Thursday, June 21, 2012

Opinion Piece: Late-night Coffee

Is Toronto Ready for late-night coffee shops?

This has always been a topic of interest - and a moment of wonder while I can count only on a few places to serve good coffee past 6/7/8PM (depends on your hood). So the question is.... Is Toronto's Coffee scene ready for late night coffee shops? Does it even warrant an uproar?

Can we ask owners to keep their doors open past 6PM, is it reasonable or ideal to have the shop open for business?

Toronto's Coffee Scene:
Over the past 5 years, we've seen a large number of cafe/coffee bar/ espresso bar opening up within Toronto. (I'm just focusing on downtown - because I rarely venture outside of the Eglington/Vic Park/Waterfront/Runnymede bubble) YES there has been a greater number of openings, but what about the survival rate? 50% at most. That's not even highlighting the other big box chains that Canadian's love dearly.
So, is it safe to say that coffee consumption has increased - that would depend on who you're asking... At the recent CRFA, there has been an increase of 5% in the consumption of Canadians. Great!

What proportion of the market does the independent coffee shop represent?
I would be hard pressed to believe that within Toronto the indie scene represents more than 25%. When you factor in big chains, gas stations, bakeries, grocery stores... coffee consumption is widely available, so what incentive does a indie coffee shop owner have to profit from the market....

One word: Neighbourhood
Demographics, customer retention, and marketing play a huge roll, but the major component is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Does it make sense to only break-even beyond the hours of 6PM. Weigh the financial pros/cons of keeping a late-night coffee scene and we start to discover the eating trends of this city.  Recent data shows that consumption at restaurants is on the rise - especially with the Gen Y and Xer's. (article from the Star) but does this necessarily indicate that restaurants have the urge to hire a dedicated barista for their coffee service....

So who can we turn to?
As more shops own, there might not be a market to open beyond the current standard hours - if there is no demand, than there is no incentive. Can we possibly start to focus more on the food service industry in general, with the notion of transparency and sustainability - don't you think that "Specialty Coffee" has a place. It should! It comes with education, passion and market appetite.

Let's not hound our coffee shops and demand a comfortable environment we so dearly love during the early mornings and late afternoons. Let's start knocking on the food service industry door, and get them on-board. We are going into a trend where the customer wants to know where the ingredient has originated, how it was prepared and is it delicious. Maybe coffee consumption is LOW... By starting with good coffee and good service customers/consumers/ our neighbours will start to explore and develop a curiosity that the coffee scene needs. Boggles my mind that someone will pay $80 for a piece of steak, but shutter at the price tag of $3 espresso...... Let's not even go into food costs, margins and mark-ups....
Can we turn to TV and hope that the ever so popular FOOD NETWORK start producing shows about coffee? SUPERSTAR CHEFS can that translate to SUPERSTAR BARISTA.... (can Coffee consumption become as "sexy" as Jamie Oliver....) I think that's just the coffee geek inside of me.
Until you raise everyone's level, can you start to push.

Can't we just have good coffee available at all hours of the day?

What are your thoughts?
How can we improve?
Do we even need it?

1 comment:

  1. You are right, the number of cafes is increasing and that good too. We always get good quality in competitive environments, don’t we? I'd like to visit Jimmy’s coffee, which according to me is one of the best cafes in Toronto.