The Rise of the Hybrid: Coffee and Cocktails

By: Corien de Jong

Dual-concept spaces are the latest trend in a series of ways to reach consumers looking for experiences rather than the typical restaurant; the coffee-cocktail hybrid is no exception. 

Mixing curious consumers looking for eccentric experiences and shop owners who want to maximize their profits, 2018 has seen an explosion of dual-concept spaces – with one of the more prominent versions being part coffee shop and part cocktail lounge.

These hybrid joints are coffeehouse by day and cocktail bar by night. While these coffee-and-alcohol hotspots typically sell a variety of traditional alcoholic beverages in the evenings, their selling point is often caffeine-fueled concoctions that pair coffee with a variety of spirits, beer, and wine.

For example, at Ampersand in Fort Worth, Texas, patrons get fresh brewed specialty coffee until 5 p.m., and then business transitions to their speak-easy style lounge. At night, Ampersand's patrons buzz in at street level, travel through the candle-lit coffee shop, and then through a concealed door to a cocktail cave. Inside the lounge, customers can purchase coffee-flavored ales, stouts, and porters, along with cleverly named coffee cocktails like the "Cold Fashioned," which is a mix of whisky and cold brew, instead of the conventional sugar and bitters found in the old fashioned cocktail.

In Kansas City, Nomads Coffee and Cocktails keeps coffee and the harder stuff flowing simultaneously through the night and day. Their crowd is a mix of nightshift workers drinking a dry gin with elderflower and grapefruit at 8 a.m., alongside a 9-to-5er stopping by for a coffee and croissant. The Nomad's staff is one part barista and one part bartender at this café bar.

These brews-and-booze joints have a bright future – 83 percent of Americans drink coffee and many of these coffee connoisseurs reach for specialty brews that can only be found in designer shops. The problem for traditional coffee shop owners, however, is that only 16% of coffee drinkers grab a cup of joe in the evening. In fact, the decline is rapid from breakfast time forward. Hybrids shops provide a compelling solution to that drop in revenue.

In New York City, Patent Coffee/Patent Pending offers a small coffee shop as well a 34-seat cocktail bar in a 1,200 square-foot space.  Owner Ryan McKenzie planned the concept from the beginning. "Rent is so high, and this is our first rodeo," he tells Restaurant Hospitality. "So, we wanted to minimize our risk by having two revenue streams."

Out on the West Coast, Melrose Umbrella Co. in Los Angeles debuted new hours and added a lineup of globally sourced, single-origin java, after a successful year as a craft cocktail bar that used market-driven, seasonal ingredients. Christine Solomon, head of Melrose Umbrella marketing said the owners opened the cocktail lounge with the hope they could put together a coffee shop in the future.

"Their vision from the start was to build a place that creatives could come and write, hold meetings, start and finish their masterpiece, and be able to have a coffee meeting that could lead into happy hour and then into a great night out," Solomon says.

No doubt, adding a cocktail bar to attract late-night customers, or adding a coffee shop to tag the morning go-getters makes perfect sense to attract a crowd. By mixing bold and dynamic cocktails with specialty coffee you can’t get at home, and an atmosphere that provides the perfect all-around experience from the morning to the evening, savvy business owners can maintain a "buzz" of customers throughout the day and night, and reap financial rewards along the way.

About Butts in Seats!

When it comes to restaurant trends and marketing, IMM knows what they are talking about. Gina Lee De Freiitas, President of IMM, and Corien de Jong, SVP Executive Creative Director, have more than 25 years of experience in the vertical. So when they talk about the tools, tips and resources your restaurant needs to succeed, rest assured they’ve got it covered.

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