Convenience stores traditionally feature self-serve coffee, but as c-stores have transitioned into more food-centric businesses, some are implementing barista programs to offer customers made-to-order espresso-based beverages.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, some customers were more reticent about using self-serve dispensers leading to a growing demand for made-to-order coffee. As drive-through service expands and as mobile ordering and delivery continue to grow, more retailers are seeing the benefit of adding made-to-order coffee behind the foodservice counter.
For example, Cranston, R.I.-based Neon Marketplace not only offers self-serve coffee via bean-to-cup dispensers, but it also features a full barista program, allowing customers to order lattes or espresso-based beverages.
Topeka, Kan.-based Street Corner is offering its franchisees with Urban Market- or Fuel Station-style Street Corner stores the option to implement a barista program. Most of its newer Urban Market locations are already featuring the program.
Lubbock, Texas-based Curby’s Express Market, which opened its first location in February, with more on the way, also features a team of baristas who make specialty coffee drinks to order.
All three of these companies have a focus on foodservice and offer drive-throughs, making a made-to-order coffee program featuring baristas a natural extension.
There are a number of things to consider when weighing if a barista program is right for your c-store. To start consider the demand in your area for such a program, as well as the needs of your core customer. You’ll need ample space for the program and enough staffing to run it efficiently, not to mention a quality coffee menu. You’ll likely be competing with the likes of Starbucks, which offers order-ahead, a loyalty program and drive-through service. Plus, customers can order Starbucks for delivery via Uber Eats in some areas.
If you already have a base of food customers for your made-to-order food program, bringing in a made-to-order coffee program might make sense, especially if you have a drive-through and the ability to offer order-ahead and/or delivery.