By Carlos Sims

Hospitality is the 4th wave

*This was written in in 2020

It would be the understatement of the century to say that 2020 has caused our industry to be shaken up. Not only are cafes and coffee bars closing or downsizing staff, but the way customers consume coffee is changing as well. I don’t know about you, but the cafe experience that I have grown to love, is pretty much nonexistent. I long for the days where I could walk into my favorite cafe (or 3) and get my usual (A cappuccino  and an espresso).

I long to hear the hustling and bustling of the door opening and closing, patrons chatting and laughing, and the sound of the orders being called out. But perhaps the thing that I miss most about my pre-covid coffee experiences is the way my favorite cafes made me feel. Not only were these spaces known for their delicious drinks, but they were very good at making me feel at home. This notion of a company making guests feel at home is what I refer to as hospitality. And it is hospitality that will carry our coffee community through covid and beyond. I’ve jokingly mentioned this in private to friends but I truly believe that hospitality will be the 4th wave of specialty coffee. Here are two reasons why I believe this. 

The first reason why I believe that hospitality will be the 4th wave of specialty coffee is because of the fact that coffee as a whole is continuing to get better. From new manual pour over devices, to more affordable roasting equipment allowing for more people to roast their own coffee, it is becoming easier and easier for customers to stay home and replicate the same flavor profiles they have experienced in their local shop. This coupled with our industry’s push to be more inclusive and welcoming to all peoples, means that customers will no longer settle for companies where there isn’t as high of a value on the environment as there is on quality. And why would they?! Especially when it’s becoming easier for them to make the same pour over at home. As a coffee professional and consumer, I am drawn to companies that care as much about the tone and vibe they give off, as they do about their roast development. I want to invest in companies that make deposits of belonging into me. And I don’t think I am alone. 

But the second and one of biggest reasons why I believe hospitality will be the 4th wave of specialty coffee is because that’s what coffee was meant for. Yes, it’s very good for its ability to wake you in the morning, but coffee in its purest form was meant to be shared and experienced in community. It was meant to foster an environment of welcoming, story telling, listening, grieving, celebration, and every other human experience we share. Coffee is a natural connector of people.  As coffee professionals we need to begin broadening our measurements of success to not only include how this coffee tastes, but how the coffee makes consumers feel. How does this product provide a sense of welcoming and joy? What experiences can I create in my shop or with my business that my guests can’t get anywhere else? As we answer these questions and more I believe that we will begin to see an elevation in our industry that not only improves the products we serve, but one that provides an invaluable experience for our guests.