Major chain coffee shops do a lot to make sure that customers choose their establishment over others. They tout special drinks, price breaks, and even atmosphere as selling points. But no matter how much the chains try to sell themselves, each location remains pretty much the same.
Local coffee shops, on the other hand, are individual, independent establishments, each with its own personality. These little gems can be nestled anywhere in a community and have a lot going for them over the “big names”.
Fresh (and sometimes local) food
Most local coffee houses are small and have a limited food selection. However, visitors can be assured that what is available has been freshly made. Small coffee shops bake new offerings daily or every other day, and often offer “day old” items at a discount. Shops that have a lunch or dinner menu may also offer a selection of fresh, local items when produce is in season. Sometimes local coffee shops partner with other local businesses to offer baked goods, hand made items, and more from artisans in the area.
Adorning the walls of many independently-owned coffee shops are unique works of art created by local talents. The shop effectively becomes a showcase for amazing art, while the art itself enhances the atmosphere of the shop. This is a win-win situation, since the artist gets a place to show off and sell some of his or her artwork for a period of time, and the coffee shop gains recognition by participating in the local art scene. Taking the time to browse amazing paintings and photos can add a little enlightenment to a morning coffee run.
Live, local music
Some of the most famous musicians launched their careers playing in coffee shops. Anyone who has attended a music show at such a shop knows what an amazing experience it can be. Many shops get into the local music scene, offering musicians and small bands a place to showcase their talents. Weekends, or even entire weeks, can be full of music, with new names appearing all the time. Some places also host “open mike nights”, weekly or monthly events that allow up-and-comings to play a song or two, meet other musicians, and expand their fan bases.
Fun food & drink specials
Pumpkin spice in fall and peppermint at Christmas appear in just about every café and eatery. But local coffee shops aren’t bound by chain or franchise rules and can offer whatever specials they choose! If a manager or employee is feeling inventive, they may stir up a new drink that no one has tried before and offer it to patrons as a short-term special. Heat waves can bring fun tropical smoothies; snow storms may spawn a special, snowball-shaped treat in the dessert case. Without the restrictions of a “big name”, local shops have the freedom to be more creative with their selection, giving new and seasoned patrons a surprise.
Intimate business/customer relationship
Running into a big-name chain coffee shop and standing in line with dozens of others impatiently waiting for the morning pick-me-up takes the intimacy out of the business/customer relationship. Often the same people aren’t working behind the counter from morning to morning, or are hourly employees who aren’t thrilled about having to serve coffee starting at 5am. Local shops, however, often have a small and dedicated employee base. These employees-and the managers, as well-have the opportunity to get to know the regulars. This personalizes the coffeehouse experience and makes going out for coffee that much more friendly. Having a personal relationship with customers also allows the business to response quickly and accurately to customer feedback.
The personality and intimacy of small, locally-owned coffee shops puts them a cut above the average chain. With creativity, eclectic atmosphere, and unique selection, why go for coffee anywhere else?