If you’re not a coffee shop food eater, then you could be one of only 4% of the UK population who never buy food in coffee shops (source: Allegra Strategies). Coffee shops are big business, with a UK market value of £5bn so you should be pretty keen to get in on the action. But this market is dominated by big players, with branded chains growing by 12.9% in 2010. This poses a problem for the independent coffee/sandwich shop, as the big boys are pretty professional.

If you want success, you need to be able to compete on quality as well as price. If you’ve been to a coffee shop recently, you’ll know that they are not that cheap, but if you want to command top prices, then you need to merchandise and this seems to be where most smaller businesses fall down.

I’ve eaten some great food in some lovely little coffee shops, but the displays often leave a lot to be desired. If your display looks like a school summer fête, then expect to only be able to charge fête prices!

Our recently launched pre-packed thaw-and-serve cookies, slices and muffins have been developed specifically to help customers achieve a great visual appearance and have the quality to back it up. We often use picnic hampers as a great way of displaying the products to give a premium feel, while retaining a bit of quirkiness.

If you’re using traybakes or baking from scratch, glass cloches or clear kilner jars will help to create an upmarket feel, so you can command higher prices and healthier margins.

Remember that there are two markets you need to hit in coffee shops: the eat-in trade and the take-out trade. Make sure you either offer the same product for both markets and provide take-away bags or have a freshly baked offer for eat-in and a fully baked pre-packed offer for take-out.

Coffee shops remain a growing market, so know your market, pick your products carefully and present them in the best possible light.