Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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New Story Angles You’ll Find at Local Coffee Shops

March 6, 2018

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The U.S. coffee drinker averaged around 3 cups per day in 2017, reports the Specialty Coffee Association. (Photo by Chevanon Photography via Pexels, CCO)

Specialty coffee consumption continues to rise and nearly half of coffee consumed in 2017 (46 percent) was consumed out of the house, finds a report from the National Coffee Association (more in this analysis from the Specialty Coffee Association). Is this trend playing out in independent coffee shops in your area?

Here are some business angles to consider as you cover coffee.

Competing with Starbucks

How are local coffee purveyors competing with Starbucks? Are they offering cocktails made with coffee and tea? (And if so, you might outline the process a coffee shop goes through to obtain a liquor license.) Adding a selection of board games like The Board and Brew in College Park, Maryland or Small Point Café in Providence, Rhode Island? Hosting trivia nights like Coffee Shark in Austin, Texas? Making themselves a laptop-free zone like the coffee shops in this Guardian story? Perhaps creating elaborate latte art?

Interestingly, the competition runs both ways. Just as indie coffee shops must compete with the brand recognition of Starbucks, Business Insider reported last year that Starbucks sees indie shops as their competition.

Employment in Coffee Shops

Who’s working at your local coffee shop? Are any local shops providing employment to people with disabilities (such as Bitty & Beau’s in Wilmington, North Carolina)? Is there a local coffee shop or coffee roaster that’s owned or staffed by veterans (like veteran-owned G.I. Joe Coffee in Fountain Hills, Arizona)?

Speaking of employees, how are local coffee shops and other small businesses handling new paid sick leave laws in many areas? Has this impacted their margins? Have they raised prices to compensate? The Society for Human Resource Management has an interactive map showing paid sick leave laws across the country, so this is an easy way to check existing laws in your area.

Payment methods

Cash is traditionally the payment method of choice for coffee shops, since transactions are generally small and credit card transaction fees can be costly. But as many consumers move to digital wallets, are local coffee shops becoming more accepting of plastic? How are they dealing with credit card fees? Or, like Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse in Madison, Wisconsin, are they maintaining a cash-only policy?

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