Extending the opening hours for your cafe can sometimes just be a matter of common sense. Maybe your location has a lot of foot traffic in the evening? Sure, a dinner service can make sense. Perhaps you experience a seasonal influx of customers? Why not offer dinner during the summer months? Staying open in the evening and generating enough revenue to make it consistently worthwhile can be problematic, but there are ways to keep your cafe busy in the evenings all year round.
Dinner on the Busy Nights
Perhaps the most straightforward way to offer a dinner service that will draw sufficient crowds is to limit it to the nights when people are more likely to go out for dinner, so you could just serve evening meals from Thursday to Sunday. Choose meals that are different than what's on offer during your daytime service, just to make your dinner service all the more special. But what about the other days of the week?
Set Menu and Discounts
On a midweek night when you're unlikely to attract enough customers to even cover costs, you need to get backsides on seats to make it worth your while. Does your cafe have a signature dish that you're proud of? Whether it's a goat cheese omelette or a kangaroo burger, put that dish front and centre as part of an attractively priced set menu, which is easier to put together from a food preparation standpoint. This could also be a discount night, with a codeword (shared via your social media) allowing customers to receive a hefty discount, although just how hefty is up to you.
Bingo and Quiz Nights
Logically, you'll want to get customers inside your cafe to eat, but you could use the space for other events that will draw a crowd. Consider arranging a trivia night or a bingo night, charge everyone a small(ish) entry fee, provide a few hors d'oeuvres and a prize of sorts (alcohol is always a good idea) and watch a typically quiet night for your cafe become wonderfully loud. Something interactive (such as a quiz or bingo night) is more likely to be appealing to customers (and profitable for you) than something that is more passive for the audience, like listening to a musician.
You might be perfectly happy closing your cafe in the afternoon, and that's all well and good for some. But if you want to keep your cafe packed well into the evening, you'll have to utilise a number of different options.