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The COVID-19 pandemic was a very challenging phase for the café business owners as there wasn’t any business and the high operational costs were piling up. However, post relaxations and COVID taking a backseat, the café businesses are flourishing more than ever. Revenge dining is trending – the people who have been indoors are now dining out and meeting friends and relatives more than ever! As a result, the range of target audiences for cafes has widened – from Gen Z to Baby Boomers, all of them are willing to spend, eat out, interact and experiment with new tastes like never before. Also, people with remote profiles are preferring to work from a colourful café rather than the same four-walled space of their home, which they have been in for too long. With love for a varied range of coffee options growing by leaps and bounds, a surge has also been noticed in the demand for in-home coffee consumption which has indeed boosted a new model of up-selling for the café businesses with handcrafted hot and cold coffee brews.
Talking about the recent trends in café business, Kavalpreet Kaur, Business Head, Sardar-Ji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co (with cafes in Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh and Lucknow) says, “The pandemic has played a huge role in pushing people out of their homes like never before and the trend is going onwards and upwards only. People have gone explorative and the culture of meeting up at a coffee shop has increased manifold. The urge to step outdoors is at an all-time high. In order to meet a friend, chill, a small informal meeting or small get-togethers, people prefer doing it outdoors now. Even individuals with remote job profiles are working from our coffee shops the whole day. The remote working culture has also given a big boost to our businesses. This trend has set in and to attract a growing share of this segment, we are developing a work-friendly set-up with a number of charging ports and more.”
Sonali Lakhotia, the Founder and Owner of the Potboiler Coffee House (Kolkata) has been running the outlet for the past three years. She feels that the people’s perception of cold brews has changed and they are looking to experiment with different flavours. Instant coffee is passé. It’s not about ice-blended coffees anymore too. There is a section of customers who want the classic cold coffee but a majority of them are willing to experiment and broaden their palate when it comes to consuming coffee. “Coffee lovers want to try the new flavours in cold brews. We ran this summer coffee festival the whole of March and April wherein we offered a lot of cold brews and mixed signature drinks rather than going the traditional coffee route. The response to it was mind-boggling. Post the festival, customers are coming back just to try that one particular drink and even other new flavours. Simultaneously, diners are inquiring about easy-to-brew methods at home as well. Even cafes are experimenting with what all they can do such as looking to upsell with the cold brews bottles,” she says.
Apart from trying new brews, an increasing number of people are seeking more information about their coffee. It wasn’t the same case a year ago but now things are different, says Sooraj Toopalli, the Founder of Toops Coffee (Hyderabad) adding that slowly people are curious to know more about coffee – where it comes from and what are the alternative milk options, etc. ‘What goes in making this espresso?’ ‘What kind of a roast is used?’ Such conversations are more into play now. There is a growing demand for speciality drinks in today’s time and the classic cold coffee is no more an exciting option. “To be honest, the market is still building up and developing. But I have noticed that more and more people are asking about new recipes on the block and even we are explaining and introducing consumers to the new F&B concepts. People have become a lot more aware and conscious,” he shares.
Along the same lines, people are also eager to know about the back story – what goes into making, what is the source of the ingredients and raw materials, how is it grown, how is the cafe personalising it, and likewise. Viggnesh V, an Independent Consultant for Coffee Chains has noticed this trend of traceability and slow food movement (a global initiative focused on having nutritious food while preserving culture and heritage as it relates to food). He adds, “In a café, the traceability highlights the origin of the final product and the story of farm to fork – from where has the coffee been sourced, which estate has it been grown, how has it been processed, etc. People are also curious to know about the baking flour and cheese – where is it sourced from, where is it grown, etc. That also becomes a key differentiator for your café and makes it stand out. People associate with brands through the stories, core concepts and the kind of sustainability model being followed. If cafes are supporting the local vendors, customers appreciate the fact and in turn, support the cafe as well. It’s kind of a feel-good factor to visit such a locally-driven cafe more often. People feel they are doing their bit towards the society.”
Technologically, one of the biggest trends, more so post COVID is the convenience-driven solution of going digital and now, even the software is being created accordingly, admits Lakhotia. People are looking for such software where everything is digitally processed. From scanning your QR code to sending emails and customer relationship management, everything is becoming a part of the digital space. Software vendors have also started gearing up for this shift and even the consumers are liking it, she says. “A year back, we tried introducing loyalty points as part of every bill, but very few people wanted to keep track of it and they preferred the hard copy versions of the loyalty cards. But in the last six months, we have seen a shift with more and more people looking to redeem it and a growing number of food outlets/eateries adapting to it. The competition is getting tough. More than targeting new customers, cafes have now realised that it’s about customer loyalty primarily. Tapping on customer loyalty has become much more crucial than ever before,” she highlights.
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