Coffee Shop Strategy 101: Targeting Your Concept to Your Customers

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nafinia-putra-Kwdp-0pok-I-unsplashYour coffee shop concept, which includes your aesthetic and menu, is what makes people choose your business over other options. It’s what draws them in, brings them back and gets them to tell their friends that they have to try your lattes or chill on your patio. 

But how do you assure that your coffee shop concept resonates with people who live or work near your location? The answer: know your customers first and build your coffee shop strategy around their preferences.

Get in touch with our coffee shop strategy experts

Find your coffee shop strategy starting points

  • Consider your location.
    • Are you near a high school or college? On a commuter route or near office buildings? Different customer bases want different things from a coffee shop. Observe the flow of traffic around your prospective location and jot some notes about who shows up when. Drive or walk around the local streets until you're confident you understand the feel and rhythms of the neighborhood.
  • Identify your competition (and do a little reconnaissance).
    • Visit coffee shops near your prospective location at peak hours to see what customers are buying and what folks are raving about. You'll get a live snapshot about what's already working...or what's not. 
  • Talk to the experts.
    • Connect with a consultant. When you're making your first foray into the coffee shop owner's world, you can avoid common pitfalls by consulting with experts who have done this all before. Many coffee shop suppliers can offer advice and guidance about coffee shop strategy in addition to supplying products and equipment. Suppliers have the bandwidth to attend industry events and keep an eye on trends and their experience assisting with multiple coffee shop openings allows them guide you away from decisions that might suck your energy and budget in the wrong direction.
    • Touch base with your local chamber of commerce. They can provide you with  demographics of your would-be customer base, including age, income, and possibly even their local spending habits. They may also be able to connect you with small business strategy resources to help you tweak and target your coffee shop strategy even more accurately. 
    • Review industry research. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) publishes statistics on specialty coffee consumption and trends. They're a great resource for new coffee shop owners who are trying to a handle on the industry. The National Coffee Association also offers research resources that are worth reviewing to deepen your understanding of national coffee shop trends. 

Align your coffee shop menu design with your customer base

If you’re right next to a high school or college, you’re probably going to sell more cold and blended drinks than anything else. Next to a yoga studio or other fitness facility, you might sell more tea or natural, low-sugar items. Focus on items that will appeal to your target demographics. 

Price thoughtfully will your customer base accept higher-priced gourmet or house-made items, or does your target demographic require more accessible product cost levels? 

Prioritize uniqueness and be ready to be flexible. Compare your menu to your competitors to ensure that you're offering items your customers can't get elsewhere. Be ready to pivot if some things don’t sell and others take off.

Build your coffee shop layout around your customers

The art on your walls, the music you play, and your employee dress code all make an impression on customers. These things can seem like window dressing when you're psyched to offer your customers great coffee, but they're integral to creating an emotional experience that draws customers back in. 

Remember you're creating your coffee shop design and layout to express your vision and make your customers comfortable. Refer back to local demographics on age, income, extracurricular interests, and appeal to your base while staying true to your own preferences.

Be the only option

Depending on how many other businesses you're competing with, this can be as simple as being the only upscale French café option or the only smoothie-bar option. In a truly dense market with lots of competition (say, like the thousands of coffeehouses in Seattle) you may have to move into a much more specific niche such as specializing in super-high-end single-origin coffees, a unique pastry selection, or being incredibly kid friendly.

Pursue consistent quality

Maybe your smoothies involve the most creative flavor combos imaginable, or your outdoor seating is to-die-for. Use digital and face-to-face feedback to understand the overall perception customers have of your establishment and guide that perception toward appreciation and loyalty. 

Stay on top of the market

Every year, check in on what other shops are selling, and what’s trending in the specialty coffee industry overall. While attending industry events and keeping up on your industry reading is one way to do this, most coffee shop owners are too busy managing their shop to stay thoroughly on top of trends. This is where building a relationship with the vendor that sells you coffee shop supplies can offer you access to trend and industry knowledge that you might otherwise miss.

(Social media groups for coffee shop business owners can also be useful places to find community, ask questions and brainstorm ideas with other coffee shop owners.)

Don't assume your initial research about your customer base will hold true as the neighborhood and customer expectations for their coffee shop changes. 

Find a vendor who can support your goals

We think that might be us. If you're looking for a wholesale coffee shop supplies vendor that's more than just a catalog and a customer service line, we're here for you. Our decades of experience in the industry and passionate sales experts (who all come directly from the coffee and restaurant industry themselves) are here to assist you in getting your coffee shop strategy right the first time. Get in touch with us to learn how we can help you take your next step. 

Get in touch with our coffee shop strategy experts

More posts in this series:

Coffee Shop Strategy 101: How to Run a Coffee Shop Profitably

Coffee Shop Strategy 101: How to Control Coffee Shop Inventory & Food Cost