The total number of coffee shops nationwide is supposed to grow by just about two percent this year, which is the slowest growth rate in the last six years, according to the consultant group Mintel.
“Every corner, there’s Starbucks or there’s different roaster coffee shops,” said Ryan Lee, owner of Coffee Tree & Poke in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood.
“There’s a lot of competition, for sure,” said Lee, who pointed out a handful of coffee shops within blocks.
To differentiate his storefront near Harborview Medical Center, he decided to add poke to the menu. Poke is a Hawaiian rice bowl dish with raw fish.
“A lot of customers ask, ‘Wow, that’s a really weird concept: coffee and poke’,” Lee chuckled.
But differentiating his product has paid off.
“The poke, the lunch crowd, (is) probably about 70 percent of our sales,” Lee estimated.
Lee said he initially hired baristas when he opened the location about one year ago but has since switched to full-time kitchen staff openings.
“The gameplan had to be changed,” he said.