February 27, 2009

What is a coffee shop?

Last week a customer asked this question. I wrestled to find a defined answer. "A coffee shop serves coffee." The conversation continued:

"So is XXX a coffee shop?"
"Well they are more of a bakery who also serve coffee beverages."

"So is XXX a coffee shop?"
"They serve lots of food, and have coffee. Probably not a coffee shop."

"So is XXX a coffee shop?"
"The owner is Italian, the shop started with a focus on coffee, but now they serve pizza & salads. Probably not a coffee shop."

As we discussed we came to define that a "coffee shop" must sell coffee beans as well as coffee drinks, and coffee must be a clear focus of the business. Many of the specialty coffee pioneers in the US were even called "Bean Shops".

Wikipedia, which uses the term "coffeehouse", has a good summary statement. "As the name suggests, coffeehouses focus on providing coffee and tea as well as light snacks."

I think the "light snacks" vs "meals" is a clear defining point. Once the snacks turn into sandwich expertise, the "coffee shop" turns into a Deli, and then one step away from "restaurant" status.

Yet some retailers who focus on coffee and other drinks some how are missing "coffee focus" with a clear focus on their local, music . . . and as I look around they have no beans for sale.

An entertaining question; what do you think defines a "coffee shop"?


K.C. O'Keefe said...

Post By Aaron De Lazzer


I like what you suggest and love to see when there is a purity of purpose to what is being done. Coffee specialists doing one thing really well.
I'm also keenly aware of "coffee shops" that do food, that do lunch...
It's an extra 20% or more to their business. Wouldn't you like to tack on 20% to your business? In many cases it can be the difference that keeps the doors open. Ironically allowing them to keep doing great things with coffee, when coffee alone wouldn't have been enough.

K.C. O'Keefe said...

Thanks for the comment Aaron. I'd love to add 20% more to our business!

This is one of the fights we've had here, with many customers asking for food . . . but resisting with the thought that it will in some way detract from our coffee focus. I guess there is some sort of balance to be found to responding to realities and creating them.

We've bent a bit on our non-food ideals, but still trying to clearly keep coffee front and center.

FS. said...

Hi Sir!
For me a Coffee Shop is a place where coffee must be the principal attraction. Also, it can have a variety of tea, cold drinks, some food and desserts (some chocolate desserts will be good to accompany the coffee flavor). Another important fact is that the beverages must be classic and 100% natural (no flavoring or coloring added) and have a very good quality.

Unknown said...

Hi K.C.
is there any way to get in touch with you? could you put a contact info somewhere...

K.C. O'Keefe said...

Sure: you can email me at kc@cafeverdeperu.com


Ed Grimly said...

I have been in some "specific" coffee stores where they sold nothing but coffee and had beans for sale. I asked the "barista" about her technique and she looked at me like I was crazy. She had no knowledge about coffee and it showed in her offering. I have never been back.

K.C. O'Keefe said...

I wouldn't have gone back either Ed. Sound's like that is a definite to add to the "coffee shop" definition: a coffee store where educated staff can explain their unique coffees. Nothing is more anti "coffee shop" than lifeless people selling "products".

Sam Smith said...

While variety can be a great thing, attracting a consistent type of customer base might not work out so well if a shop's music is too diverse SCAA coffee makers You can hardly find the same taste in other larger restaurants

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