We all know that the bottom line for every coffee shop is making and selling coffee that tastes so good that the customers keep pouring in. You need good quality, ethically sourced coffee beans, a good grind, and a commercial espresso machine that can handle the volume of cups you want to serve per day and at once. That’s what really matters, right?
Of course it is. But you know the other details matter too. You know your coffee shop needs to be in the right place, offer the right seating options, the right décor, a good selection of other drinks and nibbles, WiFi and charging points for the student and businessperson brigade… You may not need it all to have a successful coffee shop, but the best combination creates your overall customer experience.
And, like it or not, latte art could contribute to that.
Three very good reasons to add artistic endeavour to your barista skills.
- It shows you care about results. Latte art takes practice and attention to detail. It also suggests, rightly or wrongly, that you put as much effort into every part of your business. Anyone can lease a coffee machine, but not everyone can produce elegant designs on demand. It shows that you set yourself goals, standards, and want your customers to get everything they possibly can from their coffee. And people appreciate feeling like they matter.
- Everyone else is doing it. We know, we know; keeping up with the Joneses is no way to live, but it is the way to run a business. Being the Joneses is one step better, of course. Like it or not, coffee aficionados pretty much expect at least a heart or a rosetta foamed into their flat white. It’s great to look for a unique selling point, but if the only way you’re unique is being ‘the only coffee shop in town that doesn’t make the extra effort for your enjoyment’, you’re on a hiding to nothing. So, you need to master the basics. And if you can go one better, you’re onto a winner.
- This is where the ‘one better’ really comes into its own: social media. We’ve talked about how to use social media to market your coffee shop before. And since social media, and Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram especially, is all about the visual element, coffee art is a great opportunity. You can use video and photos to highlight your barista skills and artwork, hashtagging and location marking appropriately, so you’ll crop up in all sorts of local social media users’ feeds. And customers who are Instagram junkies will get in on the action, too. Start personalising coffees – using stirrers to write messages or individual names, for instance – and people will be snapping and sharing your artwork in no time.
So, where to start? In the short-term, get your hands on – or make – stencils. Stencilled coffee art is a handy shortcut while you learn how to create hand-poured latte art. For this, your best friend is YouTube. It’s actually the second largest search engine on the planet. Tap in ‘latte art’ or ‘coffee art’ on YouTube and you’ll be spoilt for choice with how-to videos teaching you the skills to build your business even further. From hearts, rosettas, ferns and writing words, all the way up to intricate milk dragons or cappuccino foamed to look like your regular customers’ pets. We kid you not.
And in the course of your research, make sure you’re being informed about milk temperatures, jug temperatures, and the way you use your steamer wand. It’s not just about artistic intent – there’s science behind the best foam art, just as there is behind great coffee.