At long last, workers are slowly returning to the office for at least a few days a week and the international border has opened, with an uptick expected in visitors to Sydney’s CBD and other high-traffic areas. For small businesses that rely on office workers and tourists to earn an income, it’s a welcome change after two years of uncertainty and tough times.

But experts predict that it will take time for numbers to reach pre-pandemic levels. So what can you do to encourage more people to come to your business? We’ve compiled a few ideas that may help.

Consider adjusting hours. If you own a café, you may have shortened operating hours during the height of the pandemic and are thinking of readjusting now. That’s great news—and doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to doing exactly what you used to.

You might close after lunch but re-open for a few hours for after-work/pre-dinner coffees and nibbles. With the emphasis on people going into the office to collaborate rather than hunker down and do work, you might find more people are keen to pop in after work than used to be. After a long day of sightseeing or before getting to dinner reservations, tourists are often looking for a family-friendly place to rest their feet and get a caffeine fix.

Do some low-cost local advertising. Many neighbourhoods have Facebook groups where people post about local businesses on designated days­—it’s a great way to reach new people in the area who may not have tried your business. Drop off discount vouchers at the concierge of large office buildings or local hotels to drum up new customers. If you’re a services-based business, run a refer-a-friend program or have people go into the running for a prize when they come in for a treatment. If your area is running any type of revitalisation program, see if you can get involved. It all helps!

Reach out to existing customers. If it’s been a while since clients have heard from you, now is the perfect time to get in touch again. People’s routines have changed without commutes and out of sight, out of mind can be true. Whether it’s on social, via email, or through text messages, remind people you’re still in business and ready for them.

Take deposits at booking time. This might not be the sexiest thing on the list, but it is a bit of insurance for you to recoup some costs if people don’t come to their booking. It might seem like a nuisance, but people who have already forked over some cash are more likely to honour their reservation than someone who hasn’t. If you’re a business like a salon or a beauty therapist, you can also take a deposit at the end of the booking when customers make their next one. Most customers are understanding, given the times, and will happily comply.

Encourage people to tell a friend. Word of mouth is so important, and it never hurts to remind people that if they liked their coffee/meal/blowout, to tell a friend to come and support your small business, too.