Why Are Food Programs in your Cafe SO Important?

Running a successful coffee shop is more than just serving great coffee. A well thought through food program could be the key to bring in new customers, as well as current customers more frequently. However, doing this is harder than you might think.

Our experiences working with cafes, as well as running our own cafe locations showed us that implementing a food program is often the most difficult task a cafe owner has.   

Cafe food programs

Food programs can be an important aspect of a café's business, as they can help to attract and retain customers. A well-thought-out food program can also help to differentiate a café from its competitors and provide a unique experience for customers. 

Some examples of food and beverage programs that a café should include:

 

The first things is the specialty coffee and tea programs:

These programs focus on offering a variety of high-quality, specialty coffee and tea drinks. This can include sourcing beans from specific regions or roasters, offering a range of brewing methods, and providing detailed information about each coffee or tea variety.

selection of pastries

Food menus:

A café's food menu can be an important part of its overall food program. This might include offering a range of breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, and other light meals. It's important for a café to consider the preferences of its target market and offer items that will appeal to them.

Local and sustainable sourcing:

Some cafés focus on sourcing their food and drink items locally and sustainably. This can help to support the local community and reduce the café's environmental impact.

Special events and promotions:

Cafés may also offer special events or promotions as part of their food program. This might include hosting tastings or pairing events, offering discounts or promotions on certain items, or hosting live music or other entertainment.  Catering events, and having easy to carry platter for parties can create unique marketing opportunities. 

Pastries and baking

Should a food program change throughout the day?

It's not necessarily necessary to change a café's food program throughout the day, but it can be a good idea to offer a variety of options to suit different times of day and customer needs. For example, a café might offer a selection of breakfast items in the morning, such as pastries, oatmeal, and breakfast sandwiches, and then transition to a lunch menu featuring sandwiches, salads, and soups later in the day.

Depending on the café's target market and location, it may also make sense to offer different options at different times of day to suit the needs of different customers. For example, a café located near an office building might offer more grab-and-go items for lunchtime customers, while a café in a residential area might focus on offering more sit-down meals for dinner.   If you are working with food distributors such as Sysco or GFS, they will often have services with their in-house chefs to help create these menus. 

construction site

It's also worth considering whether to offer any daily specials or rotating menu items as part of the food program. This can help to keep the menu fresh and interesting for regular customers, and can also provide an opportunity to test out new items and get customer feedback.

We often suggest to clients, that changing your display case, show casing different foods, for different parts of the day can help sell extra items to your customers.  Increasing your average transaction with your current clientele is the fastest way to grow your top line sales….and much easier than trying to attract new customers.   Local wholesale bakeries such as Al Forno, could often make recommendations on what to offer throughout your day. 

Overall, the key is to offer a range of options that will appeal to the café's target market and suit the needs of different times of day. By doing this, a café can create a successful and engaging food program that helps to attract and retain customers.   

baking in bakery

Is making your own food a better decision than buying from local food providers?

Baking/Creating your own food program offers many benefits, however, also brings many complexities that need consideration.   Extra labor, food safety concerns, additional storage and specialized kitchen equipment are simply a few.  

When creating a food program, it's important to consider the target cost of goods (COGS), which is the total cost of all the ingredients and supplies needed to produce the food and drinks offered by the café. This includes things like the cost of raw ingredients, packaging, and any other supplies needed to prepare and serve the items.

The target COGS will depend on a number of factors, including the type of food and drinks being offered, the cost of ingredients and supplies in the local market, and the desired profit margin for the business. In general, it's important to strike a balance between keeping COGS as low as possible and offering high-quality, appealing products that will attract and retain customers.

One way to determine a target COGS is to conduct a cost analysis of the food and drinks being offered. This involves calculating the cost of all the ingredients and supplies needed to produce each item, and then determining the percentage of the selling price that these costs represent. For example, if the cost of ingredients and supplies for a particular item is $3 and the item is being sold for $10, the COGS would be 30% of the selling price.

fresh made pastries

When you are making your own food, It's generally recommended that a café's COGS be in the range of 30-35% of the selling price for food when items and 20-30% for drink items.   When ordering in prepared foods from outside vendors, its generally recommended that your COGS be in the range of 45-55% of the selling price of food.

This will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the business, but keeping COGS within these ranges can help to ensure that the business is profitable while still offering high-quality products.

Overall, the importance of a food program in a café will depend on the specific goals and target market of the business. By carefully considering these factors, a café can create a successful and engaging food program that helps to attract and retain customers.