Coffee Bar in Exhibits

Trending: Five Coffee Bar Strategies for Trade Show Exhibits

Frothy brand logos? Signature flavors? Just plain free coffee? A staple of European trade shows, coffee bars have made strong inroads onto U.S. show floors, much to the delight of the attendees needing that afternoon “hit.” From full-scale cafés to a single-pod machine, it’s also an opportunity for delicious, high-octane engagement.

“Coffee is hot right now,” says Tracy Stuckrath, a food & beverage expert and founder of Thrive Meetings and Events. “Brands can experiment with different coffee-based drinks and flavors as part of their experience. If they can tie it with the flavor trending on TikTok, that’s bonus points.”

whatshot-culinary-report-2024-social-media-userFrom the Coffee Bar Archives:

How to incorporate it into your exhibit? Tips and ideas:


Create that café feel.

At NRF 2024, free-flowing coffee stands could be found within multiple booths that looked like legit cafés—and whipped up high-octane drinks just as fast. Cisco took it a step further and built the entire booth strategy around a coffee bar theme. Attendees could use large digital screens to place customized coffee orders and pick them up at a “drive-thru” window. In a cheeky play on “software as a service,” Lenovo kept cappuccinos coming at its “Coffee-as-a-Service” bar. A must-have ingredient? A place for attendees to linger.


Engage a cultural ambassador.

Turkish global tech brand Togg partnered with the Turkish Coffee Lady and her crew to bring cultures together at the brand’s exhibit at CES. Attendees could choose from five blends, named after Turkish locations of cultural importance: Bold Istanbul, Silky Mardin, Pistachio Zeugma, Minty Cappadocia, and Sweet Aegean, and snack on a Turkish delight or delicious pistachio baklava. The team served some 7,000 cups throughout the show.

The Turkish Coffee Lady team.


Bring in a local coffee shop.

Depending on the venue rules, it may be possible to bring in an outside vendor, in which case, Stuckrath suggests researching popular local coffee shops that might have a vibe or philosophy similar to the brand and approach them to partner for the event. First, the partnership would bring in authenticity and a local connection to the space, and second, it just might be cheaper than contracting from the official provider.


Keep it simple.

Expanding the menu with different types of milk and dairy-free alternatives may require additional equipment and runs the risk of significantly impacting the budget, says Stuckrath. One solution can be using pod machines and one type of milk. If offering an alternative is part of the strategy, Stuckrath suggests oat milk.


It’s not only about coffee.

Cold tea is also hot right now, Stuckrath says, particularly in a variety of flavors. Inspired by the popular Starbucks refresher drinks, the flavor profiles of these types of drinks are virtually endless. Try tapping into some current F&B trends, like tropicals for an “escapist aesthetic,” or offering an inclusive alternative to alcohol bars—another European trade show tradition.

Image: Adobe Firefly

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