In the 90’s and mid-2000’s the coffee shop industry was booming.  Ma and pa coffees were opening up everywhere.  During that time the big box coffee shops opened a can a whip of …, and many of those smaller shops were assimilated or put out of business.  

It has been about ten years since what I saw as a small coffee shop business bust. I believe many of the shops began looking at the success of Starbucks and tried to emulate their business model.  The only problem with that is by then Starbucks had the money and influence to do it better that any ma and pa business owner could.  Starbucks many times would open up within a block of an existing coffee shop and put them out of business.

About ten years later I believe there will be a new resurgence of new coffee shops and cafes that will open up and have some success.  However, for any of them to do well I believe it is important to come up with new business models that will be different enough, and meet the needs a community.  It used to be the local coffee shop could draw people in with free Wi-Fi. As handheld devices become a mainstay with enough internet data to keep business owners busy there will be less of a draw to meet that need.

So what’s a local startup or existing business owner to do to be attractive? I believe we are approaching a time of technological burnout.  The fact is people need people.  I believe there will be a wake-up call soon similar to the movie Wall-e. For this reason, I think providing a community with a way to connect to connect with other people in a meaningful way is important.  First, I suggest offering board game tables like the ones on cafetabletops.com.  This will give an opportunity for people to interact. They also sell whiteboards and blackboard table tops that can encourage positive interaction.

Second have a pulse on the community.  Know what is happening in your community and stay in touch with the community makers and shakers, providing moral support, and opportunity to host events where people can gather for a cause that can positively connect a community. Third, provide bulletin boards and electronic event calendars that play on a TV.  This can help make you the hub for anything that happens in the community.

As you become that community hub, providing those positive events, I would do my best to stay away from endorsing a cause or event that will exclude a large portion of your audience.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t necessarily exclude any group that wants to meet at your shop.  I would just be careful what you put your name on. For example, I recently followed a coffee shop magazine on one of my twitter accounts. When I noticed that their twitter posts continued to post support for a controversial organization that about half the nation won’t support I removed them as a follower.

Honestly, it really wouldn’t have mattered if I believed in their cause or not.  I feel like it is important as a business owner to be as inclusive as possible without compromising your core beliefs and mission.  Your goal as a business owner is drawing people in, not drive them out.