Key café trends for 2021: from takeaway to delivery to reopening the doors

By Angelina Smy, Marketing Manager, Matthew Algie

We can all agree that 2020 was a tough year.  We are already 6 weeks into 2021 and have seen many of the same challenges we faced in 2020.  We can only look forward with hope and plan for the coming months with optimism.

Hopefully we won’t have too much longer to wait until our favourite cafés re-open their doors for dine-in. I, for one, cannot wait to enjoy my flat white inside one of my local coffee shops feeling cosy and warm! But is this just me? It is reasonable to expect that the uncertainty of the past year has influenced our attitudes and expectations for our future café trips in some way, so we thought we’d look at what the data is actually telling us about this, as well as some wider future predictions.

Consumers are missing dine-in: get ready for reopening

The good news for hospitality is that I am not alone in my sentiments! There is evidence that most of us are missing the experience of going out and are looking forward to visiting our favourite venues again, so there is an opportunity to capitalise on this enthusiasm and show everyone what they have been missing. There were many reasons given for this in Allegra’s Project Café 2021 study, but socialising was the clear winner in terms of most missed coffee shop experience with over 50% of respondents choosing this option.

A big change for many consumers in their choice of where to eat in, is the extent to which they feel safe in the venue. Although a significant majority of respondents to Allegra’s study agreed they felt safe visiting coffee shops, there were still about 10% who disagreed. This also has the potential to change depending on the circumstances at the time and people’s personal experiences. Reassuring customers by demonstrating your commitment to safety will help reaffirm their choice to visit you and will encourage repeat custom! Simply making your measures very visible, from hand sanitiser at the entrance, to clear signage, and helpful, well-informed staff, will help your guests feel at ease.

Innovations in the takeaway experience

Extended closures have not meant that all businesses have stood still; for some it has been an opportunity to complete substantial projects, while many have been forced to quickly adapt, innovate, or accelerate new ideas. Noticeable signs of this can be seen with the growing number of high street outlet apps now incorporating facilities such as payment options, click and collect, loyalty point collection or even subscription offers, all with the aim of speeding up or improving the customer experience. These features have been particularly successful for takeaway and will likely continue to be used when dine-in returns as customers value the benefits and find them easy to use.

Delivery and subscriptions

Another impact of the extended closures is the increasing take-up of alternatives to drinking in a coffee shop over the past year. Many consumers are embracing different ways to get their coffee fix! Despite the belief that coffee and hot beverages do not travel well, we have seen many brands partner with established delivery firms to reach more customers. The use of delivery services is predicted to further increase post lockdown, even becoming an “embedded” part of food to go development according to Food Future Insights (2020), meaning deliverability may soon be a key consideration for new products.

Those able to offer options like drive-thru or coffee vending have also seen growth in these formats as consumers get increasingly comfortable with these options they may not have tried before. Drive Thru especially meets the needs of convenience, speed, and safety with the bonus of barista-made drinks! Coffee at home has also performed strongly. As well as an increasingly large retail range available in supermarkets from premium instant to coffee beans to pods you are spoilt for choice with the home delivery options whether they are delivery subscriptions or a choice of home brewing kit for you to experiment, which is also providing a source of coffee education for consumers.

Key consumer trends to watch out for in 2021

Looking beyond beverages, here are some of our favourite predictions of consumer behaviour based on Kerry Digest:

  • Health and Wellbeing – This has been a key trend for a number of years and can mean different things depending on who you talk to! In the context of recent events, health and wellbeing has taken on new significance with the desire to make food choices that enhance immunity through vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  •  Sustainability – It may feel as if this has taken a back-seat over the past year, but sustainability is still an important issue for consumers. Increasing numbers of people expect good practices and transparency across the whole supply chain from sourcing and production to packaging, storage and waste disposal. Rural and suburban outlets have done particularly well recently in comparison to those in city centres, as well as brands that have a compelling story to tell.
  • Flexibility – Brunch is an example of breakfast type meals that can be consumed well into the afternoon; spending more time at home has taken this idea further creating the need and opportunity to be flexible with eating habits. There is no requirement to stick to the standard breakfast, lunch and dinner times, or food items for that matter! Food and ingredients that are flexible enough to be made or consumed at any time of the day are more convenient.
  • Attention Grabbing – Food is fuel but that’s obviously not the only reason we eat! It really enhances your enjoyment if your food tastes great and looks great; it helps if your friends think it’s cool too. Whether this is experimenting with new meals and ingredients at home to create new textures and colours or showing off your new freakshake on Instagram this helps break up the monotony of Groundhog Day!

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  • Allegra Project Café UK 2021