Is there Still a Market for Independent Coffee Shops?


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The coffee shop business has changed over the last few years. In the past, coffee shops were small locally owned businesses that customers frequented daily. They could get a plain cup of coffee for less than a dollar and catch up with their local neighbors. Today?s coffee shops are a little different. Small cities are filled with large brands of coffee that churn out expensive and unique coffee drinks. They are billion dollar businesses that have the means available to market and overtake the market. Does this mean that there is no longer a market for the small town coffee shop? It does not.

Get to know your customers

One of the appeals that have been lost on the larger chained coffee shops is the customer recognition. Customers once enjoyed stopping into their favorite coffee shop every morning and catching up with the barista and other customers, while stirring their favorite cup of coffee. Today, coffee transactions tend to be much less personal. To achieve the traditional small town coffee feel, simply get to know your customers. Remember their name, their career, and their family, and you are sure to gain a loyal customer. Take it to the next step by remembering birthdays and anniversaries of your most loyal customers.

Offer incentives

It can be difficult to convince coffee enthusiasts to frequent your coffee shop versus the large chain just down the road. Offering incentives is a great way to not only keep your customers coming back, but to attract new customers who could become loyal visitors. Incentives can include frequent customer programs, free small cups of coffee, or free upsizes. Coupons and other discounts can also be very effective in encouraging repeat customers. Simply place white disposable coffee cups along with a pot of plain brewed coffee and enough stirrers. Your customers will come for the free coffee, but will pay for the additions or food items on the menu.

Develop a specialty coffee menu

One of the biggest advantages that larger coffee shops have is their ability to create specialty and unique coffee drinks. These specialty drinks keep new customers coming in the door and keep customers loyal to them. Specialty coffees represent 37% of US coffee cups and are considered the highest quality in the world. Specialty drinks are extremely common right now and to succeed as a small town coffee shop, you will need to also offer specialty coffee drinks. Test out different ingredients and stir them together. Offer free samples and place well liked ones permanently on the menu.

Give out freebies

Giving out branded free items is another great way to promote your coffee shop to others. Give new customers something like cheap coffee mugs with a catchy logo on the front. As other people see that mug with the logo, they are more likely to recognize your business and then choose to try it. Other free items include mugs, coffee stirrers, soup bowls, T shirts, or even a bag of your home roasted coffee. Giving away a free bag of coffee will allow customers to try a new kind and they may just return to purchase more.

Open a drive through or rapid pick up service

Large chained coffee shops tend to be extremely convenient. Most have drive thrus, which are perfect for grabbing a quick coffee in the morning. If you are unable to offer a drive thru service, consider instead a rapid pick up service. This allows customers to order ahead and quickly pick up their coffee. Either way, ensure that you are properly staffed in the mornings for the quickest speed possible. Your customers will appreciate the efficiency and are likely to come back morning after morning.

The United States are avid coffee drinkers. While it seems like chained coffee shops are taking over the market, there still is a demand for small town coffee shops. Independent coffee shops still have $12 billion in annual sales. To succeed as an independent coffee shop, you have to know your market, be willing to increase your customer appreciation, and find unique ways to bring customers back to the small town coffee shop.

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