There’s no denying that we’re a coffee loving nation- consuming a whopping 95million cups of it a day! According to the Beverage Standards Association, 80% of people who visit coffee shops do so at least once a week, 16% committing to a daily visit.

With a handful of leading coffee shop chains dominating the highstreets, it may feel hard to compete with their prime locations, big-budget marketing campaigns and comforting ‘safe bet’ status.

However, independent, specialty coffee shops have some key qualities to bring to the table.

With more control over their suppliers, price and brand identity, independents have the opportunity to be as creative as they like when promoting their business to the local community.  

We wanted to share three creative ideas to incorporate into your marketing strategy to ensure you outshine the chains and boost your footfall...

1. Tell your story and sell an experience, not just coffee

Being an independent means you have the power to work with amazing small suppliers and tailor your experience so it’s exactly what your local clientele want… something big corporate coffee chains dream of achieving.

We often see businesses that sell incredible coffee with the most inspiring back story but they fail to tell their customers about it. 

Maybe the coffee you are serving has won an award for sustainability or originates from a single origin Tanzanian farm run by women farmers. If for example, your customers know that by visiting you they’re also supporting coffee communities around the world it will create another compelling reason to visit you and not the big chains.

Find your stories and start sharing them - place leaflets on your tables, write about it on your menu boards and share images on your social media.

You can also share your love of independent, local coffee culture by working with suppliers to create a series of educational events.

Reach out to your coffee roaster and ask them if they’d be interested in hosting an interactive workshop or cupping event in your space. They’ll benefit from extra exposure and your customers will love the opportunity to learn more about the ever-growing world of coffee.

By becoming a hub for your community, building fun experiences and hosting events you will create an important relationship with customers that will once again mean they pop in to you and ditch the big chains.

2. Run a 'business of the week' scheme

It may sound simple, but showing your appreciation to other local businesses is a powerful way to build a following of supportive fans.

Simply pop a box onyour counter and invite people to drop in their business cards or a note about their business - then once a week pick a card at random.

Swing buy their premises with a selection of cakes, sandwiches and some vouchers for free hot drinks for their team to enjoy.

This generous offer will no doubt brighten the day of local people but also encourage them to pop by and get them talking about you on social media.

Building connections and encouraging locals to make you part of their daily routine is so important in a competitive marketplace. This small act could prove a powerful way to encourage repeat custom and they might even return at the weekend with their whole family for a spot of lunch.

3. Show your personality and encourage customers to share

Fare Bar and Canteen @charliemckay

Huge coffee shop chains may benefit from widespread brand awareness, but local businesses canbuild far more personal relationships with customers.

This is where independents have an obvious advantage and can have a bit more fun, free fromthe strict guidelines that come with a global brand.

Use your social channels to show your personality and be transparent, show behind the scenescontent of staff and share information about your amazing suppliers.

The next step is to encourage your customers to share pictures of your food, drink and venue totheir own friends, but how do you do it?

Well ultimately it comes down to providing an excellent service and amazing looking product in a
beautifully designed space, however, there are a few things you can do toencourage this activity.

Try running a weekly competition and share the details on your menu boards or create an Instagram ready photo spot. The guys over at Elan Café in London are masters of using their beautiful décor and design to create the perfect opportunity for customers to take a picture. Take inspiration from this beautiful feature wall and start encouraging customers and influencers alike to share your space with their followers.


That’s it! Would you add any other tips to the list? We’d love to hear if you’re using any interesting strategies to stand out from the big chains on your high street. Get in touch and let us know.