Holiday Ideas for Your Coffee Shop: April Fool’s Day

It is believed that April Fool’s Day began when France changed their calendars to the Gregorian schedule but not everyone got the memo immediately. Previously, the New Year was celebrated on April 1st, and those who continued to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of a another at the end of March would be teased, taunted and, of course, pranked for not being up with the times. This included being called April Fish referring to be an easy one to get (like a fish, get it? Raise your hand if you’ve ever been fishing and wouldn’t necessarily call it an easy thing to do…me to…what were they doing with their lives that made fishing their go-to for something easy to catch!)

It may also have come from April 1 being considered the first day of spring with that great prankster Mother Nature fooling people with “suddenly changing the weather,” because we all know that one day its winter and the next day it is spring, AND it stays that way. Right. In Scotland and England, it became a two-day pranking marathon where people were sent on phony errands one day and the next day was spent pinning things on people’s bums (or trying to get things off that people had pinned to you bum).

These days, the Internet means that the level and scope of pranks has become astronomical, including entire websites going down for the day and the best pranks from each year going viral. Some businesses stick their pranks to Twitter announcements; Burger King once promoted a left-handed burger that caught a lot of those French fish I mentioned above.

As a business on April Fool’s Day, you have to toe the line between upsetting your customers and giving them a delightful chuckle. Logistically, playing pranks in store may be difficult. One thought I had when I was brainstorming was “fooling” people by giving them the next size up from what they ordered (and paid for) which does what a holiday should in boosting genuine feelings of devotion.

The problem with this upgraded drink April Fool’s Day promo is that I’ve worked many-a-morning coffee rush, and people don’t pay enough attention as it is to what they’ve ordered. If you don’t have the right amount of organization, communication, and correct names on people’s orders, you will end up with a lot of confusion and frustration, which is the opposite of what you want from a holiday promotion—or any promotion—or any business day – ever.

The real fun of April Fools is the creativity that goes into the pranking and celebration. You can use this, for any holiday, for some brand promotion and renewed customer engagement.

When planning, you’ll just want to keep some things in mind so you can optimize your brand’s advertising for this particular holiday.

You’re selling your brand which means you have to keep your brand in mind. Do something related to your products, your style, your branding in some way. Domino’s has done one April Fool’s Day prank promoting an edible box for the ultimate snacking (and, most ideal for the environment) experience. Don’t go too off brand unless you want random, witty, etc. to associate with your brand. The point is, viewers, customers, and neighbors should be able to identify your brand when they experience or hear about the prank.

Know your customer-base; there’s going to be a difference between a small, neighborhood shop and a shop in the middle of a major city. Tailor your prank to ideas, landmarks, events, people, slang that’s relatable to the largest aspects of your customer base.

One idea that I saw in my research involves reversing innovation, or going backward; the issue this presents is if you are a high-volume, efficient, coffee shop wherein boiling coffee old school would only serve to frustrate everyone involved in the goods exchange. What are some old-school coffee (or pastry or whatever) methods or visuals you could employ for a prank that’s surprising but ultimately pleasant?

You could give people something they hate, or that gets them heated politically. With coffee, this could involve a milk changeup or be featuring only decaf coffee selections, but be careful because if I know anything about coffee customers (especially in a big city and in a hurry), they don’t suffer inconvenience or decaf very easily. A move like this could be presented in a way that deters business from your shop. Consider, though, the idea of doing something people would hate to see so that they experience that initial terror and then sigh of amused relief.

You could consider a promotion that exaggerates or plays into a stereotype about your brand, business or industry. If you are a third wave/specialty coffee shop, you could release a new coffee, playing on the ideas of single-origin, cold brew, coffee on tap, which is all trending in that coffee industry currently. You could advertise muffins on tap or a new triple-origin coffee, or one brought back from a recent private exploration of Mars or the Moon. You could promote “hipsters only” for another type of self-deprecating humor.

You could use this prank day as the one day you dabble in the political sphere. You could pay attention to what other similar companies have done previous for April Fool’s Day and try to outdo them.

You could go completely digital, keeping it as simple as a social media status, getting someone who is good at Photoshop to have some fun for your Instagram, making a prank video, or changing something about your website. Just be sure that you are conscientious when you do these things. You don’t want to upset people to a certain level. You don’t want them to be scared for someone’s life for the most part (unless you believe that’s the way to get an influx of online/in-person traffic to your business—some these days are fully embracing the idea that any attention is good attention). The idea for the online pranks is to get people talking about your brand, laughing about it, showing their friends, sharing it over their social media, or coming in when they may not typically come in otherwise to talk to your baristas about it. A good prank can get you a boost in attention which, if played correctly, can get you an increase in business. I would recommend planning on some actual promotion so that people aren’t just looking at your brand or website for a few moments, chuckling, clicking share and moving on. Offer a discount or a freebie on your website or Facebook, or at the end of the video, or in the caption of the Instagram. Do something so that that extra traffic flow turns into extra money flowing in.

You could go for the Starbucks option and offer massively large coffee cups or incredibly tiny ones on April Fool’s Day. You could use that Photoshop fun to promote a pizza sized cookie or a car-sized muffin, whatever tickles your fancy. You could change your menu items to more literal interpretations, like an Americano could be Espresso Water and so forth. Have fun with it, be creative, and be mindful; this is an opportunity for customer engagement and a business boost—for the most part, bad press isn’t good for long-term, sustainable business.



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  1. I personally dislike pranks and don’t really see them being advantageous for a business. The only way it might work is if you made it a “good” prank, like giving them a larger drink or pastry at no extra charge. But overall, I think I would just ignore April Fool’s Day altogether. Too risky!

  2. April Fool’s day is all about jokes, so I think that making a good joke will lift peoples spirits up. Also, you can make a fun hashtag game on fb, or a “joke” link on social media to promote your shop.

  3. I don’t really do much for April Fool’s Day generally; I’m not really the pranking type. A lot of the ideas mentioned on the article would be great for utilizing on this holiday though. Personally, I think it would be a little risky, because something too outlandish could cost you your reputation as a business, or make you look pretty unprofessional. I think little things would be great though; especially when throwing in a little surprise for your customers. I know I hate to be pranked, and would probably be very frustrated at first. With the concept of a reward after a prank though, I think I would more readily forgive the shop and be more likely to take the joke as light-hearted. Like you said, there is definitely a fine line there, but I do think it could be a lot of fun if done correctly. Great article!

  4. First of all, thanks for the history lesson about April Fools. Honestly a surprise that there is actually a reason for that. I wonder why new year’s was celebrated in april of all days?

    You do make some great points. Rather than “fooling someone to lose” you “fool them to win”. Not only will the memory stick with them, but it will also be a good memory forever linking it with your shop.

    As a business, pranking is quite delicate. People can be hard to amuse, or downright dense. Some might even lack a single humorous bone in their body. I’d probably stay away from negative pranks, and focus more on happy “mistakes”.

    One prank that I think can work for a business would be to collaborate with a different business. Let’s say, for a day, you can switch products. Like the menu will be reversed, and it might be booking mess, but it would end up promoting both shops in a way.

    • I never really like April Fool’s day myself. Some pranks are just downright mean and leaves people feeling negative. So yes, everything must be planned with care.

      Love your idea John about switching products with another store. It should help promote both businesses and give everyone a good chuckle.

  5. Who knew the history of April`s Fool day was so interesting? I acctually never wondered about its origin but took it as it is, as April`s Fool Day, a day to prank people. I am gratefull for the opportunity to acctually learn how it became the way it is nowadays. 😀

    In addition, I am not much of a prankster and I do not encourage it, because I believe that it brings more negative feelings than happy ones. Nevertheless, that does not mean that well organised, thought out pranks could not result in some amazing pranks people would enjoy and which could bring in more customers and money for the business owner.

    All in all, when trying to prank people one must be extremely careful, especially if ones business is on the line.

  6. A little late to the party, but I remember one of the best profitable April Fool’s pranks were done by Cards Against Humanity. They made so much money out of selling literal cow dung. Then again, it also depends on your customer base.

    I think the one good cafe prank I would pull off would be a mystery drink. A customer could pay for a regular sized coffee and get a random or unexpected drink! This could be an off-the-menu beverage or a brand new flavor.

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