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Whether it’s the local branch of a national franchise or an independently owned cafe, no neighborhood is complete without a coffee shop. The ideal coffee shop does it all — it’s the perfect spot to curl up with a book and a warm mug, an inviting space to meet friends or family, and a comfortable atmosphere to get work done.
There are over 65,000 coffee shops open for business in the United States and that number is projected to keep growing. The truth is, as long as coffee continues to be the most popular beverage in America, it’ll always be a good time to start a coffee shop.
So how do you make a name for yourself in such a crowded industry? Once you establish a clear and confident restaurant brand with a unique identity and visible online presence, the crowds will follow. Soon, drool-worthy brand posts like this one from Tiger Sugar Texas will have your loyal customers and their followers placing orders for pickup, ASAP.
Here’s how to develop a strong coffee shop brand that represents your values, mission, and creative vision and generates steady business for your restaurant.
How do you brand a coffee shop?
To begin developing or refining your coffee shop brand, think about why you wanted to start your business in the first place. What goals do you hope to achieve? Which customers do you want to build a relationship with? What do you want people to remember your shop for?
It’s questions like these that will guide your brand voice. The rest of your restaurant marketing efforts will start with establishing a brand for your shop. Make sure your brand aligns with who you are as a coffee shop owner and person, and that it feels consistent across your online and in-person presence.
How do I make my coffee shop stand out?
When you remember the last time you felt connected to a restaurant or shop, what is it about their brand that sticks with you? Maybe they have the best cold brew in your city or carry your favorite brand of oat milk. But more often than not, what keeps bringing us back to our favorite spots is how we feel when we’re there.
Brand is infused into every aspect of your coffee shop, from the decor on your walls to your social media presence. It’s the first introduction your customers have to your shop, and sets you apart from the other coffee spots in your neighborhood.
Think of creating your coffee shop brand as determining the vibe or essence of the place. Your brand will guide your customers on how to interact with your shop. If your brand is playful, then the atmosphere of your coffee shop will be joyful and maybe even a little silly. If your brand is more hardcore, then the vibe of your shop will be more studious and serious.
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5 Steps to Building a Coffee Shop Brand
To craft a brand that’s true to who you are, follow these steps:
1. Develop a mission statement for your coffee shop.
Think of your mission statement as the foundation of your coffee shop culture. It’ll provide a basis for how your employees and customers relate to your shop, and should showcase the unique perspective of your business. What message do you want to send to your prospective customers?
What purpose do you want your coffee shop to serve in their lives? By opening your doors to the community, what are you promising your customers? And most essentially, why should your customers care about your shop at all?
Once you determine the message, then you can tell the story of your brand. Olive Garden has made a reputation for themselves as a classic hometown eatery thanks to their motto, “When you’re here you’re family.” And while your story doesn’t have to be that direct, it’ll still dictate the direction your branding takes and the tone and messaging of your marketing campaigns.
2. Position your brand in the market.
Now that you know what message your brand is going to send, it’s time to decide how and where you are going to send it. Brand positioning is when you determine how your brand relates to your competition, and it helps you identify ways that you can stand out and be unique. The goal is to design a brand that attracts your target customers.
To determine your position, think of the four Ps:
- Price — your restaurant menu pricing strategy will reveal who your true competition is and serve as a jumping off point for your market position.
- Product — the drinks and other menu items you’ll serve.
- Promotion — which marketing strategies you’ll use to attract customers.
- Place — the location of your coffee shop.
Once you’ve answered the four Ps, you should have a clear view of who your direct competitors are and how your coffee shop is different from theirs. For example, if there are a number of quick grab-n-go coffee shops nearby, there might be room for a more luxe, sit-down spot with trendy lattes.
3. Find your brand voice.
Your brand dictates how your coffee shop is presented to the world. When developing your brand voice, think about how you want to communicate. What tone will you use? How will you speak and write? What language will you use?
To develop your unique brand voice, start by making a list of how you would describe your brand as if you were talking about a friend. Are they bold, inspirational, and artistic? Now, use that list as a jumping off point to go deeper. What makes your coffee shop artistic? Is it the decor of your dining room or the ingredients on your menu? Once you know how your brand presents itself to the world, you’ll be able to determine the voice you use to communicate your message.
4. Develop the look and feel of your brand.
A big aspect of what makes your brand unique is how it looks. Your logo should be reflected in your signage, on your menus, and on items like bags and coffee sleeves to create a fluid customer experience. (Grab all paper items and use a stamp or sticker! It’s usually less expensive and faster than custom goods).
Start by crafting a mood board of colors, logos, and decor. Which aesthetics are a good fit for the brand voice and mission statement you’ve established? Once you’ve created a cohesive mood board, partner up with a designer to bring it to life.
5. Create a brand book for your coffee shop.
Consistency is key. It’s important that your customers have the same experience with your brand whether they are connecting with your social media accounts or sitting in your dining room.
To make sure you always stay on brand, create a brand book. Also referred to as a style guide or brand guidelines, your brand book will be where you document all of the specific elements of your brand (like your market position, voice, and logo design). Your brand book will serve as the cornerstone of your coffee shop branding and will be used as a reference for your whole team moving forward.
Examples of Successful Coffee Shop Branding Ideas
Rosella Coffee in San Antonio, Texas uses their brand voice to remind their community that they’re a neighborhood coffee shop through and through. By engaging with the community on social media, embracing their local roots, and offering extras like a dog-friendly patio and a wine bar come nighttime, Rosella invites hip San Antonians in.
Hound & Mare
Hound & Mare in Ithaca, New York is instantly recognizable thanks to their signature millennial pink brand that extends from their Instagram graphics to their macaroons. This consistency helps create a lasting impression with fans and differentiates them from the competition.
Skaneateles Bakery in Skaneateles, New York is a from-scratch bakery that keeps their community energized with their espresso candy and fresh baked goods. What sets them apart from the competition is their homegrown brand and small town atmosphere embedded in everything they do (and bake).
Better Buzz Coffee Roasters in San Diego, California is a “whole vibe,” as their Gen Z and Millennial clientele might say. From their vibrant signage to their delectable menu items, everything about the instantly recognizable Better Buzz brand screams bold.
Little Waves Coffee Roasters in Durham, North Carolina is known for being a Latina-led coffee shop dedicated to honoring their culture and community. Little Waves only partners with small and independent local vendors.
Culture Coffee Co.
Culture Coffee Co in Chattanooga, Tennessee is playful, as demonstrated through weekly open mic nights, their social media page, and fun items in their display case.
Little City Coffee & Kitchen
Little City Coffee & Kitchen in Providence, Rhode Island showcases a simple skyline on their coffee sleeves, and connects with locals who love their city just as much as they do. They stock local New England coffees and showcase scratchmade treats on their Instagram page that all speak directly to their target consumers.
Brew a Coffee Shop Brand that Lasts
A weak brand, like a weak cup of joe, is instantly forgettable. It doesn’t linger on the tongue or in the mind.
To ensure that your coffee shop remains marketable, develop a unique brand that sparks joy, and reminds folks of your coffee at just the right moment. Allow your brand to evolve over the years as your coffee shop settles into the community and makes a name for itself. Before you know it, you’ll have a host of regulars, and maybe even consider opening a second or third location.
To learn more about building a brand that excites, download our free Restaurant Branding Guide today.
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