toronto cafes booze

How important are booze sales to Toronto coffee shops?

A number of indie coffee shops that also serve booze have popped up in Toronto in recent years. At these cafe-bar hybrids you can feed your caffeine addiction or engage in a bit of day-to-evening drinking with a pint, a glass of wine or an elaborate cocktail depending on the spot and your mood.

But just how vital are alcohol sales to these establishments?

Grant Gamble from Boxcar Social's Yonge Street outpost characterizes them as a crucial part of the business, comprising about half of their sales, which mirrors most other cafe-bar hybrids.

"We could very easily survive as just a coffee shop but we have the space anyway, so why not utilize it to its full potential," he says.

Alex Nassar, the man behind Voodoo Child says that he sees about a 70-30 percent split between coffee and cocktails. "This changes and evens out more towards the summer months, especially now that the cocktail menu is getting more attention," he says.

At Cafe Pamenar in Kensington Market, the wide selection of craft beer has attracted a loyal following. On a typical day, alcohol accounts for about 40% of total sales, and while that doesn't match most restaurants or bars, last year that number was closer to 25-30%.

"We've worked hard at upping our cocktail game by trying to deliver the best classic cocktails at very reasonable prices," says bartender Tom Hiley. "We're starting to get some crossover between coffee and alcohol. I like incorporating espresso shots into cocktails, and many customers are starting to add whiskey or liqueurs to their coffees, or they'll grab an amaro to complement their espresso."

The inspiration for adding more than just coffee has to do with catering to different moods, a larger demographic and making use of a wider range of possibilities, all things that independent coffee shops need to explore to remain competitive in what is a saturated Toronto market.

"People typically don't want to go out with a group of friends for coffee past 6pm, nor do they necessarily want to sit on our patio and drink a coffee on a hot summer day," says Hiley. "Some people do enjoy that, but there's no doubt that most people would rather enjoy a nice cold beer or an awesome cocktail on our patio."


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