Pour a Cup of Inspiration

What’s Brewing for Coffee Shops in 2021

More than a place to relax with a hot drink, cafés are now steeped into the routine of daily life, playing any number of roles for their patrons throughout the day. Ask any coffee shop owner who their target market is, and most will list four or more contrasting consumer groups because they have built their foundations upon unabashedly welcoming the whole community. Whether hosting workshops or parties, acting as impromptu meeting places for work, becoming the hub for local community groups and more recently, providing casual office or study space as consumers seek a change from their own four walls, cafés are well and truly the chameleons of the hospitality sector.

So what makes a good coffee shop and what trends are we expecting to see roll out in 2021?

Premiumisation is Here to Stay

Consumers have long shown their appetite for premium food and beverages. Lattes and cappuccinos which were the aspirational drink of the 90s have now been superseded by Lungo, nitro cold brew and Dalgona coffee. Our thirst for new and exciting flavours is driving an explosion of new products, each one targeting a different consumer group.

Upgrading your offer to a premium product has never been more simple, some of the more popular initiatives include:

  • Offer a rotating menu of single origin coffees and small batch blends. 10 years ago, this was limited to a few artisan shops
    but is now becoming more widespread. “We have a feature roaster program which allows us to cycle through a variety of roasters from across the country and world. Our customers love to try new single origin espressos and pour over options” says Brandon & Lindsay Duensing of Craft & Common.
  • To keep health savvy consumers happy, a good selection of herbal teas is key but you need to think beyond your hot beverage offering. “For something a little bit different you could consider offering Kombucha, a fermented tea with live cultures, that is a massive trend in the marketplace.”comments Liliana Jauregui, Good Earth.
  • Hot chocolate is another beverage which can be made more profitable as consumers seek comforting ways to treat themselves during the day. “The addition of toppings and the use of different flavours of hot chocolate allows for customisation – something consumers are often happy to pay a premium for” says Anna Sentence, Callebaut UK.
  • Cold beverages such as craft juice is a growing trend amongst health conscious consumers, “There has been a relentless increase in all things craft over the past couple of years” says Chris Banks of Cracker Drinks, “as such, we have developed a whole range of grab-and-go juice drinks to allow cafés to satisfy this demand.”
  • Taste and price are among consumers’ top three considerations when choosing viennoiserie so balancing both is important. “Operators should look for ranges that balance premium and value – such as our Smart Blend range, which delivers reduced prices without sacrificing quality. Meanwhile, our Délifrance Héritage range offers a more premium value-added option that uses only the finest ingredients to create unique tasting and artisanal looking bakery products, from rustic breads to classic croissants. Additionally, think more about the consumer experience: an attractively ranged display cabinet, warm welcome and some thought to the takeaway packaging all add to the experience without the need for a premium price tag.” Says Stéphanie Brillouet, marketing director, Délifrance.
  • Build your menu with complimentary pairings which are sold throughout the day to increase the average spend. Schulstad Bakery Solutions recommend pairing their Apple Crown with matcha tea or a cinnamon swirl with hot chocolate.

Elevating food and beverage menus within a coffee shop environment is not limited to cafés. Hotels and universities are also stepping up to meet the demand for a gourmet offering in their respective sectors. “We know guests are demanding better quality coffee because they are experiencing it on the high street. The range of drinks has broadened and the environments have improved massively” comments Wayne Horo, F&B Director, InterContinental Hotels.

Cappuccino Commerce

Cafés and coffee shops have long been a popular location for remote working, giving employees space outside of their homes and that all important connection with others. As the pandemic slowly abates, remote working will be the option of choice for many of us, and cafés offering wi-fi services will certainly see their footfall increase as a result, but will it also improve turnover?

There are a few schools of thought within the community on this topic; some business owners are concerned about consumers ‘overstaying’ without spending, while others are putting plans in place to gently nudge those who may overstay their welcome. Using a wi-fi service to limit the usage of free wi-fi may help alleviate this problem, or consider renting tables for the morning or afternoon, complete with free refills which may help to drive traffic at quieter times of the day. 

It is easy to underestimate the importance of remote workers to coffee shops. For many, a trip to their local café represents a much-welcomed break. “If people know they can come in and grab a coffee within a few minutes, they’ll make it part of their routine, but if the service is slow, people won’t wait.” says Lynsey Harley, Modern Standard Coffee. Edwin and Magda Harrison, owners of Artisan Cafés agree, stating “Everyone needs an escape from their day to day, and often the few minutes chat they have with our bouncy and enthusiastic team really helps.”

Keeping it Local

Whether selling locally sourced products or home-made goods, highlighting what is local and unique to your business will
continue to drive sales as we move into 2021. Examples of this can be found at Craft & Common who make their own syrups in house and recently featured a homemade syrup in their Apple Pie Matcha, topped with a homemade cinnamon oat foam. Climpson & Sons also make their own beverages, fermenting tomato juice and pineapple juice to make a drink similar to tepache, a Mexican street food drink.

Homemade baked goods are also popular amongst consumers “We have introduced Paul’s homemade sausage rolls, freshly made every day with flavours such as cheese and marmite” says Fleur “We also have a signature millionaire shortbread dusted with gold which we expanded to include an After Eights version, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and a Ferrero Rocher one, they went down amazingly well.”

Sourcing local ingredients and working with the community is one of the most common strategies used by independent coffee shops and cafés to compete against larger chains. “Our customers enjoy having locally sourced items and being able to help smaller businesses by buying their products” says Fleur, Bongusta “We buy locally from the bakery and butcher as well as buying local jams, chutney and honey. We also sell pictures and items made by local artists.”

Social & Environmentally Conscious Consumers

Increasingly, consumers want to learn more about the products they purchase and are conscious of the impact of unethical trading around the world. Taylors of Harrogate have responded to this by building strong relationships with their suppliers to deliver the transparency consumers demand. “All our coffee is 100% CarbonNeutral® from field to shelf, and rather than buying carbon credits from existing programmes, we decided to create new projects that would provide long term benefits to our suppliers” says Katie White, Taylors of Harrogate.

Providing recyclable cups, encouraging consumers to bring their own reusable cups and reducing waste is also high on the agenda of environmentally conscious consumers. “We are looking for artisanal products with a relatively long shelf life, that we can individually package for customers to grab and go – such as brownies, tray bakes, muffins etc” comments Edwin and Magda Harrison, Artisan Cafés.

Food waste can also be reduced by avoiding menu proliferation, “Items that are both gluten-free and vegan friendly make it easier for caterers to manage workloads and safe distancing in kitchens” says Gordon Lauder, MD of Central Foods. Businesses who have not yet fully engaged with this trend, should elevate it on their ‘to do’ list for 2021!

Welcome to the 5th Wave

No, we are not talking about the COVID-19 pandemic (for once!), the 5th Wave represents a new era for businesses, focusing on revolutionising the consumer experience by delivering a more customer centric operation than ever before.  For coffee shops and cafés, this could involve the introduction of an artisan experience or using technology such as apps to drive loyalty or smart payment systems, table ordering and click & collect options. “This year, the most successful introduction was the mobile ordering app, enabling pick-up and minimising waiting times” comments Rob Helper, Stanton Daily Grind.

Operators are also adopting LCD screens to advertise their menus, using moving graphics to create visual disruption and draw consumers attention to new additions or introductions. The impact of the recent pandemic has been so transformative, we are certain that new technologies and processes will continue to be introduced throughout 2021 as businesses get back to full operation.

As 2021 progresses and lockdown measures ease, coffee shops and cafés will increasingly play a vital role in our everyday lives and the changing face of the workplace of tomorrow means there are exciting times ahead. Whether situated in hotels, event spaces or universities, an additional service in bars and restaurants or a stand-alone café, there are plenty of opportunities for operators to create unique environments that quickly become community hubs and destinations for a well-deserved treat. Understanding the diversity of consumers and responding to their changing behaviours and demands in this sector as we start making a shift towards another “new normal” will undoubtedly be the key to ongoing success.

“Good marketing and clearly signposted vegan credentials will win a share of the vegan pound and give the opportunity to upsell hot drinks and sell non-vegan products to others in a group.” Comments Stéphanie Brillouet, marketing director, Délifrance