The benefits of choice paralysis at fancy coffee shops

I love coffee, and I love fussy coffee, but I still get intimidated when I go to a hipster coffee shop. Standing at the front of a long line, faced with a menu of 15 kinds of coffee, each with their own different set of flavours, and then having to choose one of four brewing methods for that coffee make it really hard for me to make a decision. When it comes to food and drink, I’m not a decisive person. The line and all the options quickly induces decision paralysis in me.

What if that decision paralysis is part of a designed experience?

Espresso drinks can be made a lot quicker than a pour-over coffee, not least when you’re grinding the beans freshly for each cup. When your shop only has four pour-over stands set up, and each coffee takes 4 minutes to prepare, you can very quickly have a lot of people waiting on drinks. If the line moves too fast, your baristas won’t be able to keep up.

With the line ahead of you, you can gauge how long it will take before you get your coffee by the speed at which the line progresses. Once you’re out of the line, and sitting or standing waiting for your drink, you lose that feedback on your progress.

If the majority of the customer base is repeat customers who know what they want, and only one in four is the dithering new customer (like me), that delay in the line might work just right.

Of course, it may also be that forcing everyone to slow down, including the people making the coffee, is the way these shops differentiate from the Starbucks and Timmy’s on every other corner.

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