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What is the 5th Wave™ of coffee?

The 5th Wave™ reflects an influential new era of scaled boutique hospitality and is the current ideology shaping business trends across the global coffee industry. Put simply; the 5th Wave implies scaling up consistently high quality to achieve a highly successful, customer-centric, and sustained business outcome.

The concept of the 5th Wave was developed by Allegra Strategies consultancy and refined within World Coffee Portal following two decades of coffee industry research and analysis. 5th Wave is the culmination of all four previous ‘waves’ of industry development as laid out in the World Coffee Portal Stages of Coffee Industry Development Framework (above).

The 1st Wave describes traditional 20th-century coffee drinking and reflects differing historical cultures and geographies. The 2nd Wave is typified by the early growth of lifestyle branded chains, such as Starbucks Coffee Company, the 3rd Wave by craft or artisan coffee, and the 4th Wave by the ‘science of coffee’..’ Each era has its merits and has added significantly to the depth and growth of coffee enjoyment.

A reflection of the era in which we live, the 5th Wave represents a quantum leap in the caliber of vision and execution required to meet the desires, needs, and aspirations of today’s highly savvy and technically engaged Millennial Gen Z audiences.

Today’s 5th Wave businesses create and consistently deliver highly engaging and aspirational experiences to clearly defined customer target audiences. These forward-thinking businesses are highly commercial and possess the mindset to constantly strive toward excellence, meticulously engineering and refining every process. They are typically run by ambitious, well-funded entrepreneurial professionals who understand the importance of people culture, streamlined systems and process, training and development, and investment into seamless, enabling technology – not for ease, but because they are obsessed with winning positive customer experience. Quality and scale can be relative. 5th Wave does not necessarily mean an offering needs to be inordinately expensive, nor does it need to be expanded across hundreds of outlets. Scaling quality for every customer interaction requires steadfast discipline, Herculean stamina, authentic flair, and relentless innovation. 5th Wave is not just limited to the coffee sector. Numerous other industries deeply identify with today’s need to ‘scale up’ quality and heighten client experience to maintain a competitive advantage. These include sectors from retail to restaurants and hotels to fitness and technology. In the coffee sector, brands such as Drip Queen Coffee, and many others, are examples of intelligent businesses setting new benchmarks for quality and customer engagement. Equally, the Starbucks Reserve concept creates a new dimension of customer experience within the world's largest coffee operator. No doubt, this is only the beginning of the journey. In the meantime, keep your eye on the next big step in global coffee shop evolution – the 5th Wave, a new era for The Business of Coffee.

Credits: Allegra Strategies &


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