It’s kind of intuitive at this point to expect writers and freelancers to populate the tables at your coffee shop; the modern coffee shop has become the office for the office-less worker, after all. And then, of course, there are the bookstores (you know, that big chain named for noblemen and barnyards–10 points if you get that joke, and apologies either way) with their built in coffee shops that invite customers to sip a caffeinated beverage while they peruse a book they probably won’t buy.
Those chain bookstores are evidence that readers want a place to sit, read and stimulate their mind (with descriptions of other worlds in addition to three or four shots of espresso). Just because there isn’t a bookstore attached to your coffee shop does not mean that you can’t attract readers.
With the setup of your shop, you could consider comfortable seating options if you’re looking to attract bookworms. You also need decent light, so that your readers don’t feel the eye-strain that discourages from doing that reading.
To attract a literary set, you could include literary references on your menu, with item names reflecting classical characters or authors or settings. This will send the message to readers looking for a reading spot that their kind of people work and run your shop. It will also inspire those customers who may not have previously wanted to hang out and read–the longer they hang out the more likely they are to buy more products and come back again.
One solid strategy for attracting these customers is to provide books yourself. You can have a bookshelf or small library open to your readers, either with systemized borrowing or on the honor system. You could attract and advertise this collection by offering a free or reduced beverage or pastry if someone donates a book.
You can host events like book signings (which we have another blog about on this site) that will get those dedicated fans of literature into your space and associated in their mind with their favorite author or series. You could also set up book clubs with your staff, advertising to your customers through email, in-store flyers or social media posts. Having this monthly session, with perhaps free pastries for the group and an espresso bar open late would inspire further attendance by book club members and positive associations with your space. You could also reach out to local established book clubs or through apps like meetup to offer your space for their meetings. You can choose what sort of setup this would be, but just staying open an hour longer for them, or offering a free pastry to members of their group would be enough to entice them. You could come up with custom, temporary beverages based on the book of the month, advertising the book connection to other customers and enhancing the positive feelings of the club members.
For book clubs, also, you’ll want to have communal spaces that they can easily gather in, like a round of couches and armchairs, communal tables, or a secluded section of the store. This way, they could potentially hold their club meeting during regular hours or you could accommodate them along with non-book-club customers at the same time!
To accommodate readers, finally, you want to be aware of the noise of your space. Low-ish lighting inspires quieted conversation which is optimal for readers. If you have music playing, it shouldn’t be distracting but it also shouldn’t be unstimulating (so that your readers don’t end up snoozing on their books like pillows).