Binghamton NY

Case Study: Small World Coffee, Princeton, NJ

Last weekend I went on a little getaway to the town of Princeton, New Jersey.  One of the nights that I was there, I happened upon an amazing coffee shop called Small World Coffee.  This place was amazing, and I got to wondering about exactly what it was that made it so great.  I thought it would be fun, interesting, and hopefully beneficial in some way, to break it down and get to the main reasons why.  Perhaps these things can be expanded into broader principles that all different types of businesses could use to better themselves.  So here goes.

  • Great Product.   First of all, Small World Coffee clearly knows coffee.  Unlike a lot of coffee shops/cafes, it didn’t offer a gazillion different things, and its food selections, if there were any, were extremely limited.  I see all of those as good things.  They weren’t trying to do everything, they were simply focusing in on what they know, and what they can do well.  And trust me, this coffee was seriously delicious.  I ordered a pumpkin spice coffee, and the flavor of the coffee itself was so pure and not bitter, it clearly had been roasted and brewed by people who cared about quality.  The person I was with ordered a special kind of iced coffee, which had been cold-brewed, infused with chicory and then had a shot of vanilla syrup and cream.  He said it was one of the most delicious drinks he had ever had.  They might have not had an incredibly complex menu, but it was clear to both of us that whatever you order there is going to be done right.


  • Inviting Atmosphere.   Perhaps the word “cozy” is overused, especially this time of year, but I can’t think of a better word to describe the way this place felt when I walked in.  It was warm and inviting, and each table seemed like a “good table.”  There were people who clearly didn’t know each other that were sharing a large, high table with plugs built into it, just sitting and doing work on their laptops.  There were groups of friends, couples, you name it, and everyone looked comfortable.  Also, the decor and design of the place was very well-thought-out.  Everything about it seemed intentional, not thrown together at all.  There was a lot of wood everywhere, and a variety of framed, antique advertisements on the walls.  Speaking of the intentionality of the whole place, that brings me to my next point.


  • Anticipating the needs of the customers.   This is really where I thought Small World Coffee stood out the most.  All over the cafe, there were signs that whoever designed it knew what the customers would want when they were there, and wanted to make the overall experience of the customer as easygoing and convenient as possible.  There were all different types of tables/seating areas that could accommodate any kind of group.  If you came alone, you wouldn’t feel weird sitting at a large high table, because it was big enough that several other people could have been sitting there too and you wouldn’t be forced to talk to each other.  There was a long bench along one of the walls, but then there were pieces of wood jutting out from the wall as well, dividing up that space into five or six tables with chairs on the other side.  Also, there were regular, low tables with four chairs around them in several different spots in the cafe, which would work for a larger group.  In addition to the variety of seating options available, there were little conveniences scattered around as well, such as a microwave, and a little sink with cups for those who wanted a drink of water.  Even the little kiosk with the different types of creamer, sugar, etc. was out of the way enough so as not to disrupt the flow of traffic in the bar area of the cafe, where people were ordering and waiting for their drinks.  Everything was very well-thought-out, well placed, and intentional.  It was as if the person who designed it thought about what they would want if they were hanging out in a coffee shop, and then did it.


That pretty much sums up the main reasons why this place was so great.  And judging by the large number of people I saw coming in, I’m not alone in thinking so.  If you’re ever in Princeton, I would highly recommend you stop in to Small World Coffee.  But either way, every kind of business can benefit from applying the above principles: have a really great product to offer, and don’t worry about offering too many different things, as long as you can do one thing really well.  Make your business’ space (whether it’s physical or just virtual) inviting, a place where people can feel comfortable and where they won’t mind returning again and again.  And lastly, anticipate what the customers would need/want–then make sure those things are available to them in a way that is obvious and convenient.  Now speaking of coffee…I better be on my way.  ;-)

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