The Next Wave: Predicting the future of coffee in New York City
In this article we look at New York City through the lens of coffee in an attempt to explore a fundamental question of spatial economics: how are the locations of businesses determined?
The geography of economic activity is a critical force that shapes cities around the world. From infrastructure to housing, urban transformation is often influenced by the location of specific businesses. Coffee shops in New York City are no exception.
Using data from dozens of different sources and techniques from a wide range of technologies and disciplines including game theory, machine learning, natural language processing, statistics, and urbanism, we formulated a model that predicts optimal coffee shop locations in New York City. Our findings reveal that the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn all show more economic promise than Manhattan, and resonate with recent population and job growth outside of Manhattan. In this article, we describe the iterative development of our predictive models and reveal specific forecasts of what the future of coffee in New York City might look like.
But First, A Little Background…
New York City revolves around coffee. Considering there are 3,389 coffee shops in NYC, it is no wonder the city never sleeps. Dating back to the mid-1600s, while other colonies preferred drinking tea, New Yorkers were primarily drinking coffee. In the early-1800s, New York was one of the largest coffee roasting centers in the United States. More recently, mobile startup MassiveHealth found that New Yorkers drink 6.7 times the amount of coffee consumed by the average denizen of any other US city. If you’re a New Yorker, you’re probably drinking a cup right now.
Coffee has been so central to New York City that one of its serving vessels — the classic ‘Anthora’ cup designed by Leslie Buck in 1963 — has become an icon of the city. Despite this enshrined position, coffee culture in NYC is anything but static; while it is still possible to buy coffee in an Anthora from a street cart or bodega, it is by no means the dominant paradigm. Like elsewhere in the US, New York’s coffee scene has ridden various “coffee waves”. Today’s NYC coffee landscape is hugely varied. And while we don’t take a stand on contentious topics like the emergence of the 4th wave, taking into account the diversity of the NYC coffee scene is core to our modeling efforts.
The map below displays all 3,389 coffee shops in NYC (excluding restaurants, supermarkets, and other stores that might also sell coffee). Each point on the map represents a location-based business decision, and it is immediately clear that some areas in NYC are more popular than others (with Midtown and Lower Manhattan leading the way).