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Coffee Drinking in Coffee Shops

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Why Your Customers Do It, And What They Want More Of.

The Background

Coffee in Ireland is a drink growing in popularity year on year.

The Irish Coffee Council is the voice for the coffee industry in Ireland in matters of growth, manufacture, distribution and consumption of coffee, and while even they accept that “we still drink far less coffee than our European neighbours – and remain at heart a “tea drinking nation”” (here), it is unquestionably true that coffee has been (and continues to be) a consumer good growing more and more in popularity all the time – value sales of coffee grew by 12% in 2014 according to Euromonitor International, with fresh coffee sales accounting for that growth (instant coffee sales are, in fact, consistently declining).

Here at Customer Perceptions, it’s our business to take note of trends in retail and hospitality, so we asked people about their experience and attitudes to coffee shops. This is how they responded, and some conclusions we can draw from those responses.

The Numbers

The first question we asked was very simple – how often do you visit a coffee shop? The largest single group of respondents (56.25%) visited once a week. After that the next largest segments were “a few times a week” (12.5%) or “once every two weeks” (again, 12.5%). Perhaps surprisingly, when we asked our survey respondents whether they preferred sit-in or take-away, fully half of our respondents suggested they preferred to sit in, with only 12.5% preferring take-away coffee (although 37.5% admitted to having no preference either way, which suggests that at some points they are sitting in to drink their coffee). When asked if they prefer large chain coffee shops or small independent establishments, the overwhelming response (50%) responded that they preferred small independent coffee shops. Only 12.5% admitted to preferring large chains.

In a very direct way, it’s not just about the coffee for people. The overwhelmingly vast majority of our respondents do not simply purchase coffee alone – only 12.5% bought nothing else, with 75% of people buying a pastry, cake or bun, or 31.25% (with some overlap, obviously) buying a sandwich. In terms of an average spend, only 31.25% of respondents spent less than €5, with the remainder spending between €5 to €10 per visit. In terms of what people find important when they visit a coffee shop, cleanliness came out on top, with 81.25% of respondents rating it very important, the next closest factor in their choice of coffee shop being staff friendliness (50% rating it very important). Price, perhaps surprisingly, was rated very important by only 37.5%, but 62.5% did rate it quite important.

Another possibly surprising result is that child-friendliness was rated not important by 62.5% of respondents, with only 12.5% rating it very important (below even free wifi, which 18.75% felt was very important). Quality of the coffee itself is also key, given that 87.5% of respondents considered either a very important or quite important factor. So, what conclusions can we draw from these figures?

The Conclusions

Given the background of a the coffee market in Ireland (sales of coffee increasing overall while sales of instant coffee decline) it’s perhaps unsurprising that the quality of coffee has become so important a factor – people seem to be becoming coffee connoisseurs, or at least consider themselves knowledgeable about coffee (this is also reflected in our survey, in that while 68.75% of respondents consider quality of coffee very important, only 37.5% rated price as important).

People are willing to spend more for quality. However, the rise in consumer coffee sales also means that people are frequenting coffee shops for other reasons – proximity to home or work was rated “not that important” by 43.75%, with only 25% rating it “very important”. The comparative lack of importance of child friendliness and price tell the other half of this tale. Coffee shops (especially with sit-in business) is seen as a small luxury – an escape from the responsibilities of daily life (81.25% responded that atmosphere was important or very important).

This is key for any coffee retailer – a 2011 study by Bord Bia found that overwhelmingly people felt coffee was not a luxury item, and that good quality coffee was available from inexpensive discount retailers like Aldi and Lidl – it was part of their daily lives. Our own survey shows that coffee shops specifically are not part of that trend. Atmosphere is important, quality of coffee is important, having to travel to the establishment isn’t, nor is any coffee shop’s catering for families.

This is what coffee shops are competing on – not on producing a product that’s already been cheaply stocked up on in your customers’ own homes, but on a relaxing atmosphere, a quality product and a reprieve from those very homes, just for a little while.

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Coffee Drinking in Coffee Shops