Some time ago, I wrote a guide on how to notice if a coffee shop is any good as soon as you walk in. I’ve had this theme recently on my mind again after completing a journey of visiting 150 coffee shops. Many friends still ask me which ones were the best, but that is a hard question to answer!
Besides my personal observations, I also have been talking to lots of people and asking them “what is a good coffee shop, in your opinion?”. It turns out that this is a subjective topic, and depends on personal and cultural expectations. A coffee shop can be amazing for someone because of the great drinks and quick service, while someone else may despise it because the seating area is not as comfortable as they think it should be. From those 150 coffee shops, if you ask me the best ones, I can list many different top 3’s, based on different criteria.
Considering this, I want to return to this theme and list some of the criteria many average customers would consider important for deciding what makes a coffee shop good, going beyond what was in Part 1 of this series. Let me know what criteria you think is a big deal:
It’s not personally my top criteria, but I’m amazed by how much people like a coffee shop based on decoration, ambient music, furniture, etc. I’ve met many people that, if you ask them what they like about their favorite coffee, they start by describing the environment. On the other hand, I’ve seen many customers disliking a place because of the seating arrangement, despite the good coffee.
Variety of the Menu
This is tricky for coffee shop managers. You can try really hard to have a simple yet quality menu, then lose to a competitor that serves everything but elephant sandwiches. I still imagine that an average consumer is more impressed by the different drinks a shop can serve – from spritz lemonades to soy decaf lattes – than by only the basic beverages made from a better specialty coffee. The sad truth is that most people still don’t care about the difference between an amazing coffee and a very good one. Yet, there’s a niche of customers who are still looking for the best of the best. The ones who don’t care how long your menu is, unless your single espresso is better than the last one they had.
Easiness of service
In Part 1, I talked about the quality of the service. Easiness is the next step on service: how easy is it to get to a shop, place your order, pay, drink, and leave. This could be the reason many customers return. Easiness describes a lot of things: Is the location central and easy to get to? Is the menu simple enough to understand? Is there an app that helps me to order? Is take away a viable option? Many third-wave coffee shops have been trying to educate the public and to show: having good coffee is not that hard. And people return to places where having a nice experience was easy.
What do you think about these categories? What makes a coffee shop good, in your opinion?