The explosive growth in what has become the social habit of enjoying a high-quality beverage, whether it be courtesy of one of the many high-street chains or so-called 'artisan' independents, has generated a vibrant industry sub-sector all of its own over recent years.  As highlighted in this British Coffee Association article, some 80% of coffee shop customers visit their favourite shops at least once a week, with 16% admitting to a daily drop-in for their regular drink of choice. Coffee is the most popular drink in the world, with in excess of 2 billion cups consumed per day - including c.95 million of those taken in the UK alone.

The quote below comes from another article.  This time, it's Imbibe Liquid Culture, which takes a look at how the shifting demographic of a maturing Millennial/Generation Z customer base is forcing chains and independents alike to think hard about how they interact with their consumers.  Interestingly, this part of the Catering and Hospitality sector reaches similar conclusions to its close cousins, the Retail industry: it's all about The Experience...

Retailers are beginning to understand that, to maximise footfall, conversion, retention and ultimate sales/margin in today's new Retail reality, it has become critical that they provide a true Experience.  It's no longer sufficient to merely offer keen pricing and quality service, today's shoppers are seeking something more - a reason to keep coming back.  Shopping centres have long been associated with 'extra' experiences such as cinemas and restaurants, but increasingly they have far more esoteric - dare I say interesting - features such as climbing walls and pop-up music stages, too.  In short, they have had to reinvent their own identities, something forced upon them by the advent of online e-Commerce - they have had to become destinations.

One of the ironies of this transformation is that the coffee shop phenomenon was one of the key driving factors in this reinvention. Now it is these early pioneers which are seeking ways to broaden their own appeal, enhance 'the experience' and all to the same end: better understand the customer to better serve their needs, reward loyalty and at the same time, improve sales, margins and profits.  Sound familiar?  It should do - and the same innovation that's presently of such interest and intrigue to bricks-and-mortar Retailers could generate the same advantages for Catering Hospitality providers, too.

Coffee shops, food-on-the-go outlets, restaurants and the like still need to understand the very fundamentals of the retailing experience: how many customers visit my stores, at what times of day and crucially, what do they do once they're inside? Am I losing custom due to long queues and wait-times? How many potential customers abort their wait - and after what period of time? Are they browsing shelves and chill cabinets and finding what they're looking for? Are my in-store promotions actually working for me? How do I know?

Thankfully there are now ways of tracking customer behaviour.  Not merely counting in/out footfall, but analysing the behavioural patterns of customers when they're inside the premises.  The LiDAR technology I have discussed previously is just as pertinent to this sector as anywhere else in Retailing.  It can offer such insight anonymously and privately - something with which CCTV has always struggled.

I would argue that it is not only up to "the barista is to provide the customer with an experience that’s tailored to meet their needs" but thanks to real-world, contemporary innovation, technology is now able to play a major supporting role, too.