Last Updated: February 16, 2024, 12:07 pm by TRUiC Team

Choosing the Right Food & Pastries for Your Specialty Cafe

Your favorite cafe most likely offers an array of snacks for its customers. In specialty coffee shops, common snacks include pastries and other small items that pair well with coffee. Extending your menu with the classic pairing of coffee and pastry can boost your revenue without the hassle of stocking food items with short shelf life or time-consuming preparation.

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.

Learn what the best pairings of food and pastries are with various coffee drinks.


Yet, offering high-quality pastries may no longer be enough to set your cafe apart from competitors. In the past few years, some third-wave coffee shops created larger menus designed to accommodate customers seeking breakfast or lunch with their coffee.

As you determine what to include on your initial food menu, consider these best practices:

  • Keep it simple. Choose food items that require little or no preparation — unless you plan to have a full kitchen and kitchen staff.
  • Offer a wide variety. Gluten-free and vegan treats can not only set you apart from the competition, but also entice different types of people to enjoy your space and products.
  • Focus on local providers. Specialty coffee consumers often appreciate higher-quality snacks so find bakeries that locals love and start a wholesale account with them.
  • Avoid short shelf lives. Serving items with a short shelf life, such as avocados, can mean higher amounts of waste and cost.

Similar to wine or cocktails, there are specific foods that pair better with coffees than others, understanding what pairs well can elevate your menu and keep customers coming back. After all, your most important product is coffee so it makes sense to choose foods that will compliment and enhance the flavor profile of your coffees.

Here are some ideas to consider when choosing what food to serve with drink types:

  • Salty foods can make great coffee pairings. Foods such as cheese, avocado toast and croissant sandwiches are all good options. We think these pair well with black coffee and espresso.
  • Toasts are a popular choice for many reasons; they are cheap, easy and great to pair with a variety of coffee beverages. Not to mention, they warrant many options for the customer to choose from. Depending on the ingredients used, we think these can be paired with any type of coffee.
  • Sweeter items such as granola parfaits, bread pudding or other dessert items outside the normal pastry fare is always a good choice. We think these pair best with milk based coffee drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos.

Now that we have looked at what pairs well with drink types, let’s look at what flavors go well with specific flavor profiles:

  • Citrus and stone fruits pair best with African coffees from regions such as Uganda and Rwanda as well as South American coffees from Nicaragua and Bolivia, to name a few.
  • Berries tend to pair best with African coffees from Ethiopia, Yemen and Uganda.
  • Dairy pairs best with Indonesian coffees.
  • Chocolate is best paired with earthier, nuttier coffees from South America such as Brazil, Colombia and Guatemala, to name just a few.
  • Meats are a good pairing choice for fuller body coffees such as ones from Indonesia or the Dominican Republic.

Pro Tip: While asking your baristas to handle food orders in addition to making coffee may seem like a great way cut labor costs, it often means longer wait times for customers during peak periods. Instead, consider scheduling additional staff to accommodate a higher volume of food orders during peak hours to ensure timely customer service.

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