Guest writer, Sean Edwards, is a true coffee enthusiast. Sean has racked up over 14 years in the specialty coffee industry and his resume is extensive. Sean has been a successful café owner, coffee trainer, freelance marketing consultant, Director of the national trade event, Café Biz and Editor of The Home Barista Book. Sean now reigns supreme as Editor of Café Culture Magazine. It’s Sean’s mission in life to educate the public and assist the industry in developing a greater appreciation of coffee.

Over the last few years the task of running a successful café has become more challenging for café owners. The rising labour, food and rent costs and increasing commodity prices of items such as fuel and utilities have put a real strain on café owners.

With a café, like other businesses, you can only take product price increases to where your customer base can withstand. A solution to help ease the pressure is marketing your café and its products successfully.

Well marketed cafés stand out from the competition and are the ones which will show increased profits, having good growth cycles.

Marketing does not just mean advertising: it is the process that encompasses your whole sales structure. I have broken down some positive ideas and strategies I have witnessed out there in our competitive marketplace over the last few years.

Marketing Plan and Budget

The marketing plan is a necessary tool for your business, as we live and work in an increasingly competitive society. If you want your business to succeed you need to market your product correctly.

A marketing plan will help you to focus those hard earned dollars in the right direction, while helping you to understand your product i.e. know where it fits into the market, know who you are trying to talk to, know how you are going to reach them. Once you have this understanding, make sure you monitor your presence in the marketplace to know that in fact what you’re understanding is correct. A marketing plan is written evidence that you understand what you are trying to achieve.

Your Plan Should Take in these Factors

Where you are — where you want to go — how you might get there.

  • Set yourself goals and objectives (achievable ones).
  • Define your market and start with your present customer base.
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT Analysis).
  • Establish a marketing strategy.
  • Implement tactics to achieve this strategy.
  • Define the difference between marketing and advertisement. Advertisement is only one part of your marketing plan/budget.
  • Look from the outside in. Fish bowl your workplace — stand at the front door of your business and have a real good look in.
  • Do a budget on how much you need to spend to make real financial growth. A rule of thumb is to spend on marketing 5% of your gross income, up to 10% for start ups of a new café in the first year.
  • Use a calendar and have a new marketing initiative every month.


Yes, your menu layout and pricing is part of the marketing of a café. The pricing of a menu will determine the market you are pitching at. When pricing a menu, I like to have a range of prices, so as to broaden the market. Prices should be displayed on a menu board in a random order, not lowest to highest. Special does not mean cheap. It means, like the word reads ‘special’ — unique.

A well designed menu will also generate revenue through its description. You will find this with more up market establishments describing their product to sound gastronomic in its structure, and you don’t mind paying more for the item just to see if it lives up to its description. A well described menu item can see you add another two dollars on top of the sale price formula. A menu must live up to its promise: you cannot deceive your customers, so think before you describe.

Menu Profit Maximisation TIPS

  • Design a menu with different price points.
  • Highlight profitable items.
  • Move items around the menu.
  • Correctly cost menu items.
  • Consider eye extremities on menu layout.
  • Price using odd numbers.
  • Use tasty, fresh descriptions.
  • Brand leverage — use popular brands to draw customers’ attention.
  • Make the menu sound attractive, local and colourful — tell a story.
  • Associate food and beverages.
  • Make the menu easy to read.
  • Have easy add on sales.


The odd thing I find when I consult to new café start ups is the lack of creativeness in product selection. Point of difference in products is a great way to stay ahead of the competition. Using locally sourced products is a great way to create a point of difference. Seek what is trendy at the time! With product selection, become an innovator in the market by having unusual and interesting selections.


Giving customers the opportunity to sample new products you want to sell is a must-do tip. If you want to get the word of mouth medium happening don’t be scared to give away some samples of your food and beverage items to your regular customer base and ask their opinion.

Their feedback will often give them ownership of that meal or beverage. Ask your suppliers to give you extras when ordering to help release the product into the marketplace. Don’t forget to include staff when you are sampling a new product that is to go on to the menu, as they are the ones who will be selling the new product.

Point of Sale and Promotions

When releasing a new product to your customer base back the product up with some graphical image, sales poster or table talker. All the café franchisers use this technique.

Don’t be scared to spend some extra marketing dollars on small print runs of posters and table DL brochures introducing a new drink or meal item. A drink or a cake of the month is a great starting block for this style of promotion.

Most businesses have a creative person within the walls who can use a computer and design and lay out a poster.

The Media

My pet hate at the present time, being part of the media, is when café owners and managers are not media savvy and let opportunities pass them by.

When a journalist of a media organisation walks into your business, make them feel at home. Often they are there to check the business out, and if they have a great experience, guess what? They might write a nice story about the café and that fun experience.

You don’t have to shower them with gifts and free food, you just have to go that extra bit further with your hospitality.

Have a media kit on standby, which should include a folder containing some of your latest brochures, menus, press releases, and a disk of some professional images of the business, including logos.

If the media offers to do a story or review, make it easy for them and provide the requested information straight away. I can vouch for this — it is sometimes like pulling teeth trying to get information from cafés when I want to do a review.
Last tip on this subject: get on the phone and thank the person within the media if they do some free press for you. Believe me, this goes a long way. I have done many positive reviews for cafés and when visiting again, I often feel disappointed when they don’t acknowledge the effort you have gone to.

Training (Sales)

Yes, working in the hospitality industry is a sales job! If you have order takers and not sales people, you need to review your recruitment and training methods. When I had my café business, I would have regular sales meetings with my team and often bring in outside sales professionals to assist with the task of selling.

There are many methods and ideas for selling in hospitality and café businesses. Simple up selling or a suggestive sale will give the business instant increased revenue. With cafés I consult to, I always refer to the Mc Donald’s concept: if that business model can teach a 15 year old to ask for an extra product sale, why can’t you teach an adult in your organisation to do the same?

Simple Sales Techniques in a Café.

  • Use up selling of products, like a large coffee versus a regular size.
  • Have a selection of on sells like garlic breads, salads or cookies with a coffee order.
  • Train your staff to understand the menu selection — be knowledgeable about products.
  • Train staff to ask for a second coffee order.
  • Recommendation sales are a good way to sell more expensive menu ranges.
  • Practice customer skills with introduction and greeting customers.

I hope the café owners and workers who have taken the time to read this article think a little more about marketing within their cafés. Often a marketing concept does not cost a lot; it just takes a little time and effort to implement.

Always be flexible and give the concept a little time to develop. If it does not work, go on another tack. The fun of running a small business is often when you see a concept or idea work. Learn to reward yourself for small achievements and you will enjoy the business much more! Good luck and happy marketing.

For more tips on how to market your cafe, check out this article: How to market your cafe using the Internet

This article was written by Sean Edwards, originally published in Issue 14 of Café Culture Magazine.

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