Planning for a Profitable, Busy, and Fun Holiday Season: 7 Tips Coffee Roasters Can Use Today

August 22, 2023

It’s never too early to start planning for the end-of-year holiday season. No matter the size of your coffee roasting business, the incredibly busy time of year from Halloween through New Year’s Eve has the potential to launch your sales to new heights… and test your sanity, too. 

Prioritizing holiday planning and executing a documented strategy is the key to a profitable and effective holiday season. The sooner you start, the less stress overall!

And while it’s never too early to get a jumpstart on your holiday plans, there is a time when it becomes too late. We put together this quick guide to show you a few tips that will help you have a profitable and joyous holiday season (no matter when you start planning!)

1. Set Goals for the Holiday Season

Before you start worrying about holiday decorations and seasonal coffee blends, take a moment to decide what you want to achieve this holiday season. You won’t be able to set a plan in motion unless you have a goal in mind.

Your holiday-related goals can include:

  • Increasing coffee bean sales in November and December by 15%, in comparison to last year
  • Growing average ticket sales by a specific percentage
  • Launching, promoting, and selling an exclusive holiday blend or single origin lot by November to maximize exposure
  • Having merchandise ordered, delivered, and on the shelves by mid-November

Chances are, you’ll have several goals in mind. The trick to achieving your holiday season goals is to document them. As it turns out, you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

Naturally, if you start planning for the holidays early, you’ll have ample time to accomplish your goals. However, if you’re a bit delayed, don’t worry! You’ll just need to be creative with your goals.

2. Make a Plan (No, Really. Make a Plan!)

Once you have a defined goal, you can make a plan to set out and achieve it. But here’s the kicker—this only works if you take the time to devise a thorough plan.

All too often, coffee business owners get swept up in the day-to-day needs of the roastery and café. They’ll set well-intentioned holiday goals, but fail to execute them because there wasn’t a definitive plan of action. Do yourself a favor and plan out how you intend to meet each of your goals.

Let’s use holiday merchandise as an example. We’ll imagine that your goal is to sell branded T-shirts, mugs, and tote bags during the holidays.

To achieve this, you’ll need to…

Define “Big Picture” Overview:

  • Set a realistic goal for how much holiday product you want to sell. Remember, you don’t want to be left with much holiday inventory come January.  
  • Set a budget (keep those minimum order quantities and bulk discounts in mind!)
  • Create a timeline that includes product ordering and delivery, web updates, and more. Make sure you know how far ahead you need to get the wheels in motion so everything is in place when the holiday rushes begin.
  • Create a marketing/promotional plan for the holiday items

Create and assign individual tasks for each section of the process:

Order Product:

  • Work with a designer (or yourself) to create artwork for each item
  • Research and identify suppliers for each product
  • Review proofs and make design adjustments as needed
  • Place orders with enough time to accommodate shipping and delivery

Create Products and Bundles in Systems: 

  • Decide what holiday bundles the products will be included in, in addition to selling individually. 
  • Decide on pricing 
  • Update POS with new products and bundles
  • Update website with new bundles

Create Marketing / Promotional Plan: 

  • Create art / photos to use in promotions of products
  • Plan content for social media posts
  • Decide on when and what discounts / promotions to offer
  • Create and schedule promotional emails 

Rinse and repeat every year! 

As you can imagine, this isn’t a linear process either! Creating a step-by-step plan ensures you’re on track to meet your goals by providing a visual reminder.

Of course, no plan is complete without deadlines! Set a final deadline for your project plus due dates for each task related to the end goal. 

Best of all, you can apply this practice to your regularly-scheduled roasting processes too. Think about all that goes into getting a new single origin coffee on the shelf:

  • Request samples from importing and/or coffee-producing partners
  • Roast green coffee samples
  • Cup samples
  • Sign a contract for desired coffee and request delivery
  • Develop a satisfactory roast profile
  • Calculate and plan roasting production
  • Design and print bag labels or other packaging
  • Package coffee into 12oz, 1lb, and 5lb bags
  • Add to ecommerce store, wholesale portal, and retail shelves
  • Promote in email newsletter, social media, and website marketing campaigns

One product requires all these little tasks!

Creating a step-by-step plan to achieve your holiday season goals ensures that you make significant progress toward the desired result. And, spoiler alert, it doesn’t have to be the holiday season for this trick to work!

3. Be Wise With Deadlines

We all know how chaotic the holiday season can be. Between shipping delays, limited inventory, inflation, and so much more, there’s so much out of our control—all with the potential to cause a major problem within our roastery. 

With this in mind, be careful when you set holiday project deadlines. For instance, if you want to have a brand new single origin coffee on the shelf for Black Friday, don’t make your deadline Thanksgiving! 

It’s much better to set an earlier deadline and give yourself some extra time. 

4. Stay On Top of Green Coffee Inventory Management

Managing your green coffee inventory is a major element of staying sane during the holiday season (and all year long.) During the holidays, you’ll notice a significant uptick in order frequency and volume from both wholesale, ecommerce, and in-store customers. With this in mind, get your green coffee needs to be squared away well in advance! To do so, you’ll need to forecast how much green coffee you’ll need. 

Easier said than done, right?

Chances are, you have a spreadsheet or database currently organizing your green coffee inventory. You could simply add 10-15% more green coffee to your importer contracts. But is 10-15% more actually enough to satisfy the increase in customer demand during the holidays? Perhaps 10-15% more is far too much green coffee and now you’re stuck with more inventory than necessary.

⭐️ Instead, rely on coffee roasting software such as RoasterTools to manage your inventory and analyze demand!

Since the goal is to avoid running out of green coffee at a critical point during the holidays, do your best to:

  • Contract enough green coffee to last the remainder of the year, factoring in the seasonal increase in demand
  • Order coffee well in advance to avoid shipping delays, rush delivery fees, and headaches all around
  • Create a seasonal blend that uses coffees you already implement into other blends (giving you inventory flexibility before, during, and after the holiday rush!)

5. Don’t Forget About The Rest of Your Inventory

Sure, having enough green coffee is extremely important to the success of a coffee roastery and cafe during the holidays. But so are bags, labels, paper cups, packing supplies, boxes, and other essential supplies. 

We can’t stress enough how complicated the holidays can be, thanks to increased orders, relentless shipping delays and inaccurate tracking routes. With everyone trying to get their hands on various products, it can take weeks or even months to receive your inventory. And by that point, it may be too late. 

Stock up on all necessary packaging, shipping, and roasting supplies well before the holidays!

Since profitability is the goal, be sure to chat with your suppliers about bulk volume discounts and the possibility of better net terms too.

6. Work Smarter, Not Harder 

We know, we know. It’s a cliche saying, but it’s true!

The last thing you want to do during the holidays is create extra work for yourself and your production crew. This means you’ll need to work smarter, not harder. 

Here are three quick ways to do this:

Eliminate Inefficiencies 

One way to work smarter ahead of the holidays is to reduce any roasting, production, or internal inefficiencies at your roastery. Inefficient processes not only slow down your roasting and production capabilities during the peak holiday season, but they also cost you more in the long run! The more inefficient your processes, the more you’ll pay in overhead, labor, and inventory costs. 

Don’t forget to eliminate inefficiencies and redundancies in your holiday-specific processes too! From ecommerce shipping to gift wrapping in-store, find ways to streamline every procedure at your roastery without affecting quality or the level of service. 

Even simple solutions can make a big difference. When we owned a roastery and cafe, we used a simple green sign to identify shipments that were ready to have labels printed, boxes taped, and shipped out. This cheap, simple and clear solution helped us reduce holiday order errors and improve our team’s efficiency overall!

Work With What You’ve Got

There’s a lot you can accomplish with the green coffee, inventory and merchandise you already have on hand. You can:

  • Create holiday gift bundles using bags of coffee, merchandise, and gift cards (👉Check out how RoasterTools can help you create product bundles!)
  • Launch an exclusive discount on existing merchandise and/or coffee products for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping holidays
  • Run bulk sales online promotions (Buy 3 bags of coffee, get 1 free, etc.)
  • Offer limited-time shipping promotions or volume discounts to wholesale customers

If you’re looking to keep costs low this holiday season, it’s in your best interest to work smarter with the resources you’ve got. 

Use Digital Tools to Your Advantage

While sticky notes, spreadsheets, and text message threads have their purpose, they can complicate a busy holiday season. Instead, rely on tools designed to help you stay organized and on top of your holiday goals. 

A few of our favorite tools include:

  • Slack — Great for asynchronous team communication 
  • Trello — Organize projects and stay on top of deadlines
  • Canva — A quick and easy design tool for promos, graphics, and so much more.
  • Email Marketing — We love email marketing tools like MailChimp and Klayvio. You can prepare emails in advance and schedule them for when your customers are most active.
  • Shopify — Streamline all ecommerce activities, including shipping label purchases
  • RoasterTools — We’re a bit biased, of course, but we created RoasterTools to help roasteries make all aspects of inventory management, roast production, and order fulfillment a breeze… even during the holiday craziness! Our bundle feature makes it easy to create gift packages for retail or wholesale orders and then factor these needs  into your daily production tasks.  

Beyond digital tools, remember to train your employees on proper selling techniques during the holidays. Empower them to strike up conversations with customers and identify unique sales opportunities.

7. ‘Tis the Season to Collaborate

Customers love supporting small businesses during the holidays. Fortunately, there are many ways to collaborate with other local entrepreneurs that drive success—and most importantly, profitability—for both parties!

  • Pop-Up Events and Holiday Markets: Consider hosting pop-up events throughout the holiday season that highlight local vendors and artisans. Folks can stop by your roastery or café for a delicious coffee and pick up a few holiday gifts at the same time! Or, you can also sell your blends, single origin coffees, and merchandise at a local market.
  • Increase Wholesale Volume: Want to drive more wholesale orders to close out the year? Talk to your accounts about offering a holiday blend, collaborating on a co-branded line of coffee, or co-hosting an event together. 
  • Subscription Boxes: Locally-made subscription boxes are all the rage during the holiday season. Seek out subscription box companies that highlight products from your city, state, or region, and inquire about including your coffee in their holiday boxes.
  •  Work With Local Partners: Another wonderful way to spread holiday cheer and increase sales is to add local products to your gift boxes. In the past, we offered a gift box that included a bag of our coffee along with a bottle of locally-made maple syrup and pancake mix! A little breakfast treat, all made right in our backyard. 

Late to Holiday Planning? Don’t Panic!

If you stumbled upon our article at the beginning of December, don’t worry. You can still be profitable and busy during the holidays, even with a few weeks left until the major winter holidays.

First, take a deep breath. You’ve got this.

Now, look at how much time you have left before the holidays arrive. The amount of time available will determine what you can feasibly achieve given:

  • Your existing green coffee, paper goods, and packaging inventory levels
  • Shipping cutoff times for major holidays
  • Staffing levels (you’ll need to plan around time off requests!)
  • The quick turnaround time

You may not have the time or resources to launch a multi-week marketing campaign or develop a holiday blend with brand new packaging, but you can still increase sales and customer awareness during the peak shopping season.

When time is of the essence, consider one of the following ideas:

  • Launching a last-minute holiday product bundle
  • Partnering with a wholesale account to host a gift-wrapping party for customers. You provide the coffee, they’ll provide the venue and gift wrap!
  • Offering a gift card promotion
  • If you own a café, create a fun holiday drink with the ingredients you already have on hand

Success during the holiday season takes defining a set goal, making a plan of action, and setting a deadline. The rest will fall into place as you execute your strategy.

No matter when you start planning for the busy holiday season, we’re here to help keep you organized and on top of your goals. Discover how RoasterTools can help streamline your roasting operations for an efficient, fun, and profitable holiday season. Sign up for a free trial today!

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Jon French of Black Oak Coffee Roasters ❤️RoasterTools
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Using RoasterTools, Jon French estimates saving $1,000 per month at Black Oak Coffee Roasters while supercharging his team for growth☕️+ 💻= 🚀
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Jon French of Black Oak Coffee Roasters ❤️RoasterTools
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