2 Ways To Increase Cafe Sales At You Indoor Playground AND Reduce Staff Overwhelm!

One of the biggest reservations I hear from play space owners who are nervous to install a full cafe in their space is,

“well, I can’t afford to hire additional staff a cafe would require..."

If you haven’t listened to episode 55 of my podcast yet, go back and listen to it because I break down this objection in painstaking detail, but today I want to share two ways with you that you use to dispel this fear even further.

And just to recap ONE point from episode 55 in case you missed it, because it was a LONG one– we aren’t running crazy high volume coffee shops here. Chances are, people aren’t popping in on their way to work on a time crunch. Maybe 2-3% of your total revenue will come from people stopping in JUST for a cafe drink– if you even allow that.

When people come in and order a drink, they’re planning on staying for a while. So even if there’s a little backup at check-in and it takes the barista 20 minutes to bring the drink over, it’s really never a big deal– we just make sure to let them know when they order it. 

Chances are it takes them 20 minutes to get their kids shoes and coats of and get them settled before being able to sit down and enjoy their drink anyway.

Now before I get into the tips I want to tell you a quick story that should serve as a great reminder to all my current owners out there.

Just because a customer isn’t VOCAL about something or doesn’t leave a 1-star review for the world to see, does not mean they experienced something that diminished their experience or cost you in sales.

So when I was traveling this past spring, I won’t say where– I took my 2 kids to an indoor play space. It was probably around 2,000 square feet and there was one person working.

After I got acclimated and my kids got lost in their imaginative play, I found myself gazing around– trying consciously not to look at my phone or do the whole mindless scroll thing. But it’s only natural to look around right?

So I was looking around, and their cafe menu caught my eye. Every single thing on the menu sounded so delicious and I could not stop thinking about how badly I wanted an iced latte in that moment.

But after I looked at the menu, I looked at the person behind the counter working. 

She looked busy. There was what seemed to be a consistent stream of people coming to check in, she was cleaning, she was answering the phone – and as a former play space owner I felt for her so– what did I do?

I chose not to interrupt her.

I would have gladly spent probably $15 or $20 on a drink and some snacks, but it would have been tough to catch her attention and I really just felt like I’d be imposing. She clearly wasn’t the owner, she was a young hourly employee– so I just let it go and told myself I’d stop by a drive thru on the way home. And I did.

And you know what– I heard several other people make similar remarks while their kids were playing. Saying the cafe menu looked great but there was no one at the counter to take their order (since she at this point was tidying the play space itself). 

They didn’t want to leave their kids in the play area unattended while they waited who-knows-how-long at the counter to order and then wait for their drink.

And guess what? I never said anything. Neither did the people I overheard. So the owner was none-the-wiser to about $200 in missed sales in one two-hour time period.

Now I want to tell you a second story about a cafe that’s near my house that I go to all the time to work. And if you’ve been to an airport in recent years you have undoubtedly seen this as well, especially since the pandemic.

But I walk in, choose a table and sit down with my laptop and such, and I simply scan the card on my table (it’s a QR code) and up pops an order screen.

In an easily laid out format I can choose what I want to drink with all my little specifications, I can choose if I want to add any food items, I can say what time I’d prefer my items to be ready at, I type in where I’m sitting, and I can even pay and tip right there on the screen.

Right after I put my order in, it’s relay-ed to the person working. And this is not some large chain, this is a mom-and-pop style cafe. The staff member gets an alert or checks the screen every few minutes, and gets the orders out when they can.

There is even a way to order in advance now on their website, which I do all the time when I am next door at the gym. I know by now that they get really backed up at lunch time so I know that, unless I want to wait, I better get my order in for the time I want it at least an hour in advance. 

I think adding table blankets or signs around your play area and facility that allow people to order without approaching a staff member is absolutely GENIUS and I wish I had implemented this when I was operating.

It removes so many of these obstacles our customers are currently facing– having to leave their kids unattended to order, having to wait for a staff member to make their drink while their kids are doing lord knows what, and feeling too guilty to impose on whoever is working.

Another option? 

Add cafe-order kiosks that are close to the play area that parents can use to place orders. I was talking about kiosks in Play Maker Society recently since Aluvii, one of the softwares I recommend to my students, has the option to have this functionality on an iPad. And my members were rightfully very much against it at first, saying things like, “well I would never use a kiosk because it’s important to us to have that personal greeting when someone comes in”.

But what if it didn’t have to be an all or nothing scenario? What if you could maintain that in the check-in process, but increase your cafe sales and the amount of orders your staff member can take and make by taking a portion of them via kiosk? 

Think of how much TIME your staff could save if they did not have to answer tons of menu questions every single time, if all the info a customer needed was just RIGHT there on the screen for them. Think of how much easier it would be for them to have the order with all the little details right there in black and white so they didn’t need to write it down or print a receipt or make it from memory.

I absolutely LOVE both the QR code idea and the kiosk idea for increasing cafe sales and reducing staff overwhelm. And I think that, because of the pandemic, many more people are comfortable using these technologies! And now that iPhone users at least just need their cameras to use QR codes, it’s easier than ever to get our customers on board.

And again, it does not have to be all or nothing. If old aunt Sharon (or whoever!) comes in and doesn’t want to use the QR code or iPad, there is STILL a staff member ready to take their order and help them.  And remember, we love a multi-purpose item. 

This kiosk can also have a birthday party button or allow people to view and schedule classes and events. The opportunities are really endless here and are SO important now that staffing is growing increasingly difficult and more expensive in the retail sector.

What do you think? Would you use either of these strategies to increase sales and decrease staff overwhelm?

 

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