Standing Out From The Crowd In Your Café!

By Phillip Di Bella

As a café owner you know how fierce competition is in the food and beverage industry. The recently released TREND FORECAST SPECIAL EDITION published by News Food Corp Network highlights two seismic shifts that have seen the market get even tougher over the past few years. The first is the result of COVID – surprise, surprise – and the second is the escalating cost of living. Again, no one needed to tell you that.

But what are the consequences of those shifts for most café owners? With the first, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the consumption of food at home, including increased convenience purchases of frozen or chilled ready-prepared meals. There has also been an upswing in the number of people buying food online for consumption at home rather than dining out. All well and good if that’s the space you’ve decided you want to play in.

And I’m sure no one needs reminding of the surging cost of goods and shortages of supply. If anyone did, the Reserve Bank has just made sure it was never far from our thoughts by increasing interest rates for the eleventh time in the past 12 months.

So, what can you do about it? And, how can you make sure you stay competitive in an increasingly competitive marketplace?

The answer is not easy, but it is doable, and it really hasn’t changed since the year dot. To protect that bottom line, you have to stand out from the crowd! You don’t have a choice. With so many options to choose from if you don’t differentiate your café from the rest, someone else will do it better, and they will become the go-to place, not you.

Here’s my take on how you can do that.

Start by building your menu around your customers’ needs.

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to offer a menu that meets the needs of your customers. Take the time to research your customer base and find out what they’re looking for. Are they health-conscious? Do they prefer vegetarian or vegan options? Do they have dietary restrictions? By understanding your customers’ needs, you can create a menu that caters to them and sets you apart from other cafes in the area. If you want to read more about how you can do this, grab a copy of 17 Rules of Game Changer Thinking I co-wrote with Allan Bonsall, and check out Rule # 13, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can make those changes.

Be relevant and indispensable to your customers.

Think about what makes your café unique and how you can make yourself indispensable to your customers. Can you offer a service that no one else does, such as delivery or catering? Can you provide a loyalty program that rewards frequent customers? Ask yourself this: if your café closed its doors tomorrow, would your customers struggle to find another spot like yours? If the answer is no, you need to think hard about what could make you unique and set about doing it. By being relevant and indispensable to your customers, you can ensure their loyalty and continued patronage.

Deliver better value than the competition.

Offering better value than your competitors is key to standing out from the crowd. This doesn’t necessarily mean lowering your prices but providing a superior experience for your customers. Can you offer better quality ingredients, more generous portions, or faster service than your competition? By delivering better value than the café up the street, you’ll reinforce that position as the go-to spot for your customers.

Emotionally engage with your customers.

Emotional engagement is essential to creating a loyal customer base. It’s a message we repeat often in 17 Rules of Game Changer Thinking. Make sure your customers feel welcomed, valued, and appreciated every time they visit your café. This is the Rule of Magic Moments and your opportunity is to create those moments your customer’s will remember and tell their friends about. Train your staff to be friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable about your menu. Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere by playing music, offering comfortable seating, and providing a clean and inviting space. Become friends with your customers, they will pay you back ten-fold. By emotionally engaging with your customers, you’ll create a connection that keeps them coming back.

Tell your story effectively.

Finally, telling your story effectively is crucial to standing out from the crowd. Make sure your brand has a clear and compelling story that resonates with your target audience. Use social media, email marketing, and other channels to share your story and connect with your customers. Encourage your customers to share their experiences at your café and provide them with incentives to do so, such as discounts or special offers. By telling your story effectively, you’ll create a loyal customer base and attract new customers to your café.

The power of your brand.

Standing out from the crowd as a café owner requires a combination of strategies and storytelling. Essentially this is about brand building – your brand. Everything I’ve talked about here are critical aspects of your brand to get people to want to come back. By building your menu around your customers’ needs, being relevant and indispensable, delivering better value than the competition, emotionally engaging with your customers, and telling your story effectively, are all brand building tools to help you differentiate yourself and create a loyal customer base that keeps coming back for more.



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Fabio Cordovado Director CWE
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Phil Johnson Founder and owner Chef
Ecco Bistro
Coffee Commune’s advice, support, and network, helped reduce the red tape, gave us direction, and saved us valuable time.
Sarah Buiso Restaurant Owner of Da Buiso
…if our clients grow, we grow. The Coffee Commune has been invaluable in helping us spread that message.
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Matt Allington Partner, Business Services
BDO (Australia)
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