Outdoor Retailers: Should You Put in a Coffee Bar?

Can adding a coffee bar boost your outdoor business' bottom line?

Outdoor Retailers: Should You Put in a Coffee Bar?

I was irritated. It was October, and the last place I wanted to be was a new-to-the-area antique shop. I don’t dislike vintage items. They’re fun to look at, but so is a 150-inch whitetail.

Marriage, though, is all about compromise — give and take. My bride rarely complains about my hunt schedule, so I didn’t grumble about giving up a crisp October evening.

The shop was nice — elegantly decorated and full of inventory. I browsed some old fishing lures and thumbed through the pages of a 1970-ish hunting magazine. Then I smelled it — coffee. Good coffee. I love coffee.

I made my way across the showroom floor, and there, tucked into a back corner of the shop, was a full coffee bar. It was awesome. The flavor of the night was percolating. Had that flavor not sounded appealing, there was a Keurig with at least 20 different flavors available. There were also snacks, lots of snacks. Adding icing to the cake was a pair of comfortable couches, a recliner and a television. The World Series was on, a couple of locals were relaxed, their eyes glued to the screen — a piping cup of joe in their hands. Over the next hour, 37 people grabbed a cup of coffee and a snack. It got my wheels to turning.

Put in a Coffee Bar

No, not just for the reluctant spouse that’s resisting walking through the door of your shop with their significant other. A coffee bar appeals to just about everyone. Coffee equals comfort. Think about it. Yes, I know space is limited, but a small rectangular table with a coffee pot and snacks won’t take up much room. Hit a few yard sales — find a couch and a recliner or three — and you’re set. Of course, you can get fancier. While a Mr. Coffee 12-Cup will run you less than $30, you can toss another Ben Franklin in the pot and spring for a Keurig. As for what you decide to serve, the sky is the limit. Pick Folgers or hand-ground beans; it’s up to you.

A coffee bar makes shop-goers feel welcome and gives people a place to congregate and relax. Dad is trying out a new bow on the range while mom and the kids relax at the bar — the coffee bar, that is. Mom and the kids are shooting league while dad swaps hunting tales with the Wednesday night crowd, coffee in hand. A coffee bar works to attract and hold customers. Why not add one to your retail space?

I did a little experiment. My local archery pro shop is small but is still a popular hangout for the resident outdoor crowd. I know the shop owner well, and while I couldn’t afford to put in couches and chairs, I did offer to buy a small table, a Mr. Coffee and provide snacks for a week.

Naturally, I couldn’t babysit the bar, that would be his job. I was footing the bill while he was gathering data for me. He ran the bar for a week. The first two days saw a zero percent increase in foot traffic, but the average time a customer spent in the shop increased. How do we know? His two-day sales data was the best it had been in a long time. People were staying longer, looking at more products and shooting more bows.

Days three through seven saw a spike in foot traffic. Guys and gals were bringing friends to the range to shoot and drink coffee. What better way to pass the time than drink coffee, nibble on a cookie and shoot some indoor foam? At the end of the week, his sales percentage was up 21 percent over the previous three weeks. Numbers don’t lie.

The coolest part, depending on how you look at it, is we took the coffee bar away after our seven-day test period. Customers weren’t happy. He had three different customers tell him they would pay for the coffee if he just kept it hot and ready. Keep that thought in the back of your mind.

Think of a coffee bar as a good blog. If a blog is good, you feel the need to check it often. You want the content. You look forward to it. When the content stops, you’re not happy. A coffee bar, unless you advertise it as a seasonal thing, can’t just be there one day and gone the next. People get used to something, and when it just vanishes, the claws come out.


Whenever you experiment, you learn a thing — or 10. When it comes to coffee, we learned it’s important to have a mixture of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee available. Lots of folks can’t have caffeine. Not to mention the fact that many caffeinated coffee drinkers, me included, need decaf during the afternoon and evening hours if they want to get any sleep that night.

We also learned that coffee pots are hot. Be sure to put signs out warning customers that the coffee is hot and that children in the area need to be accompanied by an adult. If possible, have the pots where kids can’t reach them.

Finally, be sure to look at coffee brands that cater specifically to hunters and shooters, such as Hunter’s Blend Coffee and Black Rifle Coffee Company.


It didn’t take long to figure out that if mom and dad are drinking coffee, the kiddos will want something as well. Hot cocoa mix is cheap, and if you have hot water available, it makes a great drink for the kids. We used the “hot” tap on our water cooler, which worked well to provide hot, but not too hot, water.



Spills are going to happen. Our first coffee bar location was on a carpeted section of floor space. We changed that pretty quickly. Be sure to be prepared for spills. Have cleaning supplies on hand so you can attend to any messes quickly. We also discovered that coffee in the range area was a bad idea. I leave that decision up to you, but when a cup of coffee gets spilled inside a customer’s bow case with their pricy rig inside, they aren’t overly thrilled.



What we found with the snacks is that it doesn’t have to be elaborate. My wife baked some cookies, which were a big hit. Other than that, I hit Walmart for donuts, cheap cookies and the like. Once, we made the mistake of putting all of our snacks out at in large offering. People like free food and if it’s in front of them, they will eat it. Keep your snacks behind the counter and fill the table as necessary.


TV and Furniture

We didn’t buy furniture or spring for a television. However, once the coffee bar was back, the shop owner decided to invest a little bit here and there, and before you know it, the shop was furnished and had a big screen.

The owner hit yard sales and surfed Craigslist and Facebook. It didn’t take him long to find a pair of couches and a recliner. His total furniture investment was $123. The television was purchased from the local Walmart, and he went with Hulu for a streaming package. Packages with Hulu start at $5.99 per month.

Outside the Box

We started this little project in late October. One of the things that happened, all on its own, was guys and gals started to load their hunt footage to various apps on their smartphones and then stream that footage to the in-shop television. Almost every time I went to the shop during November and December, someone was showing a small crowd a hit, miss, or other hunt footage. One super techy guy even streamed our league shoots live to the television so others could watch. It added an element of fun.

Next, we took things a bit further. A few us took our video footage and made small films. No, nothing like the Badlands Film Festival or the Full Draw Film Tour, but it was fun for us. We advertised around town and through social media channels and held a potluck. The result was a packed shop, and to think it all started with a simple cup of coffee.


Sidebar: Add to It

Of course, not everyone is a coffee drinker. But don’t fret — hot water with various teas will appease the no-coffee crowd. I also think it would be cool, though I’ve yet to see this, is a water cooler with various drink mixes from MTN OPS and Wilderness Athlete available. More expensive? Yes. However, why do Sam’s Club, Walmart and other major grocery chains have sampler tables placed strategically throughout their stores? Simple. They want you to try samples and then buy them. Does it work? I jumped on the web and did some serious digging. According to several different sources, at least a quarter of those who consume a free sample end up buying it. Other articles and direct data from major grocery chains mirrored the one-in-four average.

If you carry products like MTN OPS and WA, samples will lead to sales. My advice is to buy a few tubs of MTN OPS’ Enduro and Ignite as well as WA’s Energy & Focus and Hydrate & Recover. Both manufacturers offer drinks in an array of flavors.


Sidebar: Be Careful

One thing we discovered through our experimentation, is that we did have a few non-archers and non-shop regulars start staying in the shop and simply drinking coffee for extended periods. Problem? Not at first, but these guys would come in and stay for hours. They would often monopolize the shop owner’s time, and on more than one occasion used vulgar language that sent a new-to-archery mom out the door.

How was it handled? The shop owner explained to the men that he had no problem with them coming in and drinking coffee, but that their language was unacceptable. He explained that his business was a family business, and if they continued to use foul language, they would no longer be welcome. He also explained that the shop was his place of work and couldn’t spend all-day chatting.

The men returned the following day and stayed for an hour, but we have not seen them since.


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