Branding Your Specialty Cafe: An Introduction
Branding is critical to your cafe’s success. It’s one of the most important activities you’ll undertake to drive awareness and growth — and it should start long before your first customer steps through your door.
Written by coffee professionals, this guide provides insight on how to start branding your specialty cafe.
Recommended: Read our full, in-depth How to Start a Coffee Shop Business guides, inspired by coffee professionals, they will help make your coffee dreams real, from sourcing beans to hiring baristas, choosing the best POS system, forming an actual company, and everything in between.
Why Branding is Important
Before we share best practices for brand development, let’s first discuss what branding is and why it’s important. Your brand is the personality of your business that you want to convey to your customers. It’s also how you relate to customers who share your perspective and business ethics. You can (and should) express your brand in your shop’s design, social media presence, logo, and featured products to help build your customer base.
Stumptown and Blue Bottle are great examples of coffee shops using clear, consistent branding to help differentiate their business. Both large coffee companies started off quite small, but maintained their specific brand characteristics through major changes over the years. They accomplished that by:
- Using recognizable logos and designs
- Staying true to their roots in terms of cafe offerings
- Featuring unique products to set them apart from competitors, such as their famous cold brews
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Tips for Branding your Cafe
Communicate Your Core Values
When building your cafe’s distinct brand, consider these best practices.
Authenticity is the most important element as you develop a brand for your shop. Who you are and the core values of your business should inform your decisions as you explore branding options for your shop and navigate trends. If supporting fair trade practices is one of your business’ core values, for example, consider showcasing information about your farmers and your relationship with them in your cafe and across your online presence.
Highlight What Sets You Apart
Becoming a valuable member of any community requires you to bring something to the table. While it’s important to fit into the local culture, your shop also needs to offer something new or different that will make it worth trying out. Your shop’s point of differentiation could be the products you offer, an uncommon brew method, or even a unique build-out or location.
Build Buzz Across Multiple Channels
That special thing that sets you apart may also be a crucial factor in encouraging people to spread the word about your shop. Either by word-of-mouth or through social media, you want people to leave your establishment with an experience they’re excited to share. For example:
Participating in Your Community
Getting out into your community and talking to people in the neighborhood of your soon-to-open specialty coffee shop is a great way to stimulate word-of-mouth buzz about your business. Consider handing business cards and samples of your coffee to local businesses in the area ahead of your grand opening.
Leveraging Social Media
Social media, especially Instagram, is no stranger to the world of third-wave coffee. In fact, it’s one of the most effective tools you have to pique interest in your new business and drive ongoing, customer engagement with your brand. Establish a presence for your business on several social media channels before your grand opening to promote your launch and drive initial foot traffic. Then, continue to use these digital platforms to connect with your community and promote new items or specials.
Branding Sales Receipts
Some smart Point-of-Sale (POS) systems allow you to brand your receipts. It is worth the time and resource to brand your interactions with the customers.
Recommended: Here are some tips on marketing your coffee shop.
Once you define your brand and map out an initial plan to communicate your core messages, it's time to think about your shop build-out. We encourage you to check out the next article in this series, Designing the Perfect Floorplan for Your Specialty Cafe.