Café culture has long existed throughout Europe but made its way to the U.S. with the greater adoption of espresso. This shift from the coffee diner staple to an elevated, premium drink brought a slower pace and inviting atmosphere of the café setting. One large chain out of Seattle also helped catapult this European café lifestyle into ubiquity for most of the country.
However, it is the independent coffee shop that embodies authentic café culture and creates a distinct and preferred destination over the larger chains.
A great benefit to cafes is that consumers continue to increase their interest in espresso-based beverages. Gourmet coffee consumption has increased by 25% since 2015. This appreciation for more exceptional coffees, plus increased use of dairy and sweeteners, continues to open the doors for heightened creativity and signature drinks by talented baristas.
By developing a signature menu of drinks, along with making each coffee creation a custom work of art, a café can cultivate a loyal fan base. Rather than trying to compete with the major chains, set yourself apart with drinks and an experience unique and special to your café alone.
With the continuous innovation and adoption of new types of beans, milk, sweeteners, toppings, and infusions, there is no end to what is possible. An ongoing series of new introductions, limited-time features, and seasonal delights will keep patrons engaged plus drive new, curious traffic.
Accompaniments to Linger Longer
Quality breakfast pastries are an expectation for many café visitors. An indulgent sweet treat, along with your morning coffee, is what many consider a perfect start to their day—just taking that moment to enjoy and indulge before the morning starts.
A noticeable change in coffee consumption that has come with the influx of the younger generation of coffee consumers is a move to the afternoon. Younger consumers are almost twice as likely to enjoy their coffee at lunchtime, leading to a need to introduce more lunch and afternoon snack options. Yogurts, fruits, and mini sandwiches all do a great job of fitting this mid-day snacking bill.
What about introducing an ice cream or gelato offerings? Refreshing sweet treats can attract afternoon snack seekers, provide an additional draw in the warmer months, and also enable expanded coffee offerings with affogato creations.
A well-rounded, yet simple snack offering can give guests the added incentive to linger a little longer, absorb the relaxing café environment, and motivate them to come back again and again.
Cafes are desirable members of the community and should cultivate that image. It can make each café distinct and further differentiated from the chains.
A favorite local cafe should be a comfortable and inviting place to take a moment for oneself or visit with friends. To further entrench a sense of community, cafes should embrace neighborhood activities. Perhaps host local musician nights, book clubs, or catering small local events.
With décor, a significant factor in creating a cozy and inviting environment, cafes can make even this an extension of the community by showcasing local artists on the walls or local builders and designers with custom furniture pieces.
Having a community posting board both physically in-store, but also online can continue that connection to your digital presence. Use your website and social media channels to highlight your community involvement, in addition to your fantastic menu. Let loyal and potential guests know how you support the local town and its people.
Taking a break from the day is a more significant part of other international cultures than in America. But the café culture, whether embodied as an escape to work quietly, socialize in intimate groups or just enjoy a warm beverage and snack, is one Americans have quickly embraced. Make your unique café culture stand out by promoting all that you do well. From your signature coffee creations to all-day gourmet snacks or community involvement, communicate that culture. Promote online, on sidewalk chalkboards, or window posters. Invite them in. You know they will stay. And return.
Catherine Porter is a marketing consultant specializing in the food industry. Known for her comprehensive understanding of foodservice trends, consumer insights, and industry dynamics with the ability and vision to synthesize the information into new products, strategies, and solutions for operators and manufacturers. You can find Catherine on Twitter at @cpmktservices or on LinkedIn.