Warning: Before reading make sure you have a cup of coffee in your hands :-)

When somebody asks you “what is your favorite coffee?” probably one precise answer will cross your mind right away… Espresso, Cappuccino, Latte, Macchiato! But if somebody asks you “what is your favorite café?” would you have one straight answer even without thinking about it?

Coffee drink types are very different and each one is unique. People like to identify themselves with one of them and their choice becomes automatic, even if they try others from time to time. On the other hand, concept of café is basic, very common, based on traditions and customs. It is an establishment which primarily serves prepared coffee or other hot beverages. Indeed each café is trying to differentiate from the others and create certain individuality of the place by providing a coffee of the premium quality, fresh croissants, home made pastries, having unique interior design that creates lovely atmosphere or tells you about café’s history. And what if it would be different? 

First café (coffeehouse) was opened in middle of the 16th century in the city of Constantinople, today known as Istanbul. Legends say this concept was introduced already in the end of 15th century, but with no documentation. 500 years later, we are enjoying our cup of coffee in pretty much the same way, but we forgot some of the primal accessory activities. Initially café was a place for discussion, political gatherings; in some instances it became a club of aristocrat clientele.

Today, cafés are still synonymous of the place for gatherings and discussions. “Let’s have a coffee sometime” translates into “Let’s meet and discuss”. But the society changed and people coming to a café have various intentions.

We could group them into 4 domains:

And what if cafes would try higher level of differentiation and addressed these diverse customer needs? If you dream of having your own café one day, here you can find something to inspire you!

Imagine…

… a café that each night turns into a calm oasis where candles light up its darkened interiors and relaxing music can be heard in the background. The place could become popular for its curative effects. (RELAX CAFÉ)

…a café where people could read books or newspapers while sipping their coffee and purchase them afterwards. As usually books are full of letters, we would suggest picture books instead. Human beings are visual learners and there is a little child in each adult. To make it even more specific, choose a certain type of books… what about ‘comics café’ , ‘cook books café’ , ‘travel café’ , ‘photo café’ etc. Visitors could write suggestions for new books and put it together with little cash donation into the basket. (PICTURE BOOK CAFÉ)

…a café where creative arts would become its mark. People could participate in special lessons to learn painting the pottery, drawing, scrap booking or making jewelry. Schedule of such a lessons would be communicated to all coming visitors who could return with their friends or families. Same concept could be applied to other types of activities – roman writing, singing, computer arts, etc. (CREATIVE CAFÉ)

…a café that would be perfect place to spend time with our family, especially kids. Kinder café would offer interior playgrounds, toys, picture books, and fresh vitamin juices, ice cream, and healthy baby food. Children would play together while parents could enjoy their coffee and watch their little angels. (KINDER CAFÉ)

…a café where customers could travel around the world. Travel books would accompany large offer of specialities from different countries. Visitors could listen selected music in the ‘world music jukebox’ or watch short videos in the movie room.  Regular discussion groups would be organized by travellers to share their experience and inspire people to travel. Café  PC would allow people to book travel tickets right away. (TRAVEL CAFÉ)

…a café that becomes a new trends hot spot. Professional discussions around specific topics and networking activities could take place every evening after work. While drinking their espresso or cocktail, people could exchange knowledge, discuss about the latest news in their industry. (TREND CAFÉ)

…a café where parents could come with their children to do their homework. Doing math exercises or revising history can be more fun with other kids. Moreover smarter ones could help the others and homework would be finished earlier. (HOMEWORK CAFÉ)

…a café with a small theatre inside. Each evening a volunteer beginning actors could play and even involve café’s customers. This concept could be combined with the theatre acting classes taking place regularly – each week/month. (THEATRE CAFÉ)

…a café where each room would bring a new experience. Rooms would have different interior décor and menu offering (depends on the topic). Thanks to the partnership with design shops, café could borrow new home accessories and change the décor each 3 months. Every time people come, it would be a new experience, as there would be a small change every day. Customers could even guess ‘what have changed today?” when paying at the cash-desk. (NEW EXPERIENCE CAFÉ)

…a café where customers would be welcomed by ‘breakfast menu’ all day long. Fresh croissants, jam, egg omelette or bacon could be served any time. Does not matter anymore what time you woke up and need a good breakfast. (GOOD MORNING CAFÉ)

…a café where customers could co-create their meals and drinks. Experience of preparing a coffee of their taste or suggesting accompanying it by favorite biscuits would make this place unique. Cook would be in the same room as customers who could discuss with him. (BE THE COOK CAFÉ)

Few of these ideas were already turned into reality. Several existing pioneering projects experience very positive feedback. We would like to share with you few of those that inspired this article:

CAFÉ SLOW in Tokyo, Japan has launched the initiative called ‘”Kurayami Cafe” (Cafe in the Dark) night in 2001. This project was initially part of ‘Candle Night’ held in Japan each year. Idea is to switch off the lights and replace them by candles. Regular visitors claim this café has a curative effect and helps them to free from noise and worries of daily life.

STORIEBOOK CAFÉ in Texas; USA is a unique place where every visit is different like a tale to be told. It is combined with a book store and people can find there new and used books, “Storie” time for the kids, author visits and book signings, live music, art and photo demonstrations and many more.

THE CREATIVE CAFÉ in Pembrokeshire, UK offers their visitors to become an artist. They can paint their own pottery and enjoy creating personal ceramic masterpiece. The best craftwork is presented on the website of the café.

KINDER CAFÉs became very popular concept in Berlin, Germany. Kalimero café is one of those offering playgrounds, toys and children books, organizing various activities or birthday parties. This concept is highly appreciated by new generation of parents.

Reality proves that even such a traditional concept like ‘café’ can evolve together with the society. If you are not convinced about the idea of bringing various activities into café, you may prefer doing it other way round -> bringing café into regular activities (libraries, shops, kinder gardens, theatres, etc.)