Cafes have robust opportunities for growth

by Monica Watrous
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Starbucks is strengthening its evening platform with small plates and wine and beer in some markets.

CHICAGO — Fair trade coffee, upscale beverages and dinner menus may help cafes capture growth around the clock, according to market research from Technomic, Inc. Both bakery-cafes and coffee cafes are perking up traffic with innovation in beverage and evening programs, healthy and sustainable fare and technological enhancements that improve customer experience.

“Cafes must innovate and differentiate by delivering unique menus and experiences,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice-president of Technomic. “For bakery cafes, that means strengthening their value and convenience at breakfast, while coffee cafes must prove themselves as a viable evening option. Savory bites, upgraded ambiance and buy-one-get-one beverage deals may help drive after-work social and snack occasions.”

Premium and seasonal beverages may help cafes tap into consumer loyalty; beverage-only occasions drive monthly visits at bakery-cafes and coffee cafes for 63% and 84% of patrons, respectively. Furthermore, nearly half of customers say seasonal menu items encourage more visits. This year Starbucks expanded its holiday beverage platform with a new chestnut praline latte, which joins the peppermint mocha, gingerbread latte and eggnog latte on the menu this winter.

Cafes also may win customers with coupons and convenience. Discounts drive more visits to bakery-cafes and coffee cafes for 55% and 63% of consumers, respectively. For about a third of cafe users, convenient ordering options are a draw. Efforts at Panera Bread are under way to streamline ordering and payment with digital enhancements in restaurants and on mobile devices.

Also important to cafe consumers are health and sustainability. About a fourth of consumers are more likely to visit a cafe if it serves fair trade coffee, and more than half of bakery-cafe customers seek better-for-you options on the menu. Earlier this year, Panera announced plans to remove artificial additives from its food by the end of 2016. The company also is working with and monitoring suppliers and farmers to provide traceability to the source, as well as engaging experts and suppliers to understand how the bakery cafe chain can best reduce the environmental and societal impacts of sourcing palm oil.
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