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How much is too much – cafe menu diversity?

It’s tough to sell JUST coffee, and remain highly profitable. Having a diverse menu is a way to keep regular’s interested, and a way to attract new customers. Also being able to add different menu items, such as seasonal drinks, affords you opportunities to create higher margin products. Let’s explore a couple of these points and more, on why diversifying your menu is such a good idea.



Every opportunity that is presented to gain more profit per transaction is one that you should focus on as a cafe owner.

Food, experiences and other items (like swag or coffee equipment) can give you more funds to pay baristas more, try new things in the cafe, or even pay yourself more!


There are a few common items that pair well with coffee drinks: cakes, cookies etc. But don’t limit yourselves to just these. Sweet and savory dishes can easily complement your particular roast. Here’s an easy on I’ve heard that works well. Have a blend with orange or citrus notes? Put some citrus in the free water, that will bring out the taste of those parts of the coffee or espresso.



Whatever it is that you find works with your customer, focus on finding what makes you and your cafe unique.

That is what will stick with your customers. Having great pairings of food and coffee, having great coffee mocktails, having kitschy latte art… whatever diversity it is, make it a staple in the experience at your cafe. I still remember this tonic cold brew I had, at a cafe in Canada. Can’t for the life of my recreate it, though I try once in a while. Having that signature drink experience really sticks with you.



Have a drink that is specific to your cafe. Whether this is found through said experimentation, seasonal drinks that stick well in your area, or driven by community demand, having a drink that customers know is yours, shows that you are open to exploring coffee outside of the traditional filtered cup of Joe.



How much diversity is too much though?

Bournemouth University did a study to find that most people in a fast food setting think that anything below 6 items is too little, but more than 6 is too much to process. To be clear, that is 6 items per category (milk-based drinks, espresso options, teas etc). At the end of the day though, no one really knows exactly what they want. Howard Moskowitz, a psychophysicist, said: “The mind knows not what the tongue wants.”



Malcom Gladwell spoke at a TED talk about coffee and said “the majority of people say that just want a ‘dark, hearty, rich roast’. In actuality, between 25-27% of people *Actually* want a dark roast”.



The point is, diversification for the sake of diversity of items can be a costly mistake. Having a specific goal in mind of finding more profitable menu items, and items that make your cafe experience unique is going to make diversifying your menu worth it.