Coffee sales are making a big difference in the otherwise sluggish restaurant industry, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune. Chain coffee shop locations increased by 6% from 2016 to 2017, reflecting increasing interest in high-quality and specialty coffee across the country. The U.S. has almost 3,000 more coffee shops than it did five years ago.

So what makes coffee special?
Analysts at research firm NPD Research Group attribute the growth in coffee sales to two key factors:

1. Limited-time promotions and offerings to bring in new customers.
2. Loyalty programs to keep them coming back.

Ultimately, coffee builds a habit. Consumers are more likely to return regularly for their favorite coffee drink than they are for something like a burger (even if it’s a great burger), according to the market research firm NPD.

The rise of mobile ordering is also helping drive quick, habitual coffee purchases, because it makes people less aware of what they’re paying. Mobile ordering raises the chances that customers will opt to make multiple visits and spend more when they do.
The proof is in the foam!

Specialty drinks like lattes, which tend to be the most expensive, are posting the strongest growth in the coffee beverage category. And although the coffee market is crowded, with everyone from Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts to smaller chains competing for consumers’ dollars, coffee sellers are finding ways to expand the market instead of fighting over the same group of java-loving customers. That’s helped by a focus on breakfast, which has seen growth while lunch and dinner slow, and afternoon snack time, when more people are justifying a cappuccino when they take a break from work.

Mallory Pilcher, Stumptown Coffee Roasters marketing director, said she feels there’s still a lot of room for coffee growth across the U.S. “So many parts of the country are just getting turned on to high quality, sustainably sourced, hand-crafted coffee,” she said. “Cafe concepts are evolving and menu options are expanding.”