5 Lessons Every Business Can Learn from Coffee Shops

Steaming cup of coffee

Mmmm, coffee…God’s apology for mornings, as my sister says. It seems like most companies are fueled by this comforting and awakening liquid. Today, let’s take a look at what coffee shops do really well—and what business principles we can learn from them.

They emphasize the experience.

Anyone can make a cup of coffee. So why go to a store and pay someone else to make it? Coffee shops offer an experience that people can’t create at home. “Many times, customers have told me that even though they buy my coffee beans, they can’t make it as well as I can for them,” says my husband, Eric Squires, manager of Three Crowns Coffee in Warsaw, Ind. Whether it’s the quality of coffee, the presentation, a unique recipe, the environment, or a combination, the experience attracts loyal customers. What experience, from start to finish, are you offering your customers that sets you apart from competition?

Customers feel they belong.

While living in Colorado Springs, I felt like a Starbucks was on every corner. And yet, my friends were loyal to their preferred locations. Frequently, our conversations would include, “When I was at my Starbucks…” It may be the one on the way to work, or where they are known by name and favorite drink. Or maybe it has better customer service or an awesome view of the mountains. There’s a reason they chose that store, became loyal, and couldn’t be persuaded to go elsewhere. What reason do your customers have to stay loyal to you?

It’s all about community.

At Sweet Daphne’s, my favorite place in Colorado Springs to get coffee and a treat, I was remembered. Even though my visits were days or even weeks apart, the owner asked how my final exam went, how the conference was, and if we were settled after our move. She also remembered my favorite drink and pastry. At another favorite shop, I saw polite nods and smiles at other regulars. Do your customers feel valued—like a part of your family?


The environment is essential.

From a cozy place to relax, to a hipster attraction in a renovated firehouse, coffee shops thrive because of their environments. Visitors can usually tell exactly what the shop is all about, the quality of coffee, and the type of customer service they’ll receive just by walking in the door. What does your environment say about your company? Does the visual appeal of your building, website, and even print materials attract customers? Do they want to linger?

There’s always a tweak on the expected.

Anyone walking into a coffee shop expects to see a menu of lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, and pastries. But to set themselves apart from the competition, most shops have unique spins. One adds an apple pie filling to their cinnamon rolls, another offers hemp milk (which tastes like grass, I’m told), some use honey as a sweetener, and others feature coffee beans that are no more than two weeks roasted. What unique spin do you add to your products or services?

As you take that last sip of coffee and move on with your day, consider implementing one or more of these lessons. Which will you do first? Tell us in the comments below.