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Coffee shops have to serve coffee. Once you’ve checked that no-brainer box, coming up with new coffee shop menu ideas can be a creative exploration.
New menu ideas for your coffee shop should align with your shop’s aesthetic and its capabilities. Fortunately, there’s a nearly limitless supply of new coffee shop menu ideas to inspire your drink and food menu.
No kitchen? No worries — you can bring in locally made pastries or other foods from other purveyors, and still charm the coffee-holics in your community. But, if you do have the kitchen space, it may be worth testing some made-to-order foods on your menu.
Let’s explore how you can brainstorm fresh and fun restaurant menu ideas to make your coffee shop the go-to spot for java in your community.
Engineer your coffee shop menu to balance popularity with profitability
The goal with any menu, whether it’s a coffee shop, an ice cream parlor, or a Michelin-star restaurant, is to balance popular items with profitable items.
Not every mug and dish can be a low-cost, high-profit heavy lifter. At the same time, your menu has to be your engine for profitability. Striking a healthy balance between the two is critical.
Here are a few ideas to help you create new coffee shop menu ideas that are impressive and profitable.
1. Cost it all out
A critical step for any menu idea is calculating its costs per serving. With costs increasing across the board for food establishments, it’s important to implement costing exercises and tools to add precision to your operation.
This is as true for a 100-unit franchise chain as it is for an independent neighborhood coffee shop. Your menu ideas must be profitable — whether in liquid or solid form. That means you must be fully aware of what that profitability is for each menu item.
Manual costing methods could probably serve you just fine if you only served bulk drip coffee. Once you start adding in milk options, syrups, multiple brews, food items, and more, you will need automated costing tools to ensure accuracy. Neither you, your team, nor your bookkeeper or accountant have time to pour through invoices to track price changes — especially these days with all the price fluctuations.
When it comes to costing tools, it’s essential to start with something that builds an accurate data foundation. Invoice processing automation does exactly this while also removing the burden of manual invoice and costing work. These tools digitize accounts payable data from your invoices to give you the full picture of your costs.
2. Drink around
Take stock of what other coffee shops and similar establishments are doing in your area. Notice any gaps that your new menu ideas could easily fill.
For example, bubble tea has had quite the moment in recent years. Perhaps it hasn’t made it to your town yet. In that case, bubble tea may make for a great new menu idea to test out.
Yet, filling cuisine gaps is only half the battle. Don’t be afraid to lean in the opposite direction as you’re scouting around. Maybe your coffee shop has yet to adopt the latest food and drink trend. Time to bite the bullet and consider incorporating it into your restaurant. It could generate guaranteed income while you brew up other unique menu ideas behind the scenes.
3. Consider limiting items to certain seasons
Coffee shops and seasonality means (and you know where we’re going with this -) Pumpkin Spice Lattes!
In all seriousness, would pumpkin spice lattes be anywhere near as popular if we could get them all year? Their seasonality drives their demand. This is definitely worth keeping in mind as you curate new menu ideas for your coffee shop.
You don’t have to only stick to nationwide holiday seasons either. Let your local seasonality be your guide for new ideas. Maybe strawberry season is big in your area. This could be a brilliant way to develop one or multiple seasonal offerings that will bring more customers through your doors.
Are you imagining a cozy, busy coffee shop or a minimal, elegant ambiance? Define your coffee shop visions and help make them come true with this business plan template.
5 effective coffee shop menu examples for inspiration
Get breakfast on the menu — lunch too!
Customers love convenience. If they’re snagging a morning coffee, and there’s breakfast available too, it only makes their lives easier. Even if you’re thriving on folks ordering coffee drinks alone, you can further monetize your existing customer base with portable hot, cold, and prepared items. No one can resist a hot, delicious, and handheld breakfast sandwich!
Package those beans for home
You’ve tasted hundreds — even thousands — of beans to figure out what to brew at your shop. After going through all that trouble, you owe it to your customers to let them take your glorious beans home to make their own cup of magic. Set your margins, package those beans up, and create a beautiful display of your beans by your register for customers to peruse.
Keep it funky fresh for your tea drinkers
Look, we get it. This is about coffee shop menu ideas and not tea house menu ideas. But, here’s the deal - tea drinkers are here to stay. So why not dedicate a little space on your menu for some lovely teas? Plus, tea is ridiculously easy to assemble. All you need is hot water and artisanal tea bags, and you’re good to go!
Embrace the reasons for the season
Just as everyone knows, Saint Patrick is the patron saint of making whatever you’re serving turn green — and people love him for it. Whether it’s mint frappes in mid-March or the infamous PSL in the Fall, adding a little seasonality to your menu can be a great way to mix it up and gain some new customers.
Take inspiration from across the globe
Coffee and food trends are constantly changing across the globe. There are tons of opportunities out there to attract new audiences by keeping tabs on trends that folks are chatting about. As long as you make it delicious, everyone - even folks that have never heard of the trendy drink - will be back for more.
Adding you to the brew!
The grind that goes into running a coffee shop is very real. It’s a gnarly business that can take no prisoners and show no mercy at times. At the same time, it can be the most genuinely rewarding industry out there.
Your place of business is where people start their day, catch up with a dear friend, get fuel for a busy afternoon, and so much more. Having fresh food menu items is a guaranteed way to simplify your customers' scramble for breakfast, lunch, or a snack, while also boosting your coffee shop’s profitability.
Looking for more coffee shop ideas? Don’t miss On the Line’s article on how to open a coffee shop, with tons of ideas for jumpstarting your new business.
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