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Mastering repeat business: A quick service special

While analysts frequently bemoan the UK’s struggling High Street, there’s one sector that continues to buckle the trend – quick service outlets like cafes, coffee shops, bakeries and sandwich bars.

According to the Allegra Project Café 2018, 81% of people in the UK visit a coffee shop weekly, spending £9.6 billion a year!

That’s a colossal market-driven opportunity which no-one would want to miss, right? However, on the other side of this coin we see just how much this market is dominated by giants – three branded chains in particular which collectively operate from over 8000 UK venues in the UK alone.

The simple fact for anyone running a quick service business is that the competition is fierce.

If you want to succeed, you literally need to pull out all the stops with your marketing strategy so that people choose your establishment over others. That might involve everything from pavement signs and free samples to offering boutique experiences and running a killer social media campaign. Although the owners of quick service businesses that we’ve worked with over the years take many different approaches, most agree that mastering repeat business is crucial.

Understanding what will work and what’s likely to be a waste of your time and energy is another challenge. To help, we’ve come up with five simple ideas that have proven to work:

1. Get your wi-fi offer right

Take a look around your average coffee shop and it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that customers are more interested in their internet devices than the actual coffee! In fact, studies show that the availability and quality of free wi-fi not only impacts on people’s choice of where to catch a quick beverage or bite to eat, but also on how long they stay there and how much they spend.*

The way we see it there are three things to address:

First of all, be sure to invest in a robust business wi-fi package that offers speed, stability, works in every corner of your venue and can cope when you’re at full capacity.

Secondly, fit the place out with plenty of power sockets and preferably direct USB ports. You might consider keeping a collection of low-cost charging cables that you can lend out too.

Finally, maximise the marketing potential of your wi-fi, for instance by having it configured to open up to one of your social media pages at login (thereby encouraging customers to engage with your brand and leave reviews). Another tactic could be to deploy a login process that captures customer’s emails – again giving you opportunities to encourage opt ins for promotions.

2. Revamp the menu

While most menus will have some mainstay options, to prevent the boredom factor creeping in, you’ll most likely want to give your food offer a revamp on at least a seasonal basis. As well as giving the kitchen a chance to get creative, there are a few marketing tricks you can use in the re-design of the menu itself.

There’s lots to consider but one of the simplest strategies is to ensure your menu design brings your most profitable items into focus. You might highlight them with bolder, brighter colours, surround them with more white space or simply list them first in their product section.

GOODTILL TIP: Use the inventory data and sales reporting features within your café EPOS system to determine which items are most profitable, then design your menu to draw your customers’ eyes to them. The user interface on Goodtill makes it really easy to align the menu changes with the POS too.

3. Use customer feedback

It may sound obvious but never forget that happy customers come back for more!

So, if you want to master the game of repeat business, you must simply learn how to keep your customers happy and this is where their feedback comes into play.

But let’s face it, if you walk up to your customers and ask them outright, they’re unlikely to tell you the truth and will also probably be annoyed at the interruption.

Instead, deploy simple feedback cards served with the coffee or placed on tables (sticking to just a few quick-fire questions) or use social media to encourage reviews. Combining feedback questions with an incentive like a prize draw usually helps (and again gives you an opportunity to collect customer data).

When you’ve gathered the feedback, be sure to act on it and try not to get too defensive in response to any negative comments. If 80% of people love the coffee but think your baristas are rude, invest in re-training!

4. Loyalty schemes

We know there may be an element of ‘loyalty scheme fatigue’ on the High Street but when it comes to cafes and coffee shops, the loyalty scheme is still among the top four reasons why people visit a particular outlet (location, quality coffee and habit being the other three).

Loyalty schemes work by creating a really simple economic trade-off between you and your customers: they come to you 10 times and then get a free coffee (or something along those lines).

Also, by giving them an actual card, your customers are literally carrying around a little reminder to come visit you again!

Most modern iPad POS systems now provide an easy method of implementing a loyalty scheme. At Goodtill, for instance, our ‘Goodies’ advanced loyalty module brings a new level of automation to setting up and running one or multiple programmes. Offering total customisation, watertight security, valuable data insights, instant sign ups and a Goodtill mobile app for end users, this module can be added to any Goodtill for just £9 per month per site.

5. Host Events

In a market as competitive as quick-service, one way of increasing the chances of making your business the ‘go to’ venue is to make it a genuine part of your town or city’s social life by hosting events.

That could mean anything from speed dating to live sports, stand-up/ open mic to poetry recitals, hobbyist clubs to book signings. Whatever you decide, be sure it’s both appropriate to your existing customers and inspires new business. Why not combine your event with a 2-for-1 promotion that encourages visitors to bring a friend.

Adapting to the market

While the big brands in quick-service are not going anywhere fast, we’re beginning to see a trend in the coffee market that would suggest the clientele’s appetite is shifting away from the mainstream towards a more boutique experience.

For independent venues this is an opportunity to grab and, going forward, that could mean further adapting to the market to deliver the ‘something different’ and ‘exceptional experience’ people are looking for. Regardless of what direction that sends your business down, adopting these and other strategies for generating repeat business should always be part of that journey.

Contact us at Goodtill to find out more about how we can support your growth via repeat business.

*E.g. Studies by Samsung and Devicescape