Espresso Blog

What's Your Coffee Industry Niche?

Your café is different from all the rest. You just have to figure out your coffee niche, and promote the heck out of it.

Your café or restaurant’s niche makes people choose it over all the other options out there—of which there is no shortage. It’s what draws them in, makes them come back, and gets them excited to tell their friends that they must try your cappuccino or signature cocktail, or gaze upon your local art or warehouse-meets-cozy-abode aesthetic.

One of the most crucial characteristics of a successful café or restaurant is that it serves a niche that needs to be filled, something other local business don't offer. You may have a great name or a perfect signature pastry/drink, etc. But you must also determine how your restaurant or bar will fit into your community alongside other food service establishments. Depending on how many other outfits you're competing with, this can be as straightforward as being the only shop that offers strictly single-origin coffees or the only one that has a full smoothie bar. In the more crowded markets with lots of competition (say, like the myriad coffeehouses in Portland) you may have to grab a more specific niche—such as showcasing a rotating roster of roasters or having a great play area for kids.

Make a list of the real benefits or advantages you currently offer. Is it your food? (Hopefully that one’s a “yes.”) Are you warm and cozy or big, cool and accommodating for larger parties? Do you host live music?

Even if you think your place has some disadvantages, remember how charming some of them can be. If you’re not in a well-trafficked area, play up the specialness of taking a trip to visit your shop (and the free parking that probably goes with it). If you're centrally located without parking, play up the bustling vibe in and around your shop.

And remember, just as important as having a niche is doing it better than anyone else.

Maybe your lattes involve the most creative flavor combos imaginable, or your outdoor seating is to die for. No matter what, hone in on the overall perception that customers have of your business and help them see what you want them to see—and they’ll come back for more.

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