The evolving role of the coffee shop

Anna Clapson
15 August, 22
The COVID pandemic has caused a shift in UK consumer habits when it comes to café culture and coffee drinking. It seems long periods of enforced abstinence, and the rising cost of living have only increased the desire for lower-ticket convivial experiences such as those shared with family, friends and colleagues in a relaxed café setting.

The COVID pandemic has caused a shift in UK consumer habits when it comes to café culture and coffee drinking. It seems long periods of enforced abstinence, and the rising cost of living have only increased the desire for lower-ticket convivial experiences such as those shared with family, friends and colleagues in a relaxed café setting. The experience of sitting down in a comfortable setting to socialise, without the high cost of something like a restaurant meal, seems to now be truly valued and is resulting in increased demand and appreciation for the sector[1]. The World Coffee Portal has in fact forecasted that the market will exceed 10,500 outlets by the end of 2026, which would represent 5.8% CAGR growth.[2] It must however be noted that with costs continuing to increase across the board, pushing prices up, interpreting forecasts that predict fluctuations in growth of spend must take this into consideration. 

There are a number of factors driving this demand. Not only was the true barista coffee experience difficult to replicate at home during the pandemic, but many turned to a walk and a cup of decent take-away coffee as an ‘activity’ during lockdown – as a result increasingly UK consumers are looking to enjoy coffee as an experiential activity, as opposed to it just being about consumption. Cafés with quirky and impressive interiors provide younger generations with the backdrop for social media content, and serve as creative inspiration. Added to this, many consumers have become ‘roamers’, no longer following a regular commute to the same office or workplace each and each day and using coffee shops as workspaces, which adds variety for a few hours to the working week.

Making the most of your space

Flexibility is now key for operators looking to make the most of their space which will see different demands emerge throughout the day. Tables and chairs that can be shifted around to create larger gangways and queuing space in the morning when commuters and parents post-school drop off may pop in to pick up a takeaway cup, that can equally be broken down and separated to create one-person spots for those looking to catch up with emails on their laptops whilst enjoying a coffee mid-morning. Moving later on into the day, groups of parents and collections of colleagues should be able to gather together around a bigger table, formed from a selection of furniture put together. For the weekends, this set-up is likely to be popular too as cliques of friends visit to enjoy time together over a brew.

Interiors sympathetic of your overall brand should not only provide a comfortable and appealing environment for people to sit and enjoy their experience, but should also include stand-out features that are photo-worthy, ideal for sharing on Instagram, where other potential customers will have visibility of your space. Neon lights, unusual wall art and clever planting can go a long way to creating something snap-worthy.  

Evolving day parts

It’s been estimated that by the end of 2022 25% of meals eaten out of home will be food-to-go, with the proportion of people going out on weekdays jumping by four percentage points between 2019 and 2021.

Many workers have returned to office spaces, albeit on a more ‘hybrid’ basis. The growing flexible approach to working, with blended start and finish times is meaning that day parts are evolving to cater to this market. We are seeing food-to-go sales during mid-afternoon and evening grow, as many continue to snack and hydrate regularly rather than just consume three meals a day, as many once did. Many are poorer on time than they have ever been and moving back to the commute means picking up familiar grab and go habits which were starting to become entrenched pre-pandemic.

Cafés and coffee shops should be optimising their offer to maximise on the opportunity here. Most food should be suitable for eating in or out, and grab-and-go options that can eaten with one hand on the move are ever-more important too.

Marketing your offer

Tapping into your customers emotionally is important when it comes to marketing your offer – be careful not to promote only the physical products you sell, but the experience your customers will get when they visit you – it’s this that they really value.

Utilise a variety of channels and be sure to consider all the different uses of your café space and how this impacts who you reach out to. Whether it’s local businesses targeted through flyers and geo-optimised paid social media, or ensuring you have a presence through local school groups, be sure to remind them that you have the space for their needs.

As the world continues to get back to our ‘new normal’, take note of what’s changed and how your customers use your space too… you may be surprised what you discover.

Creed, who supply to over 3,500 customers across the UK, has launched ‘The Hub’, a new café innovation space which has been designed to emulate the customer experience for café and leisure brands. Completely adaptable, it’s been created to allow businesses of all sizes to simulate and scrutinise their offering. To understand more about Creed as a foodservice partner in the leisure and café space, or for a chat with one of the team about utilising The Hub, visit:

https://www.creedfoodservice.co.uk/content/sector/leisure-cafes

[1] Lumina, June 2022

[2] World Coffee Portal, 2022

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