What Customers Want in a Coffee Shop (Tips & Consumer Trends)

The coffee industry is highly competitive, with approximately 89,368 coffee shops operating in the United States alone.

Moreover, the coffee industry is projected to continue to grow in upcoming years. This is good news for coffee shop owners: the coffee obsession in the United States means that coffee shops have tons of potential customers.

However, this also means that coffee shop owners must keep on top of the trends to ensure that these potential customers choose their shop over competing coffee shops.

In this article, we cover some of the most essential tips and trends for coffee shops, so your business can thrive in this buzzing environment!

What Customers Want and Expect from Their Coffee Shop Experience

1. An Aesthetic Experience

Coffee shops, more so than many other types of businesses, have a certain allure in the popular imagination. They are meeting places, workspaces, places for inspiration, a haven for hipsters and artists, places to have a date, and much more. They often occupy a middle ground between casual and sophisticated, where latte art and caffeine mix into a potent product.

One of the things that people most look for when they are going to a coffee shop is the type of aesthetic that the coffee shop embodies. This includes the type of furniture, the decorations, the posters or artwork on the walls, the employee uniform, the types of cups that their drinks come in, the light fixtures, the logo font, and the like.

There is no single aesthetic that a coffee shop should embody. There are many aesthetics to choose from, each catering to a particular niche. The important thing is that the aesthetic that is chosen appears intentional and is immediately recognizable.

Some examples of different aesthetics should suffice to illustrate the point. One aesthetic is the minimalist work cafe. This type of cafe typically has little decoration. There are functional tables, plenty of natural light, and a palette of colors that does not diverge much from black, gray, and white, and the colors that do diverge from this palette are typically muted.

The coffee is very high quality, and the cups all have attractive minimalist logos. You will not see much artwork on the walls. However, if there is artwork, it will typically be minimalist and abstract. There are lots of easily accessible charging ports, and the wifi is highly dependable and fast.

When people come to this type of coffee shop, they either stop in on their way to work or come to study, work, or have important meetings. The aesthetic is curated to provide an optimal environment for focus, and no one enters the cafe without perceiving its functional atmosphere.

Another example would be the “local favorite” coffee shop. There are certainly more variations on this theme than the “minimalist work cafe” but some key aspects are generalizable. This kind of coffee shop is somewhat hip and hints at bohemian roots. The tables are wooden and the floor is hardwood. There is natural light, but additionally, there are light fixtures that give off a warm quality of light.

The baristas are dressed casually, but the coffee is delicious. There are often couches or spaces with padded seating. There may very likely be artwork on the walls, and the artwork might even be from local artists. It is usually loud, because people come to this cafe for all types of purposes, often meeting with friends or meeting on a date.

People often work here too, but this is not the main focus, which is rather comfort and connection. This coffee shop has been the favorite of locals for years, but even people who are coming for the first time get a sense of comfort and belonging.

As said earlier, there are many different types of aesthetics, but making sure that the aesthetic is intentional (even if the aesthetic is meant to look “unintentional”) is incredibly important. This will draw customers that are very likely to become regular customers and will establish the primacy of your establishment among different key demographics.

2. A Broad Selection of Drinks

While many people prefer classic coffee drinks, there is an increasing trend toward customer preferences for more complex drinks, as well as non-coffee-based drinks.

Coffee shops should of course have options for drip coffee, americanos, cappuccinos, and traditional lattes, but coffee shops should also consider offering pour-over coffee along with an extensive selection of high-quality coffee beans. Make your coffee shop a place where coffee lovers can taste some of the best coffee beans from around the world.

In conjunction with this, coffee shop owners should ensure that the staff is well informed about the coffee that your shop offers. They should know where the coffee beans came from, how they were roasted, and what kinds of flavors they can expect from coffee brewed with particular beans.

Additionally, shops should take advantage of digital signage to display highly visible, visibly pleasing, and easily updatable information about the coffee beans that are currently being offered.

By displaying this kind of information, your customers will appreciate being informed about the product that they will be consuming, and it will likely drive more sales from more expensive coffee drinks when information about the beans inevitably catches the customer’s eye.

For small coffee businesses, it can often seem difficult to compete with the broad selection of drinks that chain coffee stores like Starbucks offer. However, a small business can focus on quality instead of only quantity by offering a modest selection of delicious and complex beverages.

There should also be a great selection of milk alternatives. The popularity of milk alternatives like soy milk and oat milk is mushrooming and shows no signs of slowing down. Many customers will likely be disappointed if they go to a coffee shop that does not have the option of milk alternatives in their drinks.

Finally, customers increasingly go to coffee shops to drink beverages that may not even have coffee in them. Some great examples include health smoothies, matcha-based drinks, kombucha, and other teas. Again, quality is more important than quantity, but you should make sure that customers have a lot to choose from when coming to your business.

A great selection of drinks is not enough. What also matters is how the drink options are presented to the customers. A great way to highlight your goods is to use a digital menu board.

Digital menu boards make it easy for customers to choose from an assortment of drinks, and the board can greatly enhance the aesthetic qualities of a coffee shop because digital signage software allows for various media like images, text, video, and animations to add to the ordering experience.

3. A Generous Selection of Food Items

People do not go to coffee shops to simply drink coffee. As we discussed before, coffee shops are places where socializing and work get done. This means that a lot of people will spend a considerable amount of time in the shop and that people will inevitably get hungry.

The fact is that many coffee shops lack a good selection of food. The trend is certainly a preference among consumers for healthy food options. These need not be complex works of culinary genius. But a few high-quality food items, combined with a selection of pastries, is pretty much a must for any coffee shop.

As with the drink selections, you can display these items in mouthwatering glory on digital menu boards to great effect. Digital menu boards also have the potential added benefit of decreasing perceived wait times. No one likes waiting in line, and this is especially true when people are craving caffeine.

A line in a coffee shop can feel like an eternity. However, digital menu boards often have a much greater entertainment value than traditional menus, and when people are entertained time will usually feel like it passes more quickly. Thus, customers will typically be more pleased with the ordering experience.

4. Customer Engagement and Community Building

For many people, a coffee shop can seem like a community space. There are many people that make friends at coffee shops with other customers and baristas. There are a number of ways that a coffee shop can increase a sense of community.

One way is to host events. There are many different types of events that can take place at a coffee shop. There can be coffee tasting events, live music events, cultural events, and much more. It's important that customers know about these events, and while traditional posters can work, there are certainly more effective methods.

Digital signage is superior to traditional even posters because they are more easily updatable and because they are more visually engaging. People might very easily overlook a traditional poster that talks about an upcoming event that they would very much want to attend.

This is much less a problem with digital signage, which can always keep customers up to date on the happenings at the coffee shop. Another great way to engage customers is to boost your coffee shop’s online presence. This means that your coffee shop should have social media accounts that align with the aesthetic of your brand identity as embodied in the physical store.

Through social media, you can promote events, promotions, and new products to customers. You can even host polls, asking for what kinds of seasonal drinks your customers would like to see on the menu.

The best way to highlight your digital presence is by bringing it into your store with the help of digital signage solutions. You can display your social media feeds on your digital signs so that people know that you have social media and can see that you are posting valuable content.

Finally, another great way to increase a sense of community at your coffee shop is to have a number of activities available for customers to engage in while at the store. A great example might be a table that is dedicated to chess.

People can meet each other by playing chess with other customers, and the chess board may even be a reason that certain customers return to your store time and time again.

5. A Great Playlist

Having a great music playlist in the background helps customers feel relaxed and entertained. Local coffee shops often attract repeat customers because they know they can count on a reliably good background soundtrack. Just be sure to keep the volume low so guests can talk to each other or concentrate on work they might have to do while there.

You also need to be aware that any music you play in a business needs to be licensed. That's where Loop TV comes in. Loop TV is a completely free streaming service that offers over 200 different, fully-licensed streaming channels of content, including an extensive music library across all genres. Loop also offers a full suite of free digital signage options you can use on your screens at the same time as your music or other entertainment content.

6. Rewards Programs

People love to get free stuff, and they are often willing to spend a good amount of money to get something for free. Most people will want a coffee shop to offer rewards programs. These can be established by a simple punch card, so when people buy a certain amount of drinks, they can swap their punch card for a free drink.

Many customers will choose your coffee shop over others because they have already started working their way to a free drink at your establishment. Another option is to have a membership program. There are many variants of this idea, but a good example would be a membership program that requires a monthly fee, and in exchange, gives members a number of “free” drinks per month.

Or, members could have first access to new drinks or exclusive access to the highest quality beans available that month. After a certain amount of months, a member might receive free merchandise, such as a branded cup that qualifies them for free refills after the purchase of drip coffee.

As we have said, there are countless variations, but establishing some sort of program to foster loyal customers will satisfy your customers and will likely increase your revenue. Both parties win.

Happy Customers, Better Business

Coffee shops can truly be special places to customers, but to make this happen, coffee shops need to take into account what the modern coffee consumer wants from a coffee shop.

A coffee shop should create an atmosphere that is identifiable. Many measures should be taken to make sure that people can more easily feel attached to your coffee shop.

By managing your coffee shop in a way that accords with the consumer trends and tips outlined in this article, you will be able to achieve these goals.