In my town, a new coffee shop has opened called Moment by Greggs. The pasty shop, specialising in bakes, slices and sausage rolls, has diversified to offering tea, coffee and cakes. And it's not just Greggs offering a coffee break to customers. Household names litter the high street, including Costa (over 1,600 stores nationwide), Starbucks (over 800 stores nationwide) and Café Nero (over 500 stores nationwide). Whilst these three companies do dominate, there has also been a rise of independent coffee shops. But what is the appeal of having a cup of tea or coffee when you can have one made at home, in your favourite mug, curled up on the sofa?
Well firstly, (and as I don't drink coffee or tea) I would imagine that people go because of the vast variety of drinks that these places offer. Frappuccinos, Cappuccinos, Mochas, Americanos, Hot Chocolates, Espressos, Babycinos, fruit smoothies, milkshakes, and that's just the start of it!! Gone are the days of simply asking for "a cup of coffee, please", and it's not just as easy as asking for a Mocha. "Do you want chocolate sprinkles?", "whipped cream?", "an extra shot of coffee?", every drink made is different. Maybe this is the key to it. At Starbucks, they ask for your name, so they can write it on the cup, and thus makes it personalised to you. It becomes your drink, no-one else's. It's not just one coming off a coffee conveyer belt, it's tailor-made to you. It becomes part of your identity. If you think of a busy metropolitan middle-aged women in New York, you think of her striding purposefully with a Starbucks Skinny Latte in hand. You only have to browse through a couple of pictures on Instagram, Facebook or other picture-sharing social networking site to see someone (usually a teenage girl) sharing their coffee with the world. It's seen as being trendy. Whilst a recent YouGov poll showed that fewer 18-24 year olds drank instant coffee than their over 55 counterparts, a lot more chose the wider variety that a coffee shop has on offer (such as, as mentioned earlier, mochas, cappuccinos, Americanos etc.).
I suppose another reason for the explosion of coffee shops on Britain's high streets is that they are a common place in society to meet up for a drink. From teenagers on school holidays, to pensioners going for a catch-up, it's a common ground where people can relax and unwind. The setting is often one of mellowness, a place of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the busy town and city centres. There are sofas and newspapers, relaxing lounge music playing, and the distant background noise of chatter, talking about how university is, or how the grandkids are. Meeting up in these cafes means that you don't have to dust, clean and hoover the house top to bottom just so a couple of friends can come over for half an hour. And no washing up either!
And, the rise of these coffee shops is not only good for the coffee industry. It means that people get down on to the high street more, using local shops and bolstering the local economy, especially if there is a local independent coffee shop open. In addition, these coffee shops offer many jobs to local people. Whitbread, the company behind Costa, but also behind other restaurant brands such as Bella Italia, Café Rouge, and Beefeater, employs around 35,000 nationwide.
It seems that the rise of the coffee shop is here to stay with us. From a pre-work caffeine boost to get you through the morning, or as a place to catch-up with family and friends, the coffee shop seems to be everyone's cup of tea! (Or skinny hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, if you so choose!)