True in part to my New Year resolution, I held a business meeting in an independent coffee shop today just next door to a Starbucks. The cafe was presented well and four staff were busy preparing for the lunchtime rush, at 11am. As my guests were late, I had a half hour overview of footfall on the street outside and in the restaurant.

Six customers. Barely enough to form the queue in Starbucks or Pret-a-Manger just down the road. Plus one Italian girl who dropped off her CV. Some people stopped to look at the posters in the window and moved on.

The owners seemed quite happy. When I left just after 1215, they were doing brisk trade. However, I have the impression that the business is not working hard enough. It could easily have managed 120 customers between 11 and 12, instead of 12. This is lost profit as the fixed overheads and staff costs are already in place.

The owners are clearly busy – perhaps too busy to take time to look at the potential that their cafe has. What should they do? Find a business friend and ask them to visit and suggest improvements. It is often hard to see the opportunities in your own business if they are not the ones you are looking for. Some marketing to persuade people bored with Starbucks to give their cafe a go would not be amiss either.