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Like many small businesses, cafes are being hit hard with the Corona Virus pandemic.  The question every café owner is asking now is “how long will this last and how will my business survive with months of limited customers?!”  The unknown is the biggest problem facing everybody at the moment and it is undoubtedly causing great stress for everyone involved. Below are our top five tips on how you can keep your café business alive.


Tip 1 – Talk first to your staff and make a group plan on how, as a team, these issues can be addressed.

Their health and safety is your responsibility and when they’re unsure of their financial future, it is sure to send their stress levels soaring – stress leads to a lowering of immune system strength – a vicious circle that is not good for their health.  Talking to your team is a good opportunity to see who wants to stay on board the ship and who wants to jump off. Make a solid plan and adjust the business work hours to suit the survival of your business. Remember without your business your staff won’t have a job.


Tip 2 – Communicate the working system of your café to your customer and shout about the measures you are taking to make your business a safe and clean environment for them to visit, additionally share these actions on your social media pages, signage at the front door or service counter.

Remove some tables and encourage social distancing so your customers have space to feel safe, better to have bums on few seats than no bums at all.  Ensure condiments are removed from tables, sanitised and replaced for your next customer. Keep the outside seating area clean and inviting, if you have the parking space to offer a drive up service, use this option – an online ordering app could be your new business model.  A lot of major brands have shut their bricks and mortar sites but have kept their drive through business which is booming! Use takeaway cups rather than ceramics and let the customer apply their own lids, milk and sugar, it is also advisable to no longer accept reusable cups for the time being in order to limit contamination.

Invite people to wash their hands in your café, the high street brand Lush hit the headlines recently by offering handwashing facilities to everyone and promoting it.  As a result of this, the number of people entering the shops was huge, sales soared.  Remember cash and carries are fully stocked with hand wash and sanitiser so it’s worth making the trip!

In our new world of social distancing and self-isolation we may need to supplement regular sales in-store with other channels.  So, what are we talking about?

  • Selling your products online – boost your online store, create a new one or start a subscription service.
  • Meal delivery services (Uber Eats, Deliveroo etc)
  • Promote Takeaways 

We need to market these and get our messages right – these can add a massive revenue boost!

Tip 3 – Become a leader in supporting the community by buying locally, supporting the bakery, butcher and your loyal company that has delivered your milk at 4am for the last five years.

Buy local and support the businesses that have supported you.  Everyone is in the same boat as you and we all know it’s going to be tough so we need to put the community first, talk with others about how you can all work together.  Buying local often means better quality and fresher products in any case– jointly promoting suppliers with your café on the specials board is a mutually beneficial thing to do – be creative with your menu items, cutting things out that aren’t necessary.

Remember it is care and community that will help businesses get through the difficult trading environment that is ahed, so care for each other and help where you can.


Tip 4 – Quality not quantity on your menu.   Adjust your menu to cut out high cost items and tailor it to suit the availability of products.

Limit items on your menu, offer a reduced menu so you can run lower stock levels, don’t order more unless you have to.  Have ingredients that are used across a few dishes, this will help keep stock levels to a minimum.

Make sure you add healthy options like soups, salads and broths etc that make people feel like they’re looking after themselves.  Also look at superfoods like turmeric lattes, fresh fruit and protein smoothies.


Tip 5 – Ask for help.

Reach out to friends and relatives to help you do the tough stuff, like running errands, handing out marketing flyers to households, posting on social media etc.  Remember if you go down, the whole show shuts down so make sure to preserve all the energy you can. 

Make sure you take the time to research the government’s situation on financial assistance. Perhaps you could reach out to your landlord and find an arrangement that will allow you to occupy and trade from the premises. Negotiate.  See if they will allow you to discount or postpone payments.

Contact your creditors.  Don’t feel uncomfortable about your finances.  Business loans, leases or rentals, many financial firms have a financial hardship team you can speak to.  Bear in mind these companies may be in the same position as you but if you don’t ask you don’t get. 

Ask your full time staff to take holidays and ask casual staff to alternate the limited hours amongst each other, this way everyone still has some work going.  Also, offer your casual staff the opportunity to look outside your business for hours in the retail industry where staff are in demand, like the major retailers Aldi, Tesco etc.

Pre-paid services.  This means your loyal, regular customers purchase your goods or services in bulk and for use in the future, typically with a discount applied up front. Gift cards should be instigated straight away, asking loyal customers to keep you in business by pre-purchasing (early Christmas gifts?).  For your customers, they get to support their favourite businesses – café – retailer or restaurant now to ensure they are around after this crisis has passed.  

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