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How to Decide What Hours Your Café Should Open

  • Cafe

The key to a successful café business is planning and research. Deciding what hours your café should open form an essential part of your overall business plan.

Do you open your café early in the morning to target labourers and professionals? Perhaps you want to open late to attract post shoppers and students, or weekends for the yummy mummies and family groups. Before you go ahead and announce your opening times it’s wise to do some groundwork first.

There are several things you need to think about when choosing your café’s opening times. It may not make economic sense to have normal 8am-5pm opening hours. With this in mind, some factors that should shape your opening times choice should be:

Location

The area your café is in will have a huge impact on when the peak times of potential trading are. If your café is in a quiet area, it may be better to open around midday instead of in the morning when there are less potential customers. It’ll also save money in terms of staffing costs, bills, etc.

The location of your café also dictates what clientele you can expect. If your café is near to a business centre it may be worth opening early in the morning for the pre-office rush, and around lunchtime, say, from 11:30-3pm to target professionals on their lunchbreak. If your business is situated in a very suburban district, then maybe look at the footfall during the week for peak times. Opening weekends may be a great option.

Menu

What you offer on your menu can dictate what sort of clientele it attracts and when. This should then give you a rough idea of what to serve as well as when to open. If you’re looking to be open very early in the mornings to target professionals on their way to work, then food that is good to take away is an obvious option. Egg and bacon muffins, croissants, toasted sandwiches, and fruit along with, of course, coffees and teas, are a classic menu offering that will attract these potential customers.

Does your menu offer sit-down meals? If so, it may be wise to cater these meals to the times you’re looking to open. So, if you’re looking to open from 7am then perhaps offer breakfasts like poached eggs, English breakfast, cereals etc. If your business is going to sell mainly cakes, biscuits and pastries then you could look to open anywhere after 12pm weekdays and weekends to target those looking for afternoon teas and coffee break pit-stops.

Last year coffee and sandwich chain Pret a Manger decided to tap into the fast-food evening dinning by introducing dinner service along with selling wine and beer. Pret said that they could be selling dinners and alcohol if London trials (known as Good Evenings) were a success. As well as a different evening menu, opening times would be from 6pm-11pm in the hopes of attracting the pre-theatre crowds. The evening menu would feature such meals as meatballs and macaroni cheese.

On May 5th 2016 The Lido Cafe in Brockwell extended its pop-up kitchen takeover series and welcomed Taiwanese street food trader Le Bao for Thursday and Friday evenings. Capitalising on dinner dates they serve their trademark gluten free steamed buns stuffed with spiced pork confit, grilled goats cheese and tasty chicken, Le Bao also devised a new selection of small plates including drunken mussels, pork croquettes and miso-glazed roasted eggplant. The evening meals are only open during the summer months, making the most of the warmer climate, perfect for al fresco dining.

Clientele

To some extent the location of your café will position you towards certain customers more than others. But also, the look, feel and menu offering will shape your clientele. That said, the time of your cafés openings will expose you to different potential customers. If you’re open early mornings (anywhere from 6am-9am), who would be around at this time? Professionals and labourers on their way to work. You may wish to target one more than the other and some locations have a higher footfall of one more than the other. These are all things to consider.

If you’re aiming for the yummy-mummy market, then weekday afternoons (when the older children are at nursery or school) and weekends are the prime time for these customers. Young parents looking for a good excuse to leave the home and a chance to socialise with friends in a family-friendly setting. If these are your target demographic, you may want to make sure you offer some children-friendly menu options like babyccinos, additive-and-colouring-free cakes, carrot sticks, fruits and berries, etc.

Perhaps you’re looking to attract the hipster generation. Think about the kind of jobs they have and what times they may go out for coffee. Many hipsters work in media, digital, and IT so perhaps think about opening from midday for their lunches and coffee breaks, through to early evenings, when they come out for their post-work coffees. You could offer free Wi-Fi and the chance to book a table for modern, creative meetings.

These are all things to keep in mind when deciding on your café’s opening hours.

You could trial different opening times to see which ones work best, but make sure you have signs and posts on social media to let your customers know the times.

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