Customer Stories, Marketing

5 community building strategies for small restaurant and cafe owners

Community building strategies are super important for the growth of any local business. Learn how to build a community of your own!

When Pakistani entrepreneur Safir Hasan opened The Bunker Cafe at The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), he had one goal. That is to provide a delicious yet affordable alternative to college cafeteria food. Nestled among a cozy clump of trees outside the campus library, The Bunker soon became a student favorite. Everything from their seasonal juices to their mouth-watering cheese toasties was an instant crowd pleaser. 

The success was so quick and so great, that pretty soon Safir opened up a second location at another university in Lahore – The University of Central Punjab (UCP). Now, both his cafes are thriving and provide a cheerful, comfortable space for students to work, unwind, or hang out with their friends. 

There’s a lot to learn from The Bunker’s strategy to incorporate its brand into student life and become an integral part of the culture at both LUMS and UCP. Here are some takeaways that you can use for your own cafe or small restaurant to establish your brand and become a part of the local community. 

1. Use word of mouth marketing to gain exposure

As an alumnus of LUMS, Safir was able to use his contacts within the university as well as his friends to create initial hype about his cafe. He talked to people about his ideas and discussed them in groups to get the word out. As more and more people became aware of his venture, he was able to build intrigue and curiosity that ultimately resulted in new customers

If you’re just starting your restaurant and cafe business, share the good news with your network. Let people know about your big idea and don’t be afraid to get feedback and suggestions from your friends and family. 

What Safir accomplished brilliantly was making the opening of The Bunker look like a community effort – something everyone was excited about and looking forward to.

Safir learned that this is the best way to integrate with your community. He got members involved from the start so that they could grow with his business and stick with him till the end. 

2. Leverage community forums to spread the word

When The Bunker was launched, Safir took to the LUMS Facebook group: LUMS Discussion Forum, or LDF as it is more commonly known, to make the announcement. He knew this was where the majority of his audience was located, and he took advantage of that. Using pictures of his food and space, he created hype and invited people to come to try it out. 

Safir also shared the challenges he faced while launching the cafe, how he overcame them, and the help he received along the way. Letting his audience in on his journey solidified the sense of community he wanted to create, and made people root for him. 

Whether you’re opening a small cafe in an institution or in your neighborhood, you can use this as a community engagement strategy as welll. Find communities online where your target audience may be located. Go to local events like town halls and introduce yourself. The idea is to make sure people are familiar with not just your brand, but with you as a person as well. 

3. Offer exciting deals and discounts

Obviously, no small business can run entirely on discounts – that’s a surefire way to go bankrupt. But even the smallest of deals or discounts can be enough to attract potential customers.

The Bunker recently launched a social media promotional campaign with the help of PosterMyWall. They ran Facebook ads to promote their new deal – one free cookie with the purchase of one Nutella shake. Using PosterMyWall’s social media templates, they were able to create attractive ads that gathered a ton of interest. 

Over the course of one month, The Bunker at LUMS was able to turn 30 new customers into regular customers, and Safir saw a significant bump in revenue. At the UCP cafe, he was able to create brand awareness and converted 50 intrigued people into loyal customers. 

If you want to run Facebook ads for your cafe or restaurant, all you have to do is set up a profile using the Facebook Ads Manager and get started. You can also watch this incredibly informative class by Morgan Myers on how to run and track Facebook ads. 

A small deal or discount will bring footfall traffic into your establishment, and if your product is good enough, it will turn curious customers into loyal customers. 

4. Fill your social media with eye-catching social media posts and graphics

If you have a solid social media presence with a fair number of engaged followers, you can sell your brand and connect with your followers readily. The Bunker has nailed social media promotion via Instagram. Filled with colorful images and graphics, you can clearly see the message they are trying to get across – a quirky and fun little cafe – run by the community for the community!

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when setting up social media accounts for your cafe or restaurant:

Pick a color scheme – shades of yellow and pink depict a fun and upbeat vibe. Blue has a calming and zen vibe. Red depicts something urgent and exciting. Depending on your brand and the kind of establishment you’re running, you can pick a color scheme and create social media graphics that incorporate it. 

Keep it fun – pictures on their own can be pretty boring. Why not spice it up like The Bunker did by adding cute stickers and graphics? 

It’s all about the captions – while your posts sell your brand, your captions can make or break the amount of engagement you get. Add jokes, puns, and questions to your captions to get more people to interact with you.

5. Listen and respond to customer reviews

Building a community, whether online or offline, is a two-way street. For a successful partnership, you need to factor your customers’ perspectives into every decision you make. 

For this reason, customer feedback and reviews are crucial. Safir routinely checks LDF to keep an eye out for negative reviews about his food or cafe. If he finds a negative review, he notes it down and makes sure to relay the feedback to his staff so they can work on a solution. He regularly publishes posts that ask people what they would like to see on the menu, or if they’d like to see any changes to the existing menu. 

Similarly, you can use community forums and in-person conversations with friends and family to find out where you’re lacking and what you can improve. The more feedback you gather, the better prepared you are to meet your audience’s needs. 

Start your cafe or restaurant marketing today!

Community integration is essential for a successful small cafe, coffee shop, or restaurant. It creates a personal bond between you and your customers, and it establishes you as a trustworthy business that people have an emotional stake in. 

Use PosterMyWall templates to create your ads and social media graphics, and build your next successful marketing campaign today!