The Future of Coffee Shops in a Socially Distant Society


Before the Coronavirus hit the world hard and fast, coffee shops were well known as hot spots for coworkers and students to catch up with each other and with their work. Laptop covered bistro tables and young moms with strollers often became the norm of what you’d see when entering a Starbucks or local cafe – and we grew used to having to wait for a seat or take our cup of Joe to go. 

As restrictions begin to be seen lifted in various parts of the world, we’re beginning to find out how much life as we knew it has changed and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Sitting in packed coffee shops especially seems something that will take quite a while to return to normal – if at all. 

So what does the future of coffee shops and cafes look like in a socially distant world? It’s hard to say, but many have come up with their own predictions. 

As a Co-Working Space

For thousands of freelancers, small business owners, and work-at-home employees (not to mention all the aspiring Great American Novel writers), local coffee shops have become a hub to meet with clients, work on projects, and get out of the home office and focus. Now that these cafes have been closed for weeks, individuals have had to adapt to working from home and perhaps it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Zoom calls and other digital options have made it easier than ever to remain social while in isolation. 

So, as cafes begin to open with more restrictions that make the availability of a free table even more difficult, many will probably continue to opt for other more convenient resources. However, we’ve started to miss those face-to-face reactions, so it’s hard to say whether coffee shops will be a hot zone for business owners eager to finally get out of the house. 

Most universities and colleges have announced an online set-up for the incoming students for the 2020-2021 semesters, so it will be interesting to see how students look for ways to get out of their dorm rooms and tiny basement suites to get fresh air while they work – coffee shops may be pressured to adapt to this new stream of revenue.

As an Experience

As the population begins to head outdoors for the first time in quite a while, we’ll be searching for an experience to go with our coffee and meals out. It’s less about paying 5$ for a mug of Americano and more about being able to sit with estranged friends at a table and catch up. More coffee shops, especially during the summer and in warmer places, will move their experience outdoors as well. Patio space, tables, and even a “pop-up” coffee bar are all attractive opportunities for coffee businesses to promote socialization while remaining in tune with local restrictions and guidelines. 

With millions working from home, we’ve taught ourselves how to make that specialty cup of coffee from our own kitchen without the need for our usual local brew. Now that time has slowed down and we can dedicate it to perfecting our coffee craft, coffee shops and cafes who want to continue to succeed will have to adapt to the customer’s new need: the beans and ingredients required. Having an online platform to engages with their audience will become critical to staying relevant. 

And, to tempt customers to leave their espresso machine and brave the coffee shop world again, the need for an experience as noted above or a special drink that’s too enticing to pass up, will also become huge players to win among the competition and keep revenue coming in. Be ready to see some pretty crazy recipes and options being marketed by your local coffee shops (Matcha in your coffee, anyone?).

How do you see the future of coffee shops? Let us know in the comments.