Restaurants, pubs and cafés have to work harder than ever to win and maintain customer loyalty. Whatever the time of day, unbolting the door and waiting to see if any customers find their way in is no longer a substitute for a genuine business plan. From Nespresso to Netflix, consumers have plenty of choice of quality food, drink and entertainment at home, so going out has to deliver something extra.
In the evenings, that can include theme nights, menu specials, and live entertainment. Daytime trading is a different beast. It’s often more about functionality that frivolity, with potential customers looking for convenient venues where they can refuel, meet or simply take a breather. It’s an expanding market – industry analyst CGA Peach reports that the all-day café bar format is one of the fastest growing parts of the eating out sector – but also one where independents tend to be on the back foot.
The way CGA phrases it is that independents are ‘under-trading vs the branded operators’. Brands tend to be better at communicating their offer to consumers, which for someone in a hurry is often the key to making a decision about where to go. To get back in the fight, it worth taking a look at some of the types of daytime trade out there.
· Breakfast – sales of the ‘best meal of the day’ are booming across most sectors of foodservice. Competing with the local greasy spoon to offer a classic fry-up is fine, but these days there’s a lot more to breakfast trade. Porridge, fruit salad, granola and a full range of healthier food options will appeal to office workers who can’t quite face the full English, and combined with hot drinks can also enable operators to add a takeaway trade.
· Mums – even if there are more than a few dads who share the school run these days, it’s predominantly mums who are looking for somewhere to share a coffee and chat after dropping off the kids for the day. Along with that all-important latte, the aforementioned healthier breakfasts will also appeal. Prepare an offer, such as coffee and a pastry for a set price, and contact local schools and playgroups to see if they’ll distribute vouchers or put a note in their newsletter. A Mum’s Club loyalty card – e.g. four stamps and Friday’s coffee is free – is a useful way to build repeat trade. Once the mums are in, remember that they might be persuaded back for food, wine and cocktails later in the day with a few well-placed promotions.
· All day dining – like that full English breakfast, a ‘proper’ hot lunch is a luxury many shoppers and workers don’t have time for, or are looking for a healthier alternative to, which creates opportunities to offer grazing options. A selection of cold meats, cheese, fish and salad, with a choice of breads such as rolls, subs, wraps and ciabatta, creates a modular deli-style offer which customer can eat in or take away. A special price on a deli sandwich served with a soft drink is simple to promote on the website and social media, as well as on posters and flyers. Pop into the reception of local businesses to ask if you can leave a few vouchers lying about.
· Workers – the workplace has changed dramatically over recent years and for everyone who sits in an office along with a load of workmates, there’s someone else who’s self-employed or mobile. A work-station friendly pub needs a few uncluttered tables, public power sockets, and reliable and easily accessed wi-fi.
· Meetings – the decline of the traditional office puts meeting space at a premium, and even those who do have somewhere to work often want to meet away from colleagues. YouGov estimates that 80 million people attend 1.5 million meetings per year, and that small meetings account for 70% to 80% of these. A function room can very easily double as a meeting room during the day. Keep charging flexible, with a minimum spend-per-head on food and drink often more lucrative than a hire charge. Again, wi-fi and power sockets will make all the difference.
Finally, remember that you need to do is make sure potential customers know about your daytime offer. Along with the internet and social media, an old fashioned a-board is a great tool, but change the offer through the day. Last night’s cocktails won’t sell as well as this morning’s coffee at 9am – or if they do, you may be attracting the wrong crowd!