Square Answers the Question, ‘What Do Customers Actually Order?’

A new report from POS pioneers Square reveals customer preferences and pricing trends, answering the question, “What are customers actually ordering?”


Cover photo by Nathan Dumlao

If you had to guess what the most popular drink in your café was, what would you say? Square, the point-of-sale software company, has teamed up with the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) to analyze data from coffee shops all over the United States (a separate study also compiled data from Canada) to determine what drinks are popular with customers, what trends are taking off, and where the best tippers live.

Square, in partnership with the SCA, published a comprehensive study of coffee shop trends and statistics. The infographic above breaks down some of the most important findings.

One of the biggest takeaways from the study, which analyzed data collected between June 2017 and June 2018, is that lattes reign supreme. Lattes are the most popular coffee drink in 44 of 50 states, and Americans ordered 67 million lattes in the timeframe this study looked at. The East Coast had a few outliers in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine, where residents preferred drip coffee; tea is popular in Hawaii and New Mexico; and Alaska stands out as the only state where folks preferred mochas to any other drink.

Alaska also stood out as the state with the best tippers. On average, folks from Alaska tip their baristas about 17.5 percent. The national average was around 11 percent, with folks from New Jersey being the worst tippers—on average, folks frequenting coffee shops in the Garden State only left their baristas a 7.5 percent tip.

Other states were singled out too; while almond milk ranks as the number-one alternative milk across the country, Pennsylvania was the only state that preferred oat milk. Oat milk’s popularity increased substantially this year, experiencing a 435 percent increase in sales over the last year. You’ll see folks in North Dakota, Hawaii, and New Hampshire carrying the most complicated coffee drinks—they ranked at the top in terms of folks who customize their drinks the most. If you’re looking to stretch your dollar, Idaho boasts the most affordable latte, ringing in at $3.49 (North Dakota shows up again with the most expensive at $4.45).

The study shows trends in a number of areas, including the increasing popularity of oat milk and cold brew, along with the growth of small milk drinks like flat whites and cortados. Square also looked at time-of-day purchases, and noticed that drip coffee is most popular around 8 a.m., with drinks like iced tea and blended cold drinks dominating the afternoon rushes.

The study, which was released in conjunction with National Coffee Day and International Coffee Day, celebrates the growth of specialty coffee. Along with this study, Square partnered with Toby’s Estate in New York City at the end of September to host workshops, tastings, and classes dedicated to all aspects of coffee.

Square also published a summary of its findings for coffee shops in Canada, and will release studies on other countries in the coming weeks.

Square plans to release more data looking at coffee consumption in other countries in the coming weeks.

About Ashley Rodriguez 413 Articles
Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at ashley@baristamagazine.com.