Refreshing: the new in-store café concepts

With the retail industry in flux, we’re seeing brands innovating every element of their customer experience, so it’s no surprise that in-store cafés are getting a shake up. In-store cafés are a vital part of the shopping experience, from friends stopping for coffee mid-shopping spree, to parents treating the kids to meatballs at Ikea.

The most exciting shake ups all have one thing in common: they’re great examples of brands using their in-store café to capture the zeitgeist, in a way that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. From Instagram-led aesthetics to locally sourced produce, these three new cafés tap into the biggest retail trends of 2019.

Community hub at Co-op

So new, it hasn’t even launched yet… Co-op is opening its first & Coffee concession next month, and will open nine more before the end of October. The new & Coffee shops will sell local produce, serve breakfast and lunch and, according to Co-op, become ‘community hubs’.

This is more than a pop-up or a PR stunt; Co-op will be transforming existing cafés all over the UK, from Cornwall to Inverness. While the community concept feels particularly authentic for a member-owned business like Co-op, other brands would do well to follow suit.

Supporting and connecting with their community is a compelling reason for shoppers to shop on their local high street, rather than online or at a retail park, and in-store cafés are the perfect way for big brands to offer this without seeming disingenuous, or like they’re jumping on the bandwagon.

Insta-bait at H&M

H&M has brought Swedish café chain it’s: PLEAT to two of its UK stores, and it’s the kind of place you can’t help but Instagram. It ticks all the boxes: velvet art deco sofas; lush greenery hanging from the ceiling; and colourful, healthy food served on rustic earthenware.

As well as being irresistibly Instagrammable, it’s: PLEATS has got the sustainable creds you’d expect from a new, on-trend café: organic food, decomposable packaging, and on-site composting to reuse waste.

Even though the café itself looks like it was made for glossy, aspirational social posts, the brand’s Instagram account is refreshingly down to earth; there are no cheesy puns or inspirational quotes, for example. Online and in store, the tone of voice is laid-back and straightforward. it’s: PLEAT has an offbeat, Scandi-cool vibe that sits well with H&M’s Swedish origins, even if today the fashion giant is too established and too international to channel this with its own branding.

Experiential at Primark

Even though they’re run by a third-party company, Primark’s established in-store coffee shops are very on brand for them: cheap, cheerful and cheekily called Insomnia. However, this year the brand has branched out into more experiential concepts, first with a Disney café in its Birmingham store, and now with a Friends-themed café in Manchester.

Friends is a smart theme: it will appeal to older customers who remember the show from the beginning; millennials who remember the later series; and Gen Zers, who love the retro appeal of all things 90s (and who will remember the years of daily Channel 4 reruns).

Increasingly, customers are looking for unmissable, shareable experiences, and it’s much easier for Primark to deliver this with a new café, rather than rethink their entire portfolio. Similarly, the Friends-themed café uses compostable cups and ethically sourced coffee beans; as a fast fashion brand, it’s important for Primark to show that it’s making an effort to be more sustainable.

So, what’s the takeaway from these cafés?

A new in-store café is a great way to give customers what they want, quickly. From Instagram-inspired aesthetics to a sense of community, big brands can tap into trends they’re not currently able to with their main brand.

As customers continue to demand quality experiences they can’t get elsewhere, we think more retail brands will transform their in-store dining concepts.

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