The first part of the answer to this question is going to come from you. It’s up to you and your vision for your business’ brand, your financial situation, and so forth if you want to invest in, design, stock and promote retail items.
Retail items offer several advantages to your business. They reinforce your brand, giving your loyal and enthusiastic customers the opportunity to help promote it even when they leave your premises. They keep your brand memorable, whether to your regulars or the tourist who happens upon your shop and needs a better way to remember it than a flimsy old business card. And it adds revenue options.
Boosting your revenue is always a sound strategy. Retail items, especially the non-degradable kind, are an easy and fun way to do this.
You can invest in one or two coffee machines or pour-over systems; you only have to invest in new ones if and when they sell. If one of your retail choices is a brewing system, it is best to sell ones that you use in-shop at least some of the time. If someone is going to invest in an at-home brewing system that isn’t an auto-drip machine, they’re either going to do it because they’ve seen it used by your baristas or they’re going to want a demonstration on how to use it, especially if it is an unfamiliar system like Chemex or an Aeropress. Your baristas should be able to explain or demonstrate in order to finalize the sale.
If you sell brewing systems, you’ll want to sell the filters and any other necessities for operating the system. You’ll also want to have your employees be knowledgeable about which of your coffees work best in each system, like if a light roast would be better featured, for example.
In that same vein, you can sell the mugs and dishware you utilize in your shop, or you can sell mugs, dishware, and thermoses with your company’s brand on them. These are both strategies ways to make your shop memorable; they can take your brand home with them. This reinforces their connection to your brand and your company, bolstering positive associations and their memory. It also gives them the opportunity to say to their friends and family “I got that mug at this awesome coffee shop you should go to!”
You can take this brand promotion even further, to the level of Nike or Gap, and put your logo or name on t-shirts, hats, bags and more, expand the experience for your customers, be creating a cult-ish connection, where the brand is more than coffee, it becomes a community in itself.
And, of course, if you offer no other retail items, you should offer your coffees. If you’re a roaster, that’s a given; but, even so, offering 1 and .5 pound bags for individual customers is an excellent revenue and brand boost. If it’s financially feasible, offering smaller batches of your coffee gives your customers the opportunity to extend the experience of your coffee beyond your hours of operation as well as giving them the chance to test your blends at home before they will commit to a larger batch.
Whatever you decide, remember that retail is an opportunity to extend the coffee shop experience into your customers’ homes and it is a way to keep your brand memorable and have it promote itself to people who may not otherwise stumble upon it, or who were uncertain. Almost nothing makes you want to try something more than your best friend raving about it and nothing makes you remember that thing you wanted to try more than a visual cue like a branded coffee mug!