How to keep a new cafe going during covid lockdown

August 17, 2020
Sydney first went into lockdown only a few months into 2020, crippling small cafes who relied on a steady stream of patronage to stay open.

Just a few months  prior, Lisa opened Archies Cafe in Dover Heights. 

The new cafe had opened at the corner of Blake Street and Military Road in Dover Heights:  a beautiful cliff-side suburb that houses plenty of beautiful family homes with stunning views of the ocean or the harbour bridge, but very few cafes or restaurants. Locals tend to head to Bondi or Double Bay for their dinners out. 

So, for the first time in years the community had a stylish cafeteria with top grade food: be it breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea; a place to stop, meet and chat. At the onset of covid, this particular cafe was in its infancy and started to feel the pinch quite early. The pressure was starting to get to the new owners.

Dani Benson, director of Casa Media Group was introduced to the owners of Archies through an existing client, legendary local real estate agent Michael Finger who frequented the cafe since it opened. 

“The business was simply not making enough sales during the first few weeks of the covid shutdown, and many cafes in Sydney were closing. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention,” Ms Benson said. 

“Immediately, when I became aware of their situation, we created a multifaceted strategy for driving more patronage and traffic to their cafe.

A new takeaway menu was developed and the launch of this menu included  digital marketing, funnels, and a new food photography suite leveraged a dark-background that had been trending and delivering higher engagement than traditional photographic editing styles on Facebook and Instagram.

“The most exciting part of the campaign was our real-world activation. We knew Archies needed to get into the community. They hadn’t been around long enough to build a loyal base, their nearest competitors were next door, and locals were in the habit of heading to nearby Bondi for meals. We created a new campaign to address all of that, and called it “Archies After Dark”.”

Archies After Dark was a new menu and new food concept. Lisa and Dani spent 3 hours on the phone daily in the lead up to the launch of the new menu. Agent Michael Finger collaborated with Archies to get the word out about the new menu. 

“It was obvious to me that this was an ideal opportunity to help out a cafeteria that I enjoy but also the community at large surrounding this great venue, to ensure that it would survive through this crazy time.I put on my thinking cap and contacted Dani to help,” Mr Finger said.

“We came up with an idea that would help ensure more locals got to experience Archie’s and fall in love with their menu, whilst also improving community morale during covid lockdown.I suggest to them that I would sponsor a quantity of food packages that people could collect for free on a Friday night,” Mr Finger said. 

Michael organised a giveaway of 100 free meals on a Friday night, so long as people lined up during the right time and collected their meal. The initiative was promoted on a Facebook Group with 7000 local members looking for dinner options. The new menu was added to popular delivery apps, promoted via Michael Finger’s database of thousands of loyal clients. 

“I actually didn't realise the impact this would have on the area and how it brought so many of the neighbours and locals together… legally spaced of course... to collect and support this local meeting place.”

The queue at 4.45pm was a block long and people patiently waited for their collected voucher number to be called out. It was well organised (and very much aligned to government requirements with regard to social distancing) and within an hour all 100 meals had been handed out. 

“The lead up to this event was even more overwhelming. Earlier that day I went for a walk in the dog park with my wife, only to be surprisingly greeted by numerous neighbours and locals saying "what a great initiative”, “good on you, we really love that cafe and want to see it survive”, “gathering us together to support it is a brilliant concept." Naturally I was quite overwhelmed, very excited and proud,” Mr Finger said. 

Dani spoke to some of the locals after they had collected their food and again interviewed some of them as to their thoughts on how they would support the cafeteria moving forward. 

The lasting impact of that launch was significant. Archie’s Cafe email database grew up 2000 in a matter of days. The campaign created a new wave of local clients and today they’re so busy they’ve had an offer to be purchased. The instagram posts are reaching over 8,5000 people per day, and are targeted to over 100,000 people within a 5km radius of the cafe. Instagram followers grew by 4,000 in six months. They’ve launched a new truffle inspired menu and partnered with an American hot sauce company. 

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