Whether it’s a cappuccino, a latte, an espresso, or simply black coffee, coffee has become a way of life for most people. The ever-growing market appeal of the specialty coffee business has promoted this tangible shift in the coffee culture of America. With more people becoming interested in preparing a good cup of coffee in the comfort of their homes, coffee education is becoming a relatively mainstream experience to partake in.
So then, what is it about a coffee shop that gets someone out of his or her home and in the doors of their favorite local coffee shop? While this is a common (and very good question) many coffee entrepreneurs should consider when putting together their coffee shop business plan, it should go without saying that for the customer there’s usually an immediate unique feel to it. In other words, a costumer generally doesn’t require a coffee class to know what makes a coffee shop stand out from the rest. Maybe it is the aroma of fresh brewed coffee at the entrance of the door. Or, the perfect balance of flavors that one experiences from a cappuccino prepared by their favorite barista. Perhaps it’s simply the inviting atmosphere that a great coffee shop exudes. From a consumer’s perspective, the best spots are measured by some, if not most, of the following criteria.
- The coffee: people who come into a coffee shop don’t come to have coffee out of a can. This they can have that home. Quality-driven coffee businesses should use high-quality coffees and have close relationships with their coffee roasters, if they are not the roasters themselves.
- The culture: There’s no use in going to a coffee shop if you don’t feel enriched by the experience. A great coffee shop will want to take specific measures to enrich the community they serve. Even if they do serve in multiple locations, each location should feel like it is part of a tight-knit community space. It might be the “home away from home” feeling that welcomes the ability to get lost in a good book or conversation, or the “grab and go” atmosphere that manages to still provide fast yet tasty coffee. A lot of times though, it’s simply the energy between the customer and the barista that provides the welcoming atmosphere. Most individuals welcome the coffee education they receive when they ask about a certain coffee name scribbled on the blackboard, but it’s hard to engage a guest to try something new or different is hard when they feel intimidated or turned off by the professional offering the advice. Which is of course, a great segway into the third consideration of a great coffee shop…
- The barista: Mostly for the reasons previously mentioned, a good barista, apart from dedicating themselves to their craft by attending barista classes, for example, will always strive to provide exceptional customer service. Lastly, there’s the “unique” factor. This one will be different for all coffee businesses. It can be an integration of all the other criteria mentioned, but for the most part, the unique factor is the aspect of the coffee shop that leaves every single guest eager for a return visit.
In the end, everything from the coffee roasters, the buyers, the baristas, the menus, and the owners must be in harmonic congruence for the coffee shop to turn the occasional guest into a coffee shop regular. One quick glance and a consumer can tell if the coffee shop respects or even takes their coffee business seriously. For the coffee business entrepreneur this means building quality relationships with your supply chain and continually elevating your staff culture through ongoing barista training, coffee education, customer service training, and implementing a testing system for accountability. This is key if providing your guests with a unique and meaningful specialty coffee experience that keeps them coming back for more. All of this starts with your coffee shop business plan, which should include all the nuts-and-bolts of your coffee business operational planning, market and location analyses, product and customer targeting strategy, branding, store design ideas, marketing, suppliers, and of course your financial plan. The devil is in the details, but don’t forget that for the consumer it’s about a good cup of coffee with good people in a good atmosphere in which to enjoy it.