As the new heavy-weight contender for most COVID cases, the US has again needed to reimagine what normal looks like.
The past four months have been a rollercoaster of regulations, emotions, and plans to keep businesses afloat.
Adaption and pivoting on a weekly basis is a necessity in order to carry a positive cash flow.
From giant lattes to better air filtration to local rules dictating distance, how can a café keep up and possibly maintain the growth numbers we are accustomed to?
Here are just some of the things we are seeing in the States that are pushing numbers North, while changing the landscape of the coffee industry all together.
The Big Drop
According to a recent survey by the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association), almost 60% of cafes in the US are seeing a negative impact on their business due to the COVID outbreak.
This obviously comes as no surprise, as most of the US closed the doors of non-essential businesses for three months.
We as an industry were considered essential, so the majority of our cafes and roasteries stayed open, while many customers were told to shelter in place. That same survey showed that 70% of cafes saw a dip in sales by more than 50%.
This decrease has led to many coffee professionals losing their jobs. In addition, this extreme pressure has also led to cafes and roasteries pivoting and innovating to keep their doors open.
Online retailers uses search metrics to understand consumer behavior, what products to push, and when and where to advertise.
There’s a golden list of the top 100 products being searched that these retailers monitor on an hourly basis.
In a matter of hours after many states implemented stay-in-place orders, coffee hit the top 100 list.
This was great news for most roasteries/cafes who had experienced a huge dip in retail sales.
Some roasteries have even grown during this pandemic, with online sales surpassing the deficit left by empty cafes.
In addition to bag sale increases, roasters offering brewing machines and equipment are seeing unprecedented numbers in this category.
Hop on Instagram and you’ll be quick to see new, exciting, and sometimes novelty products being pushed by many coffee roasters and cafes in the US.
From half-gallon (1.89L) lattes to canned/bottled specialty coffee, many cafes are pushing their brands and products into the homes of coffee-craving would-be-cafe-customers.
It’s generally unaffordable to deliver a single drink or even a single bag of roasted coffee to a home. That is why many cafes are becoming wholesalers, offering 2,3 and even 5lb bags of roasted coffee to their consumers.
Just like the toilet paper phenomenon, consumers are eating-up these large, jumbo-sized portions that they can nurse on in the comfort of their own homes.
As the physical world crumbled, the digital world has become the shining light to many businesses and consumers.
Social media has driven sales for many roasters in the States for years, but these unprecedented times made their accounts invaluable.
Sales have been driven by creativity, messages of safety, and educational content.
To continue growth, companies will have to take honesty and transparency to new levels.
A vulnerable human behind a brand speaks loudly to todays consumer.
This honesty will hopefully translate to a more transparent value chain, which in turn, will hopefully create a more sustainable tomorrow.
True character shines bright in the darkest of days.
We have seen a lot of coffee companies fold and close their businesses during this pandemic.
These closures are not exclusive to newcomers or older companies, but those not able to adapt or pivot.
Though I am sorrowed to see some of my favorite cafes disappear, I’m excited to see what new, adaptive, and innovative creations will carry the remaining forward. Stay safe.
Education & Sustainability Director
Certified Q Grader, SCA Instructor & Campus Inspector
Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea