How to Sell Coffee to People

by Catherine Lovering; Updated September 26, 2017

Coffee is big business, but one that has a lot of competition to fill customers' cups. Neighborhoods often have multiple cafes, and festivals have rival coffee carts parked near one another. Successful entrepreneurs focus on coffee's unique appeal as a beverage and a social experience.

High-Quality Coffee is Essential

Peter Baskerville, cafe entrepreneur, asserted that customers will seek out the best espresso. A high-trafficked location, cheap prices and quick service mean nothing if people do not get good coffee. Because the market is so competitive, consumers can choose to go to another shop down the street.

Oren Bloostein, proprietor of Oren's Daily Roast, says that he goes to great lengths to ensure coffee quality, getting to know growers and traveling to where the product is harvested. He compared the process of finding good coffee to wine-tasting.

Different Isn't Always Better

When a customer has several choices for her morning latte, it is tempting to promote a new and unique selling point. However, Nicholas Cho, owner of several San Francisco-based coffee shops and host of a coffee podcast, cautions against fads. Although Cho is in favor of learning about all aspects of roasting, brewing and serving coffee, he says starting off as part of a trend limits future growth of the business, noting that "jumping immediately into the latest trends will limit your education by starting you off on the fringes of what's possible."

Instead of focusing on a potential flavor-of-the-month coffee fad, like beans from a particular region or a new style of equipment, choose a differentiating element that will survive customer moods. Bloostein notes that when he started his chain of New York cafes in the 1980s, he chose to roast the beans on-site where the brew was served.

Coffee Is About Feelings

Baskerville and Cho emphasize that coffee is about much more than caffeine. Coffee provides an escape from a stressful daily existence. A cafe is a place to socialize and a treasured part of the daily routine. To sell coffee, entrepreneurs must sell the experience as well as the brew. Friendly baristas and a welcoming seating area that encourages repeat business is essential.

Cho reminds owners to think about the real reason customers come.

When you ask people why they drink coffee, more than anything else they tend to tell you a lot about how it makes them feel.

About the Author

Catherine Lovering has written about business, tax, careers and pets since 2006. Lovering holds a B.A. (political science), LL.B. (law) and LL.L. (civil law).