Food is an important investment for any cafe. People will want something to snack on while they are drinking their coffee or something to go when ordering out. Food also helps attract customers to your cafe during the normally slower times such as lunch and dinner. Below I will go into what types of food you will want to serve in your cafe.
The foods you’ll want to serve in your cafe include:
• Breakfast food such as breakfast sandwiches, croissants, and pastries.
• Light lunch food such as soups, salads, and toasted sandwiches.
• Desserts such as cookies, brownies, and cakes.
However, you’ll also want to keep your menu simple. Some people going into the cafe or restaurant business make the mistake of trying to add as much to their menu as possible to cater to everyone. However, this can cause both your customers and staff to be overwhelmed. What they end up with is a lot of spoiled food and higher food costs. You should keep your menu small. Some menu designers suggest between 7-8 food items for a cafe.
There is no meal more synonymous with coffee than breakfast and breakfast time will be a significant portion of your cafe’s revenue. This is particularly true if you’re just running a standard cafe instead of one with a theme that might attract an evening crowd.
People eating breakfast at a cafe tend to come into two flavors. The first is someone who needs to get in and out. They don’t have a lot of time to sit down and eat and need something they can carry out quickly so they can get to work or wherever else they might be going. The second is a person who has the time to sit down and savor his breakfast. A good cafe satisfies both of these crowds.
For the get-in-and-out crowd, you will want portable things. Things like breakfast sandwiches, bacon eggs, and toast are easy to do. However, it is best to make them in-store if you can. Customers can tell the difference between something bought somewhere else and something prepared fresh. That difference can make the difference between a good and bad review. That said, having some pre-made options could be good for a customer who is in an extreme hurry. As long as they have the option to get a fresh sandwich, they won’t mind too much.
For those that want to sit down, pancakes and waffles are good. You can add things like fresh fruit and whipped cream. All the grab-and-go options work too.
Fruit is another popular option. It not only pleases the people who want to get in and out, but it also caters to people trying to live a healthier lifestyle and parents who just need something for their kids. The thing is that you have to be careful what kind of fruits you select.
It goes back to keeping the menu simple. If you offer a big selection, you’ll overcomplicate things and wind up with rotten fruit. Stick to what your customers want. If a person is in a hurry to get to a business meeting of some sort, they probably want a fruit that they can eat in the car without making a big mess. You’ll want apples, pears, and bananas rather than juicy fruits like oranges and peaches. Things like breakfast and fruit bars are another quick option.
• Bread and pastries
People like the taste of fresh-baked bread in the morning. Croissants are a popular option. You could serve croissants straight or you could use them for your breakfast sandwiches to keep the theme going. If you want to add some flair to your croissants, add fillings. Some popular fillings include fruit and Nutella, pastry cream, or chocolate. If you’re ambitious and you want to get in on the pumpkin spice craze that comes around every Autumn, you could have a limited-time-only pumpkin pie croissant to go with a pumpkin spice latte.
On that note, don’t neglect limited-time seasonal offers when designing menus. You can get a lot of extra business when people want to try a new product before it’s gone. Many large chains have success with seasonal promotions and you may have some success too.
Muffins are a versatile option that can please anyone. Having a few different flavors of muffins that you serve every day along with a few rotating/seasonal options can get customers through the door. You should analyze how well certain muffins sell to see if they deserve a permanent spot on the menu or if they can be replaced by something else. Bagels are also a popular option just be sure to have spread like cream cheese available.
Doughnuts could be a good choice if you’re in the correct market. If your primary breakfast clientele is health-conscious, it might be a bad investment. You would need a lot of extra oil or possibly a deep-fryer. If your market does want doughnuts you should keep an eye on what doughnuts are selling well the same way you monitor muffins.
Check out our article on the best foods to sell at your shop HERE.
As your client switches from breakfast to lunch, here’s what you need to remember: People going to cafes for lunch don’t want things that are big and greasy. So you should probably stay away from big greasy burgers and fries. Instead, you should try to keep your lunch light with soup, salad, and sandwiches.
People like hot coffee and hot soup, especially in winter, so you should make sure your soup is always hot. You should also make sure your soup is fresh. People can have condensed soup at home and you always want to give people something better than what they can have at home. Some cafes have a selection of soups and others just do one soup each day. You should decide what to do based on your budget. Even if you are doing multiple kinds of soup, you should still have a Soup of the Day and gauge its popularity for menu inclusion.
Cafes often serve a variety of sandwiches. Sometimes, they’re pre-made but many make them fresh. If you go for the fresh sandwich route, you’ll need to have a selection of bread, meats, and vegetables available to allow customers to customize their sandwich. However, you should also keep an eye on which ingredients are moving and which aren’t. Having a toaster is also good. Some customers like the texture of a toasted sandwich over a cold one.
Salads are an ideal side dish to have at a cafe. People who go to cafes for lunch are often more health-conscious. Plus, salad doesn’t require expensive equipment like deep fryers. You can use the vegetables for your sandwiches in your salads. You should stick to the most popular salads in your area to cut down on costs.
Once lunch starts, that’s when you can break out your dessert. There is a good possibility you’ll be getting some things from outside. If so, you should work with local bakeries to build ties in your community.
Cookies and brownies are great options for those who need to eat and run. You can add anything to them. For people looking to sit down, there’s a world of cakes and pies available. Pies that you don’t have to bake, like Oreo pie. can be popular with your customers and staff. You can certainly draw in customers with eye-catching desserts. Incorporating seasonal events into your desserts is easy to do.
Just be careful you’re not letting your creative spirit get in the way of what is practical for your budget or your staff. Some complex desserts can require a lot of ingredients and a lot of effort on the part of your staff. You want the desserts to be reasonable to make so tables turn around quicker.
1. Should I incorporate special dietary needs in my menu?
Yes. You should have vegetarian options on your menu. You can offer an eggplant sandwich instead of an egg sandwich for example. You can also look for gluten-free alternatives to some bread products. And if there’s a chance that your food has interacted with nut products, you should be upfront about it.
You should also have some alternatives for kids on your menu, particularly if you have a cafe that caters to families. Some parents won’t want their kids to have espresso and some kids don’t like coffee. In that case, having hot chocolate would be a good alternative. Don’t forget the marshmallows.
2. Any other suggestions for sides?
A bag of chips can be a good side. Things like Lay’s or Dorito’s might be seen as mundane but there are products like kale chips that can appeal to an upscale/health-conscious market.
3. I’ve seen cafes serve alcohol around dinner, could I do this?
You could and there may be some potential profit there if you’re selling upscale spirits. However, you’ll have to get a liquor license and train your staff thoroughly on how to spot a fake ID. You don’t want to be known as the cafe that sells alcohol to people underage. You’ll also need to check your state’s guidelines as some may not allow people under 21 to sell alcohol.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.