People’s true desires become apparent during a recession – what goes in the shopping basket, and what gets left behind? It’s also interesting to see how markets such as antique cars, fine wine, Michelin-starred restaurants and their ilk fare during a period such as this. There are surprises (first-class air travel has done well, and uh, Gucci handbags) and also obvious safe harbors (Picasso’s) for people to put their cash.
Organic food has been hurt for obvious reasons, and many luxury items have collected dust over the last twelve months, but most brands seem to have cut out the middle ground: it’s either high-end or budget – no in between. But, one faction of the marketplace that’s defied expectation are gourmet coffee chains. It seems, people just gotta have it, whatever the cost.
Now, as a self-confessed bean junkie, I understand the need for good coffee daily, but as The Independent just reported, the gourmet chains have not just done well recently, they’re doing really well adding almost 50% new outlets in the past year. Surely, the hazlenut swirl half-calf frappuccino with extra chocolate sprinkles – that costs as much as a mortgage- should have fallen victim to collective financial frugality. Nope.
The managing director of Costa Coffee, which has stores in twenty-three countries, and has seen its profits up by a whopping 72% believes that coffee culture have become so ingrained in our lives that people are still willing to shell out almost £4 on average just to have a quiet place to sit, observe, and listen to the obligatory Norah Jones soundtrack.
It’s been posited that the cafe has become the best place in recent years to have business meetings, offering a cheap alternative to industrial centers, with every chain equipped with easy Wi-Fi and laptop access. They’ve replaced the pub as the ubiquitous meeting space. It also hasn’t hurt the big chains that with many businesses closing, there have been large numbers of empty stores for brands like Starbuck’s to snap up; lots of real estate, and much cheaper than before the crash.
It seems, that what the French have known for decades, the rest of Europe, and particularly America, has just discovered – cafe culture is here to stay, so roll out the concept muffin and pour me a posh coffee.