Specialty Coffee Industry Trends: Hybrid Retail Concepts

Think back to the last place you visited for excellent coffee and ask the question, “What was I there for?”

If you are like most of us at Synesso, the answer is related to your taste preferences for quality specialty coffee in the form of espresso. The popularity of coffee’s third wave has undoubtedly made it easier than ever to find a local café that prioritizes their quality-based approach to specialty coffee. For leaders choosing how to launch a retail business, the “tried and true” standard café model does well in new markets to align with guests who share these values.

However, things get interesting if our original question was modified to say, “What else was I there for?” Our original assumption concluded that coffee is the only answer, but by expanding the question we can see more complexity beneath the surface. The decision-making process can go beyond just quality coffee; some patrons seeking a unique coffee experience may be satisfied with their expectations being met, but shifting the focus of quality to a complementary product or service may entice others who value something new and engaging.

Rubinstein Bagels and The Flour Box are two examples of Seattle-born companies that have modeled their retail locations in this context. Owners Andrew Rubinstein and Pamela Vuong (respectively) entered the world of specialty coffee after obsession and perfection of their baked goods earned them critical acclaim both online and in retail pop-up events. As both businesses evolved towards opening retail locations the question, “What else am I there for?” was likely raised at the concept of guests wanting excellent handmade bagels and brioche donuts. With Seattle and its caffeine-dependent population as the backdrop, excellent coffee was an obvious choice to complement their businesses’ quality-based philosophies.

At Rubinstein Bagels, staff prepare espresso on a customized MVP Hydra opposite assorted rows of freshly-baked sourdough bagels.

There is nothing inherently wrong with focusing only on making quality coffee more accessible; many of our own customers owe their success to doing this one thing exceptionally well for their customers. The ability to differentiate a retail business and offer more value to guests can take form in any number of creative ways if one is willing to look at the retail experience as being more than just excellent coffee.

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