Five Ways to Set Your Coffee Shop Apart

With a slew of Instagram photos featuring carefully crafted lattes and a Starbucks on every corner, it’s no surprise that coffee is one of the biggest global industries right now. In fact, Starbucks exceeded 21 billion in revenue in 2016 and the average working American spends $1,100 on coffee annually

Opening your own coffee shop is a lucrative business decision. However, with heavy economic growth comes dense market competition. From big coffee chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and small neighborhood coffee shops, there’s no shortage of options for consumers. How can you stand out from the crowd in this multimillion dollar industry?

 Here are five ways to differentiate your coffee shop from the rest. 

Sell Unique and High-Quality Products

Anyone can grab a standard black coffee and blueberry muffin from the gas station or a massive coffee chain, but you want to be different. In order to stand out, you need to provide something that’s not only different, but good enough to warrant a (likely) higher price. Find global blends that aren’t as popular but have interesting, rich flavors and try creating your own unique drink recipes. Interesting options like lavender iced coffee or horchata lattes give customers a reason to come back to your specific location. 

The same applies for food and snacks in your location. While croissants, bagels, and muffins will always be crowd-pleasers, try incorporating trendy items that your competitors don’t offer. Vegan-friendly breakfast sandwiches, local produce, or a seasonal pumpkin spice coffee cake will differentiate you from the masses of chocolate scones. And, most importantly, it needs to taste good. Once you know the quality is solid, then you can add a little intrigue. 

baked goods

If you aren’t sure what flavors and recipes will resonate with your customers, simply ask. Host local in-store tastings of new blends and foods or post polls on your social media channels to get real-time feedback from your patrons. It’ll make your customers feel valued and heard while giving you the most affordable focus group available. 

Package Products for At Home Use

While people love to work, meet, and relax at coffee shops, the truth is that most people still make coffee at home. In a recent survey regarding coffee behavior, 87 percent of respondents reported usually drinking coffee at home. Selling your blends by the pound or in easy-to-purchase packaging will cater to the local crowd who prefers to brew their own morning cup at home. 

Give Back to the Community

As a local coffee shop, it can make the difference between choosing you and the big retailer down the block if you have a vested interest in the community. After all, 87 percent of consumers claimed they would purchase a product if a company advocated for an issue they care about. 


Most people care about their communities and will reward businesses who benefit the area. Whether it’s sponsoring a little league team, offering cake pops from a local bakery, or donating a portion of profits to the nearby shelter, get involved with issues, businesses, or events local customers care about. Even offering convenient recycling or posting flyers for community events can make your customers feel good about their purchase.

Do Something Different

Standing out from your competition means actually doing something different. It’s smart — from a branding and profit standpoint — to have value-added features that make your coffee shop unique. These don’t need to be expensive add-ons, but small gestures that align with your shop’s aesthetic and customers’ interests. Whether you decide to feature live music, a cupboard of board games, a take one/leave one bookshelf, or chalkboards your customers can draw on, choose something unique to keep your customers’ attention. The more special or different, the more likely your customer will share the experience on social media or to their friends, generating invaluable word of mouth advertising. 


Reward Your Regulars

Now that big chains have started loyalty rewards and apps like Starbucks Rewards® or DD Perks, customers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty to your business. While creating an app may not be feasible for your budget, there are small ways to offer loyalty rewards to regular customers. Try offering punch cards for a free coffee after a certain number of purchases, giving away a free pastry on a customer’s birthday, or inviting your most loyal customers to special events and tastings. These options will make your regulars feel valued and encourage new customers to make your spot their regular choice. 

Opening and running your own coffee shop can be an exciting and worthwhile business investment. Finding lifelong customers and standing out from the crowd is key for the financial future of your business. If you’re interested in buying a coffee shop for yourself, learn how to buy a coffee shopand find the perfect nearby business for your goals at