How to Market Your Café

Posted on November 30, 2016 by Ash Bennett

No matter how well you run your café, it’s difficult to draw in customers if you don’t market your business. Marketing not only makes people aware of you, but it also invites them to keep coming back.

Here are some top tips for spreading the word about your business. These focus on café marketing, but many of them are also effective for restaurants, bakeries, and other areas of hospitality.

What’s your image?

When you market your business, it’s important to know what you’re marketing. How do you want to present your café to customers?

If you have trouble pinning this down, here’s a useful question to ask: ‘What do I want people to think of when they think of my café?’

If you’re an independent catering to locals, for example, stress your unique character as a small business. Your trendy fitout, friendly staff, and distinctive menu are all part of who you are and what you offer customers. If you specialise in coffee or tea, make sure to promote what types you offer and where you source them. These are personal touches that matter to customers and show you take pride in your business.

Consider your location. What kinds of customers will foot traffic bring your way? Who lives and works in your area: corporate workers looking for a quick coffee during the day? Suburban families who enjoy a café breakfast on weekends? University students craving affordable meals and a caffeine buzz? Knowing who will pass your signage, receive your flyers, or Google cafés in your area affects your image. And your image decides how you market yourself.

Online marketing

An online presence is increasingly necessary. If a customer is already aware of your business, a website will offer the information they need to find you. If a customer hasn’t heard of you yet, they can discover you through web searches, links from food review sites, and social media pages.

Without an online presence, you may find your customer buildup depending on proximity and word of mouth. These resources can be effective, but they’re unreliable and may not bring in enough numbers to make your business thrive.

Online marketing


Some businesses get by without a dedicated website, but it’s one of the most effective ways to market your café. A good website contains several essentials:

Your contact details.

Make sure your address is clear. If your café is difficult to find, mention a landmark to guide newcomers: ‘On the first floor of X Building, up the stairs on your right.’ A phone number and email address are also useful—or, if you provide catering, essential.

A map showing your location.

Most contact pages now feed into Google Maps, making it simple for a customer to locate a café on their smartphone. While a map isn’t an absolute must, it will make your contact page that much more helpful.

A current menu.

People searching for somewhere to eat often browse the menu in advance. Take this opportunity to show off your signature dishes before a customer has even entered your café.

If you offer gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian options, make sure to mention this. Customers with dietary requirements often need to plan ahead, and you’ll make their search much easier if your menu shows that you provide food they can eat.

Your trading hours.

Customers want to know when they can visit your café, especially if they’re travelling out of their way. If your business is particularly busy at certain times of day, mention this and advise booking ahead.

Make sure all of these essentials are up to date. Annoying customers is the worst way to build a base of happy regulars—and nothing annoys a customer like turning up at a closed café because the web said it would be open, or planning a meal with an out-of-date menu. Updating your website is a form of maintenance, just like replacing broken lights or cleaning dirty windows. If you don’t do it, your café may look unprofessional and uncared-for.

Online incentives

If your café has an interesting fitout or photogenic food, bring in website hits with an image gallery. Instagram is a popular resource, and you can build an online following through strategic use of hashtags and photos.

coffee art camera

Twitter and Facebook are other popular marketing tools. Some cafés and restaurants use social media tie-ins to drum up interest. For example, you could offer a drink discount to anyone who tweets your café, or run a competition where people who like your Facebook page go in the draw to win a voucher.

These techniques may sound like bribery, but they’re actually invitations. Online users follow so many accounts that it’s easy for them to lose interest. Competitions and offers are a way to keep followers engaged, offering them something in return for their attention. They’re also a way to draw customers out of the online world and into your bricks-and-mortar café.

Offline marketing

Online marketing is key, but don’t underestimate the power of more traditional methods. These techniques have worked for the ages, and they still have relevance.


Signage is key; it draws attention, it advertises who you are, it’s decorative as well as practical. Signage can also update customers on changes you want them to be aware of: new menu? Advertise it on your a-frame. New trading hours? Update the sign on your door.


Distributing flyers, menus, and newsletters in surrounding mailboxes spreads word of your café around the neighbourhood. Printing can be costly, and you’ll need someone to distribute for you, so trial this approach first to see if it’s worthwhile.

Offline incentives

Just as you can engage followers through social media, you can also reward customers in-store.

Marketing doesn’t stop at the door. It’s a way to gain attention, to let people know about you and invite them in, but it should also maintain their interest. Keep your offerings fresh, and give your customers reasons to come back.

Offline incentives include in-store competitions, promotions and partnerships with other businesses, and rewards systems. Printing a rewards card is relatively inexpensive, and people like free things. If every fifth coffee they buy is free, customers have reason to keep returning to your café.

Spread the word

However you decide to market your café, it’s important to make people aware of it and why they should eat there. Experiment with different approaches, and you’ll find the ones that bring the most customers to your business.

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