Starbucks, now Costa – Our never ending passion with high street coffee houses

Why is it that while the rest of the world seems to be suffering from recession the allure of expensive, sometimes mediocre, coffee continues?

Today Whitbread, the owners of the Costa Coffee brand published pre-tax profits of £191.1million while Starbucks was recently in the press for using creative accounting in the UK turning over £398million and paying no tax.

According to a Reuters investigation, Starbucks have made over £3bn in UK sales since 1998…thats a hell of a lot of coffee!

I have to admit, I too am a fan of coffee, I have a Tassimo at home and was devastated when they stopped making the Starbucks blend but was over-joyed when Costa picked up the mantle earlier this year.

My wife and I took a trip to America earlier this summer and visited LA and Portland Oregon on our travels. As a side note Portland is a beautiful, vibrant and cultural city and I strongly suggest you visit if you get the chance. Anyway, the point being that Americans take their love of coffee even more serious than we do. Being so close to Seattle, the home of Starbucks, meant that there were outlets all over the place and it was clear that serious investment had been made into transforming them into more than just a place to sell coffee. Aside from the standard glass fronted selling points you see in every coffee-house with a selection of cakes, cookies and salad boxes; one site I visited also had an actual coffee bar….just imagine a pub bar but one that sells coffee instead of pints. Starbucks have even gone as far as to alter their logo so that it is less about the coffee and more about the brand and the lifestyle it portrays…and why not when you are in just about every city worldwide.

A recent report showed that in the UK there is an increase in independants resurging onto our high streets and even BBC News picked up on this over the weekend acknowledging a growing rise in deli’s and coffee houses. Garden centres now make their restaurants just as major a theme as the actual flowers they sell and whats next…banks joined with bespoke little coffee houses in them? Yeh right 😉

I believe that the actual cost of making your typical latte or americana sits at around 6-10p per cup and retails anywhere between £2-3. What other product offers such an attractive mark-up? Granted the cost of prime retail locations, staff, advertising etc etc but sell enough coffee’s to the same people every morning on the way to work and at lunch time and you don’t have to extrapolate far to get the gist.

So why do we get forever drawn to such establishments? Why is there a driving need to quench our thirst and increase our caffeine intake on the way to work or while out shopping? Maybe it’s because sitting down and grabbing a coffee offers us a chance to take a break…be that to have a natter on a comfy sofa with a friend we have not seen in a while, or a chance to catch up with our emails in peace and quiet away from the office taking advantage of the free wi-fi? Our lives are forever getting faster and perhaps this minimalist, clean environment along with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee offers us an opportunity to unwind and relax?

It has also been established that meeting on neutral ground is great for coming to a mutually agreeable solution, so the good old coffee house is often used for business meetings.

Or maybe its the fact that you can elect to have your drink made your way, with as many variances as you can come up with. Granted it annoys the hell out of some people who just want a coffee when the person in front wants something with more options than when buying a new car, but hay c’est la vie.

What drives you to drop in and grab a cuppa?

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