality product because without stellar coffee it is an uphill battle to attract a regular client base. To ensure the best cup every time a coffee shop should –

  • Source high-quality beans
  • Brew on top level technology
  • Employ experienced baristas

For existing businesses, we’ll call great coffee a given. With step one checked off, there are plenty of additional things your coffee shop can do to ensure success.


Maximize Every Customer

Because coffee is a relatively low price point, it’s important to understand the importance every customer has to your business. To do this, there are a few ways to prioritize value. Take a look at tactics to achieve the most from each customer:

It’s all about the upsell

Maximizing every sale means larger check sizes. One way to do this is through introducing upsells like pastries, sandwiches, and other snacks. Starbucks, for example, is a leader in the upsell – with a full menu of food and snack, as well as a rotating menu of seasonal snacks, customers come in expecting to purchase a drink and a snack to pair. A counter full of tasty goodies is hard to resist, so try introducing new menu items slowly to see what your customers can’t get enough of.

Coffee shop loyalty program

Another way to maximize your customers is by encouraging repeat customers. A mutually beneficial program rewards both your customers and your business. One common practice is to reward customers at a rate of 10 to 1. For every 10 coffees purchased, reward loyal drinkers with a coffee.

Diversify your establishment

While some people drink coffee in the evening, the majority of coffee drinkers stop earlier in the day. Though the coffee drinking may stop, your coffee shop doesn’t have to also. Instead, you may want to think about opportunities to bring your customer back in and open up your doors to a new audience. Here are a few ideas for additional streams of evening revenue:

  • Host private events. If your space is cool, there are possibly individuals or businesses who want to rent it! Sites like Peerspace make it easy to list your space and make it available for events. Think Airbnb for your coffee shop.
  • Or host your own events. Think coffee tasting, coffee brewing, or even coffee pairing – there are many ways for your team to share wisdom with eager coffee lovers.
  • Transition into a lounge. Many coffee shops offer wine and beer in the evening. This provides the opportunity for your customers to head back to your shop for a post-work drink.
  • Partner to offer a dinner menu. Again, in the evening consumers are looking for something a bit different. Partner with a local chef and try a test run of a limited dinner menu. See how dinner is received, and make adjustments!

Diversifying your business opens you up to supplemental streams of revenue – and while every tactic may not be a fit, it may be worth it to experiment to find the right streams to add to your business.


Invest in the Right Technology

We mentioned having the right coffee equipment earlier, however, you can’t stop there. Today, the technology you implement can play a big role in delighting customers, improving operational efficiencies, and ultimately improving your bottom line. Here’s some of the technology that positively impacts the success of coffee shops.

Point of Sale

A good point of sale enables coffee shops to ring up sales, and a great point of sale enables businesses to ring up sales, keep up with customers, manage inventory levels, access detailed business analytics, and more. Adding a next-generation point of sale, like Revel, helps coffee shops do more.

Employee scheduling

Managing your team doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Adding employee management technology like HotSchedules and Deputy provides a more efficient way for you to schedule, track, and manage employee schedules. For shops with a large workforce or ever-changing schedules, employee management apps help to alleviate the manual work.

Online ordering and mobile ordering

Though coffee is a pretty quick order-and-go offering, today, many consumers expect to have their coffee ready and waiting when they walk into a café. Adding mobile or online ordering can make this a possibility. It’s easy to do this too, companies Mobi2Go and LevelUp make creating a fully integrated, branded app easy.


Marketing for Success

Accelerating the growth of your café should be looked in terms of reaching the right new customers and maintaining a loyal community. And marketing plays a huge role in this. Check out ideas for traditional marketing as well as some ideas that you may not have thought of yet.

Use a CRM

Especially true for coffee shops, it’s important to build a loyal community of individuals who, when thinking of coffee, think immediately of your shop. Further, a customer relationship management system (CRM) is essential for shops to gain insights into customers, enabling tailored experiences and better connections. A CRM enables your coffee shop to:

Segment groups to target with customized marketing campaigns. Knowing more about your customer base is an essential step in the process of creating more personalized messaging approaches, whether they be through SMS, email, or push notifications.

Treat every customer like a regular. With stored order history and the ability to add notes about things like birthday or allergies, every member of your team can quickly pull up a customer profile and provide personalized service.

Improve Your Online and Social Presence

Build a consistent experience across your social platforms. By adding high-quality photos to your Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp pages, you can put your best foot forward. Often, imagery is what sets one restaurant apart from another. A masterfully crafted cappuccino will have future customers’ mouths watering to try!

In-Shop Ambiance

Does your café speak to your brand’s identity and the customers you’re looking to attract? If the answer is no, it may be time to think about updating your interior look and feel.  cafés with over-the-top themed decor have gained popularity, so more and more consumers expect a higher level of ambiance. Whether minimalism is your thing, you prefer a cozy couch cave, having decor that speaks to your vision is key.


Use your data to grow

From daily coffee sales to employee timecard reports, an important step in growth is analyzing your business as it currently operates. To get a full picture of the healthy areas of business and those with room for improvement, leverage data to complete a deep analysis and then take those insights to map out future goals. Look at these areas of business:

Turn Sales Data into Insights

If you are questioning, what are we doing well, or what can we be doing better? You should start by looking at your data. From daily sales numbers and monthly sales reports to employee profit reports and historical performance; you should lean on this data to guide your decisions.

Review your sales history for trends. For example, identify your top-selling blends as well as clearly understand drinks are not performing well. With robust reporting tools, you can analyze every item on your menu, see what sells and what doesn’t, and swap items in and out of your menu based on historical performance.

Have a bitter bean that goes unsold most days? As much as you love it, it may be time to stop ordering more and take the variety off the menu.

Understand Your Inventory

Do you know what your weekly waste is? Do you run out of milk or vanilla syrup frequently? The way to combat the unknown is to actively manage inventory levels. Keeping up with your inventory has many benefits including enabling you to:

  • Track expected use of ingredients
  • Decrease food waste and prevent over-ordering
  • Prevent theft
  • Check your financial health

By using an inventory management tool, you are able to take the guesswork out of the equation and replace it with data. With Revel, for example, you have the ability to track the sales of your every drink down to the ingredient level. So with every latte sold, you know exactly how much milk you used and the coffee beans removed from your inventory – in real time. Advances in inventory management technology give operators the confidence to know that your café will always be stocked at the optimal inventory levels.

And if you aren’t tracking your data, well then it’s time to start thinking about investing in technology that gives insight into your business. Revel’s operational features and reporting capabilities give coffee shops the tools to draw out business-impacting insights.


Case Study: GRIND

When mapping out a plan for success, look to GRIND for inspiration. The UK-based coffee shop and bar combines excellent coffee with design, technology, music, and start-up culture to create a truly unique customer experience.

Paul Winch-Furness / Photographer

Perfecting Ambiance

Laidback, modern, hipster are all words to describe the café’s look and feel – all of which were intentional decisions to welcome in customers day and night. The guys behind Grind set out to create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages customers to keep coming back.

Two of the things we got right — the coffee and the atmosphere — meant that people came in and came back.

– Founder, David Abrahamovitch

Insightful Data for Smart Decisions

With eight locations across London, real-time, multi-site reporting is absolutely essential to Grind’s operations. Easy to interpret but also impressively expansive, Revel’s intelligent reporting gives Grind’s management the ability to make key business decisions in a flash.

“If a thunderstorm comes over and all of a sudden you’re about have the worst lunchtime hour of your entire life, Revel will literally tell you to send someone home. It will tell you what the current sales are, and where they should be at that time so you can react very quickly and be completely data-driven.” Finding a solution that could provide this level of insight was a critical piece of Grind’s growth.

The Right Technology to Reduce Human Error

Never shy of embracing technology to improve processes, Grind were early adopters of using an integrated Kitchen Display System. With KDS screens installed behind the espresso bar and within the kitchen at each location, handwritten order tickets and possible errors are now a thing of the past.

“We’ve been using the KDS for about four or five years now and we love it. Whenever new staff start, they’re always really impressed by how it helps to speed up processes and reduce mistakes.”

A willingness to explore new technology enabled Grind to improve daily processes and eliminate errors, ultimately saving money and time. For Grind, the combination of operational, design, and technology decisions has proven to be a winning equation.

Final Coffee Thoughts

If you’re looking to grow your café or coffee shop, there are numerous ways to go about achieving that growth. From marketing tactics to improving operational processes – engage in the activities that make sense to your business.

To learn more about how Revel Systems helps coffee shops achieve their goals, visit