It would be wildly inaccurate to say that the pandemic is over. It’s not. But there is nevertheless a certain Then-Versus-Now-ness whereby one can judge how things like the economy have rebounded since plummeting in early 2020. When looking at coffee shops through this lens, all signs indicate that the cafe hasn’t yet made a full recovery. It’s not because people aren’t drinking coffee, though, but how and where—the home office—that is hampering sales.
As reported by Reuters, cafes took a big hit at the beginning of the pandemic, due to store closures and temporary lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus. And while shops have since re-opened and new cafe spaces are popping up everyday, sales haven’t quite kept pace. This is due, in part, to a new normal brought on by the pandemic: a massive shift in the workforce away from the office and into remote spaces.
In a report on spending habits by the Bank of America Institute, researchers used “aggregated and anonymized merchant data from Bank of America Global Transactions Services” to compare coffee shop transaction numbers from before the start of the pandemic to now. They found that while total sales volume rebounded post-lockdown, the numbers have plateaued and remain below pre-pandemic levels. The reason for the stall, per the report, is the emergence of work-from-home options keeping many from going out “for at least a third of their work time.”
The logic is simple: people tend to grab a coffee during their morning commute and at other times during the day when working in the office. If they are working from home their demand for coffee shop products will likely decline.
During the early stages of the pandemic, there was an invigorated interest in home brewing, and that appears to have held even as coffee shops have begun operating at full strength, further decreasing any need for folks to go out to grab a coffee.
The report does note however that the national trend doesn’t necessarily hold at a state level. States like Texas, California, and North Carolina have seen upwards of a 100% increase in sales volume from pre-pandemic levels, where Florida and New York are back to anywhere between 50% and 75% from the same timeframe. The report suggests this might be due to migration trends, with more people moving to the former group of states to account for the volume loss otherwise.