The pandemic has changed all aspects of human life, including how we drink coffee. Before COVID-19, the coffee shop culture was thriving. There was Starbucks at every street corner, independent coffee shops elsewhere. People of all ages, whether working adults or teens who are in school, cannot go through the day without getting their usual cup of Joe.
However, all these changed during the pandemic. The lockdowns made it uncertain if the coffee shops will be open for dine-in or will remain take-out only. Restaurants also became safety risks; because the risk of infection is higher indoors, consumers were terrified of catching the virus and decided to stay at home.
Moreover, with work and school shifting at home, going out to get coffee was inconvenient.
Delivering the Coffee Shop Experience at Home
Businesses across most industries experienced challenges in the past year. Thousands of small and medium enterprises had to close down because of the sudden loss of or decline in income. Even big corporations folded when faced with a global public health and economic crisis.
A report revealed that 2020 was the first time since 2011 when the number of coffee and tea shops declined across the United States. Euromonitor International predicted that, by December 2020, 7.3 percent of all coffee and tea shops would have closed.
The existence of small coffee shops has been under threat for years because of national brands. Starbucks, for example, had over 15,000 locations nationwide. Dunkin Donuts, on the other hand, has nearly 10,000.
However, independent coffee shops are not going down without a fight. Like many businesses, they, too, had to figure out a way to continue serving their customers and earning a profit despite the pandemic restrictions.
Most coffee shops remained in operation. They accept orders for pickups and deliveries. It is not a new concept, of course. Before the pandemic, customers can place orders online and have them dropped off right at their doorsteps. All food delivery apps allow coffee orders based on your preferences or cravings. If you like your coffee dark and smokey, you can order your French roast coffee from a European cafe online and have it delivered to your house.
Buying coffee is easier, and you would not have to journey outside your door nor line up at the cafe.
Competition Moves to Home
People worked and studied at home. While many tea and coffee shops, the demand for caffeinated beverages remained strong.
In addition to ordering online for deliveries and pick up, many households invested in their own coffee machines for home brewing.
Nestle, the biggest packed-food company in the world, reported earlier this year a 77 percent rise in organic sales during the first quarter of the year. The company attributes the success to the demand for Nescafe instant coffee, Nespresso pods, and Starbucks-branded beverages. The performance exceeded all the expectations of analysts who predicted a 3.3 percent growth.
Nespresso and its pods, in particular, were popular because they offer variety and techniques previously only available from coffee shops in a small capsule.
Post-pandemic Future of Coffee Shops
In 2021, coffee shops will have to find ways to regain their pre-pandemic momentum and draw customers back. The rise of at-home coffee consumption, coupled with decreased profits from the past year, bouncing back will be a huge challenge.
However, coffee shops have one advantage over Nespresso and Nescafe: the coffee shop experience. Nothing beats the appeal of sitting in a coffee shop, sipping a warm drink made perfectly for you by a friendly barista based on your personal preferences, with the drone of soft chatter behind you.
Moreover, the past year has also seen more American workers choosing the life of a freelancer. Many who remained employed but worked from home wanted to continue having the benefits of being away from the office. Spaces where people can work, such as a coffee shop, will be in high demand in the coming years among freelancers and remote workers.
People also missed social interactions after a year of isolation. More than ever, customer service will be important. By providing an excellent buying experience, from the moment the customer walks in right until they leave, will be what will convince their customers to ditch the Nespresso and go back to their favorite coffee shops.
Coffee shops, just like many businesses across the world, faced hardships because of the pandemic. It forced them to change the way they run their operations and serve what people look for. Now that the crisis is winding down in the U.S., coffee shops can welcome their customers back in-store with open arms.